February 19, 2017
In 1981, I went to Belfast on holiday. It was a dark November weekend and before boarding the ferry in Stranraer, I was questioned by non-uniform security personnel as to what my motives were to visit there out-of-season, only a month after the hunger strike in the Maze Prison was called off (Bobby Sands had died 6 months earlier). Not an auspicious time to go sightseeing, but I persevered. The atmosphere in the city was as depressing as the season. Checkpoints everywhere and body searches every time you wanted to enter the city centre. The highlight was the local anarchist club in a non-sectarian part of the city, where young people fed up with divisions could enjoy a stress-free night out away from the troubles. I remember feeling relieved to be in a welcoming place of kindness. This Guardian article brought back some great memories.