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I’ve Been Thinking About Northern Ireland

By Bernie Bell

There will be older people in Northern Ireland who will remember what it was like living there before the Peace Process.  They’ll remember the Fear – fear of even going out shopping, going to work – what might happen in any day.

The only way to deal with it would be to try to get on with your life, not let the Fear dictate. But Fear sits there in the back of your mind – whether consciously or not, it can wear away at you over time.

Then, the Peace Process was put in place – life became more relaxed – your every move wasn’t checked by men with guns. Visitors returned to boost the economy.

And now – the Fear returns – even fear of catching a bus.

The young ones have known nothing but peaceful times. The older generation will have told tales of the troubled times, but, often, the young ones aren’t all that interested. They have their own lives to live, and especially if those lives are going well, the shadow of the bad times is put aside.  Maybe a good thing too.

And now the young ones must be wondering what the hell is going on – people randomly torching things, fighting at the Peace Wall.  The Fear, which they haven’t known before, is back, making them cautious about simply going about their everyday lives and everyday business.

I saw what is happening  in the North on the News ( not that it’s getting much coverage, considering it importance), and it saddened me. That may seem like a trite word to use in relation to this situation, but it’s the word that fits best – I was saddened, as I remember how it used to be. Not from personal experience of living in the North, but my family are Irish, living in the Republic, which was still under English rule when my parents were born.

The people of the Republic had to learn to live with having such angry neighbours. I remember one of my nephews advising me that, if I needed to travel through the North, I should keep my mouth shut and not get into any arguments. I thought he was exaggerating, until I saw the Union Jacks painted on the edges of the kerbstones.

My sister was going to go to Enniskillen to buy a telly – then the bomb went off. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day_bombing

For some time now the people in the Republic have been able to feel more comfortable about being ‘next door’ to the North – would still prefer a united Ireland – but at least there was peace.

And now, what can be done? How to prevent the North from careening back into anger, fire and Fear?  I don’t know – if only I, or someone, did.

Maybe if what has already be started by some peaceable folk is strengthened, and the people of Northern Ireland refuse to take part in the madness.

I may be mistaken, but the impression I get is that the recent mayhem is being perpetrated by those who take advantage of a situation to be lawless and get away with it.

They are a minority, but their actions could cause a ‘clamp down’ which could fuel resentment. It could also stir up a desire for retribution again – “You messed up our lives, we’ll mess up yours.”

But maybe if all the ordinary, average law-abiding folk don’t take part in it and don’t accept those who do. They will know who they are.

This may be simplistic of me, but I do believe that action by the majority of the people, who want to live a normal life, is what can stop the minority of trouble makers.

There is much debate about why this is happening.  Again, maybe being simplistic, but as far as I can see, it’s Brexit – that God-damn Brexit – which has meant that divisions have stirred up again, or been stirred up.

Boris Johnson must go down in history as the worst Prime Minister Britain has ever had, but that is scant consolation to those who have lost their lives, and those who have lost their livelihoods, through his mismanagement of Covid restrictions and his insistence on a Brexit which it had become clear would not be a good idea.

On a personal level, when Covid has gone away, we’re hoping to go to a family wedding in the Republic of Ireland. Our best route would  be through the North – what will the situation be by then?

Image Credit Enver Rahmanov, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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5 replies »

  1. There are older people now on Orkney who remember what it was like before the GFA. I am from Ardoyne in Belfast. One of the worst areas during that time, with around 500 people dead within that square mile. My life was permeated with the situation, and after a while it seemed the only way to live normally was to accept that one day it would be your turn. I spent 35 years working in the local hospital, my lab connected to the A&E where there was carnage at times. I saw much death and suffering, and it is unthinkable that anyone would risk that return. But there is always someone who will risk other peoples lives, as we have seen with Brexit.

  2. Hi Eamonn

    I’ve been thinking about you, when seeing what’s happening. I know you lived through it.

    I’ve been thinking about you, and all the others that it’s stirring up memories for.

    And I’m thinking of you, now, Eamonn…….

    “Deep peace of the running wave to you
    Deep peace of the flowing air to you
    Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
    Deep peace of the shining stars to you
    Deep peace of the gentle night to you
    Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.”

  3. I was in London, long time ago. I was in Heathrow waiting for a flight to Glasgow. The IRA were threatening to bomb the runways. Once you were in the airport you could not get out. Mobile phones were uncommon. Queues for the phone booths stretched forever. The Loyalists were just as bad in N.I. Then came the GF agreement and peace was restored. Now this Tory government has wrecked this initiative. Johnson is a lame excuse for a PM. The only country affected by the disaffected N. I. population in the so called U. K. was England. Johnson and his cabal of corrupt cabinet should worry that history will repeat itself

    • “The only country affected by the disaffected N. I. population in the so called U. K. was England.”

      I went to University in Wales in 1974, and stayed there until 1990 – so I didn’t personally live the fear that many in the rest of Britain did.

      The IRA maintained that they wouldn’t carry our terrorist attacks in Wales or Scotland because they felt that we were all in the same situation.

      Indeed – apart from the people in the North itself, it was only England that suffered. And those in Ireland, or Scotland, or Wales with family or friends in England.

      Madness. Pure madness.

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