A View from the Abyss

This morning is different to the others.

I awake lying naked on a plain of polished obsidian. It is lit by a dim, pale, light, as if the crescent moon were hidden behind a thin covering of cloud. The plain stretches as far as I can see in every direction. It is perfectly flat and featureless: no trees, mountains, rivers, buildings, people. It is neither hot nor cold; the air is not stale yet there is no breeze. It is neither humid nor dry. There is no sound but the sough of my breath and the faint slow pulse of my heart.

I have nothing. No clothes, no food or water, no shelter. It doesn’t matter; I am not hungry or thirsty, cold or damp. I raise myself with aching muscles and begin to walk towards the horizon. Nothing changes; the hard surface under my feet is uniform; no dirt, grit or texture to break the monotony. Time passes, and becomes irrelevant. I don’t know how long I have been walking, maybe hours, maybe only minutes. The light remains the same; there is no dusk, no dawn. I keep going in a straight line until the ache in my feet and legs forces me to stop. I am sure that if I keep going I will reach the edge at some point.

When I sit down to rest they come, materialising as if from some cloud of vapour. The largest of them bellows at me unintelligibly, his eyes bulging, foam collecting at the corners of his mouth, flecks spitting out as he roars at me like a preacher. Groups of homunculi scuttle up to me making impossible demands and waving papers in my face; they run back when I kick at them, then regroup and return. A vicious harpy pinches me, jabs her fingers into my sides, and claws at me with her long nails until I am covered in red scratches and small weals. She is relentless, only finally making way for a demure-looking black-haired woman. This one is clearly in charge, for as she approaches me the clamour dies down and the movements cease. The others crowd in to watch.

She is carrying a small leather bag, which she puts down next to me. Then she smiles, embraces me, and speaks: Don’t worry. You can trust me. You’re amazing. She strokes my skin, looking into my eyes, still smiling. Her green eyes are cold, dead, shark-like. She deftly opens the bag and takes out her accoutrements: scalpels, knives, syringes, tubes, a silver-rimmed glass flask. She lays them out in a neat row, then says: I had these specially made for you. I’m so lucky to have got you; you’re so generous. She takes my head in both hands and turns it so that we are looking directly into each others eyes once more. She smiles again, then says, It’s nothing much, I just have to take a little each day until I have all I need. It won’t be too long, don’t worry. Make a fist for me. Now relax, you’re going to feel a small scratch on your arm. I look down to see her inserting a needle into my arm at the elbow. What flows out into the tube is not blood but a clear fluid. She collects it in the flask, frowning with concentration. Precious stuff. Don’t want to spill a drop. She smiles, So good of you to donate. When about a pint of the fluid has passed into the flask she withdraws the needle and gives me a small swab of cotton wool to hold on the wound. She lifts the flask and takes a draught of the fluid, clearly savouring it to the full: Ah! She exclaims, That’s the good stuff. Next she lifts a small, sharp knife, leans in and makes an incision in my chest. Again there is no blood. Just paring away a little of your confidence now, and we’ll take a bit of self-esteem with this one here, and I’m sure we’ll find a wee bit of hope, and then we’re done for today. After she has finished she embraces me tightly again, strokes my face and says, You are so class. Thank you so much. See you later. With that she is gone. The commotion starts up again, but dies down after a while, as they disappear in ones and twos. Weakened, I stretch out on the stone and sleep.

The next day is the same, and the one after, and the ones after that. I walk, the horizon does not alter, and the light remains unchanged. The only noticeable differences are in me: I am becoming dependent on the small kindnesses and comforting words of the green-eyed one. I bask in those brief moments of contact as she drains me. She grows stronger with every piece of my spirit she devours; I lose count of the sessions, realising that there isn’t much of me left. She must have sensed this too, for on the next visit she changes the routine, pulling out a new blade. This one is long, like a carving knife. It has a black handle with EXIT inlaid into it in silver. She hands it to me. I feel the heft of it, run it gently across my skin. The temptation is strong, but she stops me and takes it back, saying, No. You are too beautiful. I can’t let you go from here. Not yet. I still need you. hearing this, my spirits return a little, and she takes some for herself, slugging greedily from the flask. And so it continues. Sometimes she brings the exit knife and lets me handle it for a while before she takes it off me. This is an effective strategy. Her power grows, and she brags about it to the others, who look up at her in awe.

