Two children of the troubles look back

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The Independent Online
The Loyalist's story

I WAS born in 1968. I was born into the troubles. I come from a predominantly loyalist area and we just had Protestant friends. We knew of Catholics, but we wouldn't run about with them.

I got into trouble when I first started drinking, at 14 or 15. It made me aggressive - I would fight with people, fight with the police, get done for riotous behaviour around the 12th, do burglaries to get money for drink. . . everything.

In 1985 there was a riot at the time of the Anglo-Irish agreement, and I was involved. We were skinheads at the time. I was supposed to be protesting against Dublin rule, but I'd so much liquor in me, I'd have protested against anything. I hadn't really a clue, I was only 16.

I was involved on the fringes of the loyalist paramilitaries. I know people now who are in their forties, who've spent 15 years of their life in jail. They were just the same as me, but they got more deeply involved.

I wouldn't have associated with Catholics in the old days, but I met them when I started doing the Duke of Edinburgh award, through the probation service. At the start we thought it was for pansies but now I'm all for it. It's super.

We went away on an expedition and lived together, Catholics and Protestants mixed together, we all mucked in. We had a good laugh about my tattoos. . . I've one on my arse; it says 'Kiss my Orange ass'. We had a real laugh about that one.

I would still be against republicans but I wouldn't be against all Catholics. A few years ago I thought they were all the same but I don't think they are now. We should live and let live. I got the Duke of Edinburgh gold award, it was the best thing ever happened to me. I'm trying to get into voluntary work now.

The Republican's story

I WAS a kid of 10 at school when it all started. I wouldn't have been in trouble without the troubles, I'd never been in jail, had no previous criminal record. I got involved with the republican movement and I ended up doing over 10 years in jail.

I am still a republican. I just feel it's unfortunate that I had to get involved, that someone had to die. I'm sorry that it happened, I'm sorry for the person who was killed and the suffering that was caused, but I still am a republican.

Coming from a nationalist area, we had very little to do with Protestants. I didn't really have anything to do with them. It's only meeting them in jail that you realise they're human beings too - they have their beliefs, we have ours.

Since coming out I have got involved in youth work. Being in jail helped me understand young people, their hardships and what they're going through. I work in a very deprived area, trying to get them off the street corners. There's nothing for the kids in the area at all. I feel hurt when I see that.

We were away on an expedition, Protestant and Catholic kids, and not once was there any sectarianism. There was a bit of banter about Celtic and Rangers - one fella had 'Kiss my Orange ass' tattooed on his bum - but there wasn't one bit of trouble.

Those young people were brilliant ambassadors for their country. That's what makes me say there is hope for this country. Someday we're just all going to have to live together. I believe its possible and we all can do it, and the sooner it comes the better.

I just hope this Hume-Adams talks, something might come out of it, I really hope so. Give these talks a chance, let them talk, let's see what's coming out of there and let everybody talk and get together.

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