Thousands Rally for Peace | Belfast and Beyond | 11 Mar 2009 | Amnesty International UK

Thousands Rally for Peace

I have just attended the Peace Rally at the City hall in Belfast. I stood alongside trade unionists, unionists, republicans, nationalists, socialists, parents, young people a complete cross section of Northern Irish society. We all stood in a dignified silence and willed that we are not going to go backwards into decades of futile violence.

 It reminded me of the numerous peace rally's I attended in the 1980's except this time we have had a taste of peace and I feel that we will not give it up easily.

 Like Patrick, I grew up in Northern Ireland during the 1970's and 1980's, they were dark times indeed. I never actually visted the city centre until i was at least ten, my mother being too frightened to take us there. I remember the tension and the checkpoints and most of all the suspicion and lack of trust between neighbours. The homogeneous schools and the lack of  mixed places to socialise….except of course Laverys Bar, an oasis of ecumenical cider drinking, where Paidraig and Fergal could drink with Billy and Trevor, and Heather could have her first kiss with Anthony. 

I made a pledge that as soon as I could I would shake the dust of Northern Ireland off my feet I'd  never  return so I packed myself over to England  and became part of the brain drain.  It wasn't until the Good Friday Agreement that I started to think that there may be a chance that I would come home. I now have a teenage daughter  who was very shocked by the violence, and when she heard about the shootings she asked if we could move away. But our life is here now and we have to work hard to ensure that we don't decend back into that dark place.

One way of doing this is to ensure that we challenge the sectarianism that still permeates out society. So that children grow up knowing their neighbours and it is so much more difficult to hurt those we know that the "other".  This is a very different society than mid eighties Northern Ireland and we must work to ensure that our childrren live in a society free of fear.

 

 

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