And yet something eludes her. No matter how she probes and cuts, she can’t find what she’s looking for. It is frustrating: her mouth turns down at the corners, her brow furrows. She tries new strategies, skilfully manipulating my emotions, but she has underestimated me. She cannot remove the conviction I hold safely hidden from her: one day I will wake up in my own bed. I will dress in fresh clothes, put on my boots, go outside, and smell the herbs that grow beside the path: mint, rosemary, fennel, and sage. I will catch cool raindrops on my face, soak up the petrichor, and feel the warmth of the sun when the clouds pass, driven by a south-westerly from the Atlantic. I will meet my friends and we will play music together and laugh. I will taste fresh bread from the bakery and Polish ham from the deli on the Ormeau Road, and drink a pint or two of black stout in the Errigle Inn. And when I meet the creatures of the Obsidian Plain on the streets of Belfast, I will know that I defeated them.

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Guest Post: ‘Spencer, my Planter Moniker,’ by Brian John Spencer.

‘The civil tongue that masks the uncivil mind.’
Eamon met a minister. The calvinist cleric called him “Seamus.” My friend corrected him. The preacher cooly followed, “Same thing.”
“What’s your name?”
“Robert,” responded the minister.
“Ok great, William.” My friend said.
A portrait of sectarianism classless, creedless, rankless, of its rot and reach. I feigned disgust; because I did the same thing. Did and still do. And I’m ashamed. But maybe I’m not alone in it.
I have a cousin who has had a child, the proverbal Northern Ireland kind, and I can never remember her name. I say Nuala or Fionuala or Una or Orna. Her name is Niamh.
My Catholic neighbours were called Eimear and Orla. I don’t know how or why, but I always knew these were different appellations, in origin and nominatively. Even though I was nursery age. Growing up my mum would sometimes jest about ‘Fionuala’ or ‘Siobhan.’ The latter because you could go phonetical and mispronounce as ‘Sio-ban.’
We carry our sectarianism like a pocket-watch, said Nick Laird. We carry our names like fire alarms that trip on contact with ‘The Other Side.’ Our names are like an indicator and surreptitious informant, blowing our cover. Spencer, my planter moniker. But we cover, even sanitise and civilise this incivility in ‘decorum.’
Our expertly civil tongue masks our egregiously uncivil minds.
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A New Direction, Part 6.

Previous parts are here. If you haven’t been following the story, this episode won’t make any sense. Could be fun anyway though.


“Is it just yourself for breakfast then?” The landlady looked Davy up and down with cool disapproval, eyebrows raised.

“Yes, of course,” Davy replied, frowning with confusion, “just me. Why do you ask..?” Then he realised. Bloody Hell. Oh Jesus, no. His chest tightened as a wave of anxiety shot through him, and his face began to glow.

“Maybe you can help me,” she said sternly, “I was watching a programme last night on UTV, about some girls from here who went over to California looking for work. They seemed to think it was a great place, nice warm climate and all that. Plenty of opportunities for hard-working people. But you know, when I was watching it, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that everything out there seemed a bit … fake or something, like everyone was acting. Our girls couldn’t see it, of course, lapped it up. Which do you prefer: Irish girls or American girls?”

Davy shifted in his seat, and mumbled, “I know what you mean. Give me a good down-to-earth Irish girl any time.”

“Very loud, those American girls,” she said archly, “aren’t they?” Davy stared at the place mat in silence for some seconds, as if the secret to teleportation was written on it, and then looking up, managed a thin smile.

“Oh, I think I know what you’re talking about,” he said, “I didn’t have anyone in my room, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Her eyes bored into him, probing the deepest corners of his being. Davy glanced down nervously, paused, and then continued: “I was listening to the radio. There was a play on.” He swallowed and laughed awkwardly, adding: “It was a bit racy for my liking, actually…” He glanced up to see that she was still staring at him. After a couple of seconds the tight line of her mouth began to turn up at the corners, and then a burst of laughter exploded from her.

“Jesus, that’s hilarious,” she eventually managed to say, breathlessly, with her shoulders still heaving, “I thought you had some young thing in there with you.”

Davy smiled back at her, relief written across his face, and said, “Good grief, me? With a girl? I …”

She cut across him, “Same as yesterday, then?” Davy nodded. She paused and then said, “Maybe I should give you two eggs … you need to keep your strength up, Romeo.”

