For Lyra, From Another Ceasefire Baby Read Count : 14

Category : Blogs

Sub Category : Politics
"Don't talk to the soldiers!" my Parents scolded. I was about 6 years old; 2 years after the Ceasefire and two years before the Good Friday Agreement. I huffed in confusion! The soldier had been friendly enough and we had gotten a closer look at a gun for our efforts. I'd been courteous as taught and now I was getting an ear wigging to show for it!
 "But, why? He was kind!" I'd protested, breaking the cardinal rule of an Irish household, DON'T TALK BACK. I was lucky I didn't get a skite or the age old "because I said so!"
It was telling of the fear my parents held, that they gave me an answer instead. 
"Because they've done bad things."
I was a little older before I got any explanation of the "bad things" that happened here but for then it would have to suffice.
There was more learning to begin. You might have heard of Irish dancing with its kicks and stomps but we were taught how to follow the delicate treading of the NORTHERN-Irish dance; which involved how to safely navigate and sidestep the targeted questions and traps that Northern Irish people use to peg each others "colours".
To an outsider this doesn't look like a dance, it's merely people getting to know each other via everyday questions: What's your name? What's your school? Where do you work? What side of town are you from?
Most children are taught to withhold these details lest they endanger themselves by being easily located. But Northern Irish children were taught not to reveal these things lest they endanger themselves by carelessly revealing their Religion. 
If you had a name that could easily identify "your side", we were taught to only give your first name or if that was still too identifiable you had to  think of a more ambiguous name as you couldn't be sure "who" you were talking to!
Northern Irish Dance instruction was followed by Geography: Don't go down Church Street, Stick to Irish street or vice versa! Also, the 6 counties of Northern Ireland are "The North" and the rest of the Island is  the "Free State" or "The South" (causing much confusion to find that I had neighbours from "the south" who were actually geographically North of us...*Waves at Donegal*
We also had Phonics instruction which consisted of one important lesson: The letter H can be used to mark you; Catholics say "Heaech", Protestants says "Aeaech".
And of course there was Religion lessons; Church V Chapel, Priest V Reverend and the peculiar one, that although Catholicism and Protestantism are both branches of Christianity, If someone says they're Christian it means they're Protestant.
And of course there's also the Lord's Prayer as immortalised on the "Derry Girls" blackboard, Protestants say an extra bit at the end of Our Father! 
I'll never forget the day in school when our substitute teacher led us in our class prayers. As the rest of the class finished their prayer, the sub continued on but suddenly his mouth clamped and his eyes bulged wide as he realised he'd given himself away! We were only about 14 but the poor thing looked as though he thought we might start pulling balaclavas out of our schoolbags!
Because here's the thing about the Ceasefire, it might have marked an end to the IRA's violent campaign but it didn't mark the end of all sectarian violence and it did not mark the end of a culture of fear and terror.
A culture so normalised to violence that as a child I was subjected to horrifically gruesome road safety ads that I later learned had been made as such, in order to penetrate the thick smog of desensitization that envelops us.
I would suffer further confusion and annoyance when our day trips or shopping plans were abruptly cancelled. 
"Bombscare in Lurgan, we can't go." "Weren't we going to Belfast?"
"If there's one... there could be more."
Then I'd watch my parents tune in to see if there HAD been more and who'd "claimed" it. My mother, who "didn't like the news" would quite literally be on the edge of her seat as my father and her vehemently shush any of us who dared make a sound while the images of Police Land rovers and riots flashed across the tv. 
As I got older I started to feel proud of our tiny allotment on this planet and how it was being held up as a beacon for peace and reconciliation. We had a long way to go but we'd made so much progress. 
However, 'One step forward, Two steps back" has been a common Northern Irish dance typically led by "Politicians" and which has seen a massive revival starring Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, the First and Deputy First Minister of the NI Assembly.
Lyra Mckee spoke of the older generation who would taunt that we ceasefire babies didn't "know what it was like". My own mother still makes the same utterance on occasion, even though they've spent a lifetime sharing stories to help us understand what it was like and why we don't want a return!
I am now a mother myself and despite the ineptness of our absentee representatives, I still held hope for a country where the only dance lessons my daughter had to worry about was her weekly Tap class.
The murder of journalist Lyra Mckee, at the hands of a youth who was probably only watching teletubbies at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 21 years ago, should NOT have been the catalyst for our Politicians to re-engage.
Lyra was an embodiment of hope and love and after her murder, the rallying of a people declaring #NotInMyName is soul-raising.
Arlene and Michelle on the other hand are the embodiment of parties built on fear-mongering and bitterness.
For Lyra, for the Ceasefire babies and for their children who haven't yet needed to be taught the dance, 
We need to stop voting for the candidates and parties with the most murdered relatives! Leaving them bickering over who's been or caused the most hurt while doing little to prevent reopening the wounds of our Island.
I repeat, It should NOT have taken Lyra Mckee's murder to have been the catalyst for our representatives to engage in talks but It SHOULD become the catalyst for US changing who we want to stand in our name.
#AnyOtherParty #NotInMyName #NotinHerName
 


  


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