There was a time when Norn Iron was blatantly sectarian. A time some fifty years ago, when there was no political correctness. It was not unusual to return to work after lunch and find that Mrs Jones had left a gospel tract on my desk. On one occasion she left a small Bible.
Mrs Jones agonised about me. Mainly because I was going to Hell. I was after all not “saved”. Being a “Roman Catholic”, I could not get into Heaven. And yet Mrs Jones thought I was better than most “Roman Catholics”. I did not smoke or drink alcohol. I did not swear. I was unfailingly polite. In many ways, I ticked all the “saved Protestant” boxes.
There was of course another kinda co-worker. …Herbie.Many of his friends were “Roman Catholic” but well…too many “Roman Catholics” lived in squalor. He could tell me …and did tell me stories about Ballymurphy.
And then there were the jokes.
“What do you call a man from West Belfast, who is wearing a suit?” ….”The Defendant”.
At what point does a person from West Belfast start to feel offended?
OF course a lot of us left West Belfast. Like those boring Scousers in London, who go misty-eyed at the thought of their Liverpool home, I can do the “our neighbours were the salt of the earth…you could leave your front door unlocked” nostalgia as well as anybody.
For the record NOBODY left their front door unlocked.
Of course by the early 1970s, Killing and/or Murder had become routine. If Killing a person becomes excusable…or making excuses for Killing is excusable, then it is a slippery slope. Robbery becomes routine. Stealing a car. Crime and “Morality” are of course very different. But if you can live with , Killing, Robbery and Stealing a car…you might find it difficult to condemn ….Adultery etc.
So….West Belfast seemed to turn against itself. The Man from Andytown jokes. “What do you call a man from Turf Lodge who is wearing a suit?” Yes….”the Defendant”.
Society in West Belfast is now tiered, graduated.
And tonight the Man from Andytown referred to “Breakfast in Poleglass…..Buckfast and the Morning-After Pill”.
Is that it? Patronised by Mrs Jones and ridiculed by Herbie in 1970….we do it to ourselves in 2016.