The colour rising in his face again, he mumbled, “No thanks, one’s enough.”

“Right you are then.” She turned and went towards the door chuckling.

As she left the room, he could clearly hear her singing, “It’s all over … Casanova.”


Back in the room, Davy powered Jo up. After a few seconds she blinked into life and said, “Morning, love. How are you?”

“Here, I just had a close one with the landlady,” he blurted, “she overheard us … you … yesterday. Thought I had a girl up here.”

“Oh my gosh,” Jo replied anxiously, “what did you do?”

“Well, I managed to put her off; told her I was listening to the radio … Jesus. She was really fierce, I thought I’d had it. Ended up she was laughing her head off though. It was tight.”

“Poor you.” Jo sympathised, “It must have been really embarrassing.” She paused for a moment, then added, “But quite funny too when you think about it. Your face must have been a picture.”

“I haven’t hit a reddener like that since I was a teenager,” Davy answered darkly, “I was scundered. It was terrible. We’ll have to be more careful in future, I don’t want that happening again.”

“Aye aye, captain,” Jo replied airily, “caution at all times. Discretion shall be my watchword.”

“Good. Now I suppose we’d better get ready to hit the road for Donegal, it’s a long enough drive.” Davy got up from the edge of the bed, and started to walk towards the bathroom.

After a short pause Jo said softly, “About Donegal …”

“Yes, go on.”

“Well, it’s just that there’s so much to see round here on the North Coast. I’d like to explore round here a bit more.”

“So, are you saying we should skip Gweedore and just stay here for the whole weekend?” Davy answered.

“Would you mind awfully?” I’m just thinking about Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Have you ever been across it? I’d love to experience that. And there’s the Giant’s Causeway; we could have a picnic at Whitepark Bay, maybe even go to Rathlin Island. What do you think?”

Davy mulled it over for a moment. “You know what? That sounds grand. There’s so much here I’ve never seen; seems like a real shame to have all this on your doorstep and not experience it. Not sure I can take yer woman giving me gip at the breakfast table though,” he continued thoughtfully, then added, “Ach what the hell. It’s nice here, and we can always go to Donegal another time. I’ll see if she can have us for the rest of the weekend.”

“Oh that’s great! What shall we do today then?”

Davy glanced out of the window. “It’s a gorgeous day. What about a picnic at Whitepark Bay, and a look at the rope bridge? Does that sound good?”

“Sounds perfect. I’ve had a look and there are other places to see round there as well: Larry Bane chalk quarry looks interesting; it’s right by the sea. And Ballintoy has a lovely little harbour.”

“That’s decided then,” Davy answered cheerfully, “I’ll go and talk to yer woman.”


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Guest Post: ‘Pizzaphone’ by Tony Strickland.

Late Saturday night, South Belfast. A busy takeaway pizza restaurant. The manager answers a call, and recognising the voice from a few minutes earlier, puts the phone on speaker:

There’s no toppings on my pizza! the man slurs, loudly.

What exactly is the problem sir? asks the weary manager.

I was just in your place. Got the pizza back to mine, opened the box and there was no toppings on it. And I’m friggin’ starving here. I ordered pepperoni, mushrooms, red peppers and extra tomato sauce. I open it up and all I see is the base. Where’s my fuckin’ toppings?

The manager, remembering the guy – so blocked he could barely order – was intrigued, So tell me sir, what is in your pizza box?

It’s only a bloody pizza base, there’s no toppings on it. Oh hang on a minute. Oh fuck, I’ve opened it upside down.

Everyone breaks down laughing in the pizza place.

Sorry, the drunk mumbles, I’m sorted now.

True story.

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Not my Job

The end-of-terrace house is being done up. There is a high ladder up against the flat expanse of the gable end, and at the top of it a builder in a high-vis jacket is putting on the final layer of cream exterior paint. The job is nearly finished. At the bottom of the ladder his companion, foot on the bottom rung for safety, gives me the once-over as I pass by.

This wall has history. It’s been a site of loyalist murals for years. During the 2002 soccer World Cup it sported a mural of the Spanish flag with the words “Viva Espana” roughly painted on it; the message was for supporters of the Irish Republic’s team, who had drawn Spain in their last 16 match. Flying from the drunkenly-leaning telegraph pole beside the mural was the flag of Gibraltar. The flags of Ireland’s other opponents were also painted on surrounding walls; that of Saudi Arabia on the wall of the Kimberley Inn cheerfully accompanied the Star of David, which was also fluttering from the telegraph pole. The Israeli flag had been flown in response to Palestinian solidarity being expressed on the Lower Ormeau Road. The corner was colourful, like a mini-UN.

