A Typical Northern Irish Childhood

A conversation started in work the other day.  There were four of us, all from different areas, with different backgrounds and a slightly uneven mix of sexes but with two things in common.  We were all born between the early 70’s and early 80’s and grew up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.  Three of us were born here and one moved over in childhood.

Many people in Northern Ireland were never touched by The Troubles but unfortunately our areas, Belfast and Lurgan, were.  People I know from other countries have said their local news reports made it look like a war zone and maybe it was but for us it was normal.  We were born into this and honestly, it never phased us.

As we reminisced and told our stories, from both a Protestant and Catholic perspective, we laughed.  Other people joined in and told their tales and we laughed some more.  Not because it’s funny but because our childhoods were surreal.  Standing at the top of the road watching a riot, your mum (and everyone else in the street) opening the door when there were gunshots (why, someone has a gun out there?), stepping over soldiers to go out to play, young guys practicing shooting rocket launchers in side streets and having to give a police statement when a car bomb went off on the way to school.  This is a mixture of all our stories.  Town centres were closed off at night to prevent bomb scares.  On day trips to Belfast the major shops had guards who checked your bags, scanned you with a metal detector and patted you down before you could enter.  When you were watching TV and a message flashed up on screen asking for the key holder of whichever shop to report to the premises we knew it was a firebomb.  My town centre got destroyed and I heard nothing.

The death toll and the ruined lives are frightening (www.wesleyjohnston.com).  My family have suffered loss but I was never brought up in a sectarian (a polite word for hatred) way and honestly, the majority of us weren’t.  Although we have the Good Friday Agreement we’ve never really had peace.  There’s always been an underlying ‘something’ and it seems like we’re always teetering on the edge.  Our politics is based on religion and not enough people are brave enough to step away – it’s how things are.  Children are still being brought up in hatred and so it continues.  All four of us have children ranging from adults to toddlers and we don’t want our kids to grow up like we did.  Not that our childhood was bad but it was definitely strange ……

This is not the type of stuff I normally write but for some reason I felt like a needed to

Peace (for the love of whoever the higher power is) and love xx