Forthspring Inter Community Group

90’s Stories

Dalai Lama

When Bill Clinton came to Mackies in 1995 he passed by in the car along the road. The only one who walked along there was the Dalai Lama; he was the only one who walked through the Workman Avenue gates, with Tibetan prayer flags hanging on the gates. I thought it was great. He came down Workman and I think he came along Kirk or Workman and a bit of Kirk. Anyway, they stopped just where the two of those meet and that would be roughly the front of our house and that was great.

It was lovely; just realising that these gates open for nobody, only the Orangemen, but they opened for somebody of a different faith and both sides were trying to celebrate it. So that was great, and he went into the Forthspring and there was a dance for him and all the rest of it – I don’t think he actually wanted the dance, but anyway he got what he got – and then going down the Springfield Road together, the Dalai Lama, Barry Dodds and Gerry Reynolds – the three of those going down the road and into another place where there was going to be a celebration at the end of Lanark there, where there was going to be a bit of a service. There was a beautiful picture in the papers of the Dalai Lama in the middle, holding the beards of the two men and a wee twinkle in his eye – he was enjoying it. It was lovely – to me it was a beautiful symbol.

Springfield Road Rioting

We had a baby in the house, yes. One night he was in a baby walker and he fell down steps and hecut his head. We picked him up to bring him to the hospital and we were coming out on to the front of the road when somebody threw a brick so we turned to go down the back way and the army were coming up and they said, “is there anything wrong?” I told them that there was a wee bit of rioting up there and told them that someone just threw a brick at us. I said, “that child has already cut his head as he fell, we’re taking him to the hospital.” So they came up and said, “It’s alright. You go on and we’ll go up and sort this out.” So they told us just to go on down the back and get him checked out. That was very scary too because we didn’t know how badly hurt he was.

There was mainly fellas involved in the rioting but there were girls too. The rioting between Protestants and the Catholics was nearly every night. But with the flush were it was there, you got people running down there and thinking, “Oh these people are coming over the flush and they’re going to come down and they’ll be in the streets.” You know, people were terrified.

One night there was one really bad riot and I mean it was terrible. Everyone was shouting and panicking and squealing. I think there were a couple of houses wrecked that night. It was awful. It was nearly like being in the heart of the troubles again, because everybody was out in their pyjamas and slippers screaming and shouting, “get the police, get the army, get the papers.” I don’t think anybody slept the rest of that night. To be honest with you that peace wall was a godsend at the time, because it kept the sides apart and you got a night’s sleep. 

Ceasefire and Peace

It was the 31st August 1994. I was on a plane to Cyprus. I think the pilot gave out the news of the IRA ceasefire. It was a package tour, all the passengers were from Belfast. I remember my reaction, I was pleased.

I was down South in the summer of 1996. I was getting married and we were saving up so we didn’t have much money for a holiday. We were camping during the twelfth week and we were totally oblivious to Drumcree. We arrived back home to the news of all the trouble. We had been talking about marriage and children and decided not to have children in the North. We talked of leaving the country. Looking back now we both regret we didn’t pay more attention to what we were saying.

We married and in 1997 something changed and we decided it was ok to have children here. We also talked about where we would live and thought of living in a Protestant area and then we thought of how it might be for the children walking home and decided to live in a Nationalist area. My husband had memories of being picked on as a child as a Catholic.

We stayed and had children because of the Good Friday Agreement. In the late nineties things could not have been better. The children came along, we were living in our new house, in our own world. I must have been in a wee bubble. If the kids move country to work, whether its America, Australia or Canada, we will get up and move abroad as well. It doesn’t feel now like much has changed. Nothing has changed.

Since the Good Friday Agreement

Things are a lot better. There is no rioting, there is peace, it is quiet. It’sgreat, children go out now. You don’t even think about it, they go out, they come back. Life is much more relaxed. But what I will say since the army is no longer on the streets it’s not as safe for girls, there are more crimes against women. There is less likelihood of people getting caught. The physical attacks on women have increased. You are still getting young people shot, young people brutalized. They are still trying to attack policemen, both sides. So I wouldn’t call it a complete peace process. But it is good that mothers can let their teenagers go out and not have to worry because in my day it was different. But I wonder if there will ever be peace. Young people are mixing more now. They go in to the town and go to bars and clubs, wherever they go to now, and get on with each other. The town is much busier now.

Unexpected Consequences

My daughter in law was involved in establishing MISCA, the Mid Spring Community Association. She lived in a flat opposite the police station on Springfield Parade. The area was mixed, though mainly Protestant. This was 1991. Her son played in the street, often with another boy, a neighbour’s son. The two mothers rarely spoke, perhaps only when there were disagreements between their sons. A barrier was erected at the end of West Circular Road, blocking traffic from accessing the Springfield Road. All the traffic, including buses, was diverted along Springfield Parade and this quickly became a nightmare, particularly with the children used to playing in the street. Marie, along with another woman, started a petition started to stop the buses using the street. As they got signatures and talked to people they began to realize that people wanted a community association and they decided to do something about it.

The Wrong Shop

Bill Clinton, when he came to the Shankill, was supposed to come up to where the bomb had been on the Shankill, which was Stevenson’s fruit shop. But he didn’t. He stopped at Violets. It was his security, they took him to the wrong fruit shop. The traffic was terrible. The security was unreal as if the town had just stopped. They were all talking up their sleeves, the security men. Nothing happened if they didn’t say it happened.