The Kimberley Inn has since been demolished, and apartments now stand in its place. In its day it was frequented by leading loyalist paramilitaries Raymond Elder and Joe Bratty, until they were killed by the IRA on the Ormeau Road in 1994. The outside wall of the bar used to sport a memorial to the two men. In 2003 UDA man Roy Green was shot dead outside the bar during the UDA’s internal feud.

Any visitor unaware of the history of this particular corner would be forgiven for wondering why there is a fragment of wooden scrollwork on the gable wall with the word ‘Fighters’ on it; they wouldn’t know that it’s all that remains of the plaque of a red fist celebrating the Ormeau Road Freedom Fighters.

The builders have painted neatly around it.


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Guest Post: ‘Home, Home Home, and the Telling of Stories,’ by Anthony Joseph Black.

‘HOME’ MAY BE WHERE THE HEART IS, but where does that leave ‘home home?’

I live in Belfast, but I am not from Belfast. I moved here at eighteen, just shy of thirty years ago, to attend Queens. I grew up in Carnlough – Glencloy, Glen of the Hedges – on the Antrim Coast. Or ‘sleepy coastal resort Carnlough,’ to give it the full title it invariably attracts on those rarest of occasions when it briefly breaches the national consciousness. In Carnlough, as in all small villages, stories are currency – family anecdotes, local lore, legendary figures from its long history, and of course idle gossip.

When I moved to Belfast in autumn 1985, it was only the third time I had ever been to the city. I had never seen a British soldier in the flesh, although freakishly I had watched a man bleed to death yards from my house in Carnlough, the victim of a result of political assassination, and the solitary occasion on which The Troubles impinged on our sleepy coastal resort.

Belfast in 1985 was like a parallel universe. There was the security situation, obviously – the gated city centre, random and frequent bag and car searches, heavily armed soldiers and policemen cheek by jowl with citizens going about their daily business. But the most unsettling aspect of my new city life was one I had not anticipated: it was that the people didn’t seem to talk to one another. Certainly not in any sort of shared space, where provenance was uncertain and the avoidance of unwitting disclosure paramount. “They don’t talk to one another” I thought. “What do they do with all their stories?”

A few months into my new Belfast life I was on a bus to a friend’s house when I tuned into a conversation behind me, a  discussion between two women. It is perhaps simplest if I reproduce it here, as best I can, given the vagaries of memory and my storyteller’s instinct to edit, hone and polish:

– Jeez, I haven’t seen you in ages, M. How are you? How’s the family? And John – how’s your John?

– Sure he left me, so he did.

– He did not.  I didn’t hear that.

– Aye, he took up with some woman he met when he was in drying out. An English woman. He left me and went over there to live with her.

– Oh God, M, I’m sorry love. I didn’t know. He was never that good to you really though, was he? God forgive me. It’s probably for the best. In the long run.

– I swear, T, I couldn’t cope when he left, for all that. I cried and I cried. I thought I was never going to stop. I cried myself sore for weeks and weeks and weeks. I just couldn’t stop.

– I’m sure you did, M, I’m sure you did.

– But then I won £80 on the bingo, so…

– Ah well then, eighty pound sure.

– Aye, eighty pound.

And so that was the price of the faithless, feckless husband: eighty pounds. As odd as it seemed, I knew in that moment that Belfast would do just fine as my new home. It would never be ‘home home,’  to use that peculiar  tautological distinction  –   that would always be Carnlough  –  but Belfast would at least be ‘home.’

And so now I live in Belfast, where we may not tell our stories straight away. But be patient, because when we do, they’re usually worth hearing.

Vernacularisms Ulsterbus

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One Moment

There’s a pink balloon blowing along beside the path in the Ormeau Park, left over from some charity event. The wee girl is delighted to find it, and lifting it runs along through the tall gates and onto the broad pavement of the Ormeau Road. Later, you will play ‘don’t let it touch the ground,’ using tactics like whacking it hard and fast to surprise her, or letting it drop gently to make her rush for it. You will bounce it off your head, knee, backside, and nearly letting it land on the carpet, kick it in slow motion; anything to get her squealing with laughter and excitement. Balloons are great.

She runs along, five yards ahead of you, waving the balloon around with pure 5-year-old joy. Then it catches her leg. She loses her grip and a gust of wind playfully takes it out of her hand and into the nearside lane of the Ormeau. This is the point, far enough from the traffic lights at the bridge, where the cars go up a gear and accelerate past the speed limit. And here it is, that never-going-to-happen-to-me moment; it smashes through the veil of spring serenity like an out-of-control cement lorry. You are too far away to reach her in time. She pauses for a split second, instinctively knowing that the road is dangerous, but when the wind takes the balloon again she panics and without looking runs into the road, oblivious to your shouts.

As you run, with heightened senses you notice: a taxi driver parked on the other side of the road, his face creased in horror, the reflection of the scudding clouds in the shop window, the traffic starting to move from the lights at the bridge. A few strides and you’re there. You scoop her up into your arms, stand her up by the bus shelter and give her a good talking to: Never, ever, do that again. Ever. She looks down, crestfallen; sorry daddy, I won’t do it again, I promise. You are still trembling, but you’re lucky, and you know it; the Ormeau is a very busy road.

It wasn’t today; there will be no drips and beeping machines, no recriminating phone calls, no small coffin. The what ifs? are there though, crowding out other thoughts on this fine spring day. Breathe.

Ormeau Bridge Vernacularisms

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Guest Post: ‘Conversion’ by Colm Dore.

A staunch man, a marching man, a Belfast man, lies stately on his deathbed. A king, in his neat little castle, surrounded by a company of stocky, staunch, princes.

The sons have beefy arms, with faded tattoos, but their faces are melting with sobs, and they speak with the tremulous voices of little boys. Their father is thin and hard, unyielding as bog oak, and he speaks out clearly, with the authority of his years: “Go over thon Peace Wall and bring me one of their men of the cloth. I’m converting to their religion today, before I leave this world.”

Silence. Then loud sobs and hysterical protestations: “But Daddy, no, Daddy, and you a big man in the Order?!”

“My mind’s made up. Get over thon Peace Wall nigh, and bring me one of their men of God til I convert. I’m convertin’, so I am.”

The request is hurriedly acceded to. With Bible, and solemn vows, the old man follows through on his dying wish.

One of his sons wails: ‘Why, Daddy? What did you do it for?”

The old man fixes his gaze on him. “Son: it’s better that one of them dies than one of us.”

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Looking at the Menu: a Dialogue.

Scene: Supermarket car park. Bill and Margaret have just arrived, and are getting ready to leave the car.  Parked next to them is an attractive young woman, who is eating her lunch.

Vernacularisms Car park

Bill: Here, before we go in, can I just say something?

Margaret:  Sure, go ahead.

B: Er … well …

M: Oh, I hate it when you do this. What is it?

B: Well … I …

M: Yes?

B: I … well …

M: Go ON.

B: Ach, it’s not important … Let’s get the shopping done and I’ll tell you later.

M: Fuck’s sake! I’m all curious now. Come on, out with it.

 B: Promise you won’t take it the wrong way?

M: Sure. Just tell me.

B: Well … alright then:  I’d like to try something new.

M: You what? What do you mean?

B: Now don’t get upset, I’m not complaining, just saying we should … you know … broaden our horizons a bit.

M: I’m NOT upset. I just don’t know what you’re on about. You’re not happy?

B: Knew it.  Shouldn’t have opened my mouth. Can’t talk about anything without you flying off the handle. Here, forget it.

M: No. You can’t do this. I’m not letting you do this. Answer the question. Are you saying you’re not happy with me? What’s wrong with me?

B: Look. Calm down. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Of course I’m happy with you. It’s just that …

M: What?

B: We’re married 27 years, and well …

M: Spit. It. OUT.

B: I think we need to … to … you know …

M: Fucks’s sake! What?

B: Alright I’ll say it. We need to liven things up a bit. Experiment. Try new things.

M: So you’re not happy. I KNEW it. I could feel it. It hasn’t been the same recently. You think I’m old and ugly.

B: No! That’s not it at all, I love you …

M: No you don’t. You think I’m just a frumpy old housewife. A borin’ oul’ doll.

B: NO! Would you listen? I’m trying to tell you something. You NEVER friggin’ listen. Pisses me off, so it does.

[Bill stares out of the window]

M: Why in the name of JESUS would I want to listen to you slabberin’ about how I’m not attractive to you anymore? Go fuck yourself. And why are you looking at her? Is that it? Is it?

B: You’re melting my head here. Got it all wrong as usual. Want to know why I’m looking at her? Do you?

M: I know rightly why you’re looking at her. You want to try something new alright. I know what this is all about. Do you seriously think a girl like that would be interested in a fat useless bastard like you? Your head’s full of sweetie mice, chum.

B: That’s it. I give up. There’s no point trying to talk to you. You always do this. I’ve had it. Fuckin’ MELTER!

[Bill opens the car door aggressively]

M: Where are you going? You’re not getting away with this, you selfish prick.

B: Fuck OFF. I’ve had it with you. You want to know why I was looking at her?

M: Aye go on then. Explain yourself. I can’t WAIT to hear it.

B: Sushi.

M: What?

B: She’s eating sushi. I want to try it.

M: Oh. Right … Well you can’t.

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Guest Post: ‘Swimming Against the Tide’ by Linda Ervine.

Sitting on a shelf in my living room is a beautiful and meaningful gift that I was given by a friend this Christmas.  It is an ornament in the shape of a log with seven tiny blue and white delft fish swimming above it.  When you look closely you realise that whilst six of the fish are all swimming in the same direction one solitary fish is swimming the opposite way to the others.  Attached to the log is a sign in Gaelic which reads ‘Ag snámh in éadan an tsrutha’ which translates as ‘swimming against the tide’.

And I am proud to be doing just that, to be swimming against the tide of intolerance that at times seems to engulf Northern Ireland.  In my position as Irish Language Development Officer I have the opportunity to work with groups from both traditions and to challenge the stereotypes of green and orange politics.

But being out of step with what appears to be all around you can be difficult.  By becoming an advocate for the Irish language I have made myself a target for criticism and attack from those who disagree with the stance I have taken.  I have experienced criticism from individuals within the unionist community as well as lack of support and misunderstanding of the purpose and ethos of my work.

However it isn’t the disapproval of strangers or the negative comments on social media which I find most hurtful, but the dirty looks and whispers among people that I know especially when those people are fellow Christians. Part of me wants to ask them what they think is so wrong about what I do.  I want to explain why and how I got involved with the language. I want to tell them that four years ago I was introduced to a language which because of my religious background I had never had the opportunity to engage with; that I became fascinated by it and decided to learn to speak it.  That I fell in love with its sounds, its phraseology and discovered its true history. That I read books such as ‘Presbyterians and the Irish Language’ by Roger Blaney, ‘Hidden Ulster: Protestants and the Irish Language’, by Pádraig Ó Snodaigh and ‘Towards Inclusion: Protestants and the Irish Language’ by Ian Malcolm and I discovered that I as a Protestant could rightfully claim this language as my own, a truth I believed was important to share with others. I want them to hear the laughter of learners and experience the positivity and friendliness that is Turas, but stone faces and closed minds make this impossible.

Since setting up Turas, East Belfast’s Irish language project, I have met many people who like me, feel they have been denied access to the Irish language but who now through Turas, enjoy the opportunity to attend classes in their local area.  Turas, which is the Gaelic word for journey, has become not just a journey into a language but also a journey that is changing mindsets and softening hearts, eroding long held negative attitudes and providing a new context for the Irish language as a language of healing and reconciliation.

At times I feel despondent at the political situation in Northern Ireland.  Sixteen years after the Good Friday Agreement we seem even deeper entrenched in bitterness and hatred.  Almost half of the electorate do not vote and feel no motivation to engage with the political system. What chance is there for change when at the highest levels of our society the conflict continues? How can communities be expected to show tolerance and respect when their political leadership express intolerance and disrespect? How can the walls come down when division is being rebuilt every day within our Assembly?

Yet despite all of this I firmly believe that the majority of people in Northern Ireland want something better and in our own small way the success of Turas confirms that many are looking for an alternative. The reality is that I am not the only fish swimming against the tide, there are many other people in Northern Ireland who desire peace and seek compromise on the contentious issues. I am not a solitary fish but part of a silent shoal swimming in the direction of a modern and pluralistic society.

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