John

I'm a British citizen, so I see it as part of where I live, as a part of Britain. I know other ones don't agree with it and things, and ones not far from where I live. Their identity is Irish and they see it as a part of Ireland. Those two communities just don't agree with each other on what part of the country this is. Very, very, very divided.

Growing up around this area, I've lived in this house certain 20 odd years, 30 years. Growing up around this area you learnt not to trust the ones next door in the Short Strand. You were learnt to keep yourself to yourself and stay with your own people. Us and Protestants and British people, and not to trust the Irish ones and those Catholics or whatever.

Then you'd have an odd fight with them. The community fought against each other, the two communities. You got yourself involved in things like that. If they throw a brick at you, you throw two back at them. It was very, very bitter times than--things have changed in the last 10-15 years. Those two communities have sat a wee bit better. They've built a peace wall in between us here, at the back of it. The wall seems to be doing its job of keeping the two communities apart and keeping peace in between the two.

It was rough at times, growing up in the city. At the minute there's probably less--well, these two communities have never, ever got on. These two communities have never really mixed. Today there's more peace between the two communities. It's safer to walk about your own community, knowing that the other community's not going to attack you. I think it's the same with them. They know we're not going to attack them. There is more peace today. More trust that the two communities aren't going to come under attack.

I think it's very hard for outsiders to understand what actually happening in this country and what this country's came to. Until you've actually lived here and experienced it. There's a lot of people from Belfast who'll not talk about the troubles and talk about the past and talk about things. I think it's hard to actually get the real truth out of people. You can walk about the streets here and say to people, "What happened? Did you fight, did you do anything?" They'll not answer you, they just blank the past. To explain to an outsider I think is very, very, very hard.

You have to be careful what you do say, for start. You have to be very careful what you do say, because a lot of it was criminal activity. It was joining organisations or petrol bombing houses or throwing bricks, stuff that's criminal. People don't talk about that. People do not tell an outsider about it. They'll not tell an outsider "I was in this" or "I done this" or "I done that". I think parts of Belfast, you'll still find it very hard for people to explain to an outsider what it was like, or to tell an outsider exactly what did happen. They'll tell you certain things as we did fight with them, we did have trouble with them but they'll not go into detail of why, or what happened.

In my eyes, it's over. It's time the two communities did come together. I'm glad that it has changed, but to explain to you exactly what went on is very, very hard. It's extremely hard. I think we'll find it hard to explain to you. Politicians are a lot to blame for the trouble in this country as well. If they could get their act together, I think the rest of us could. It was strange as a child and your teenage years. You learnt to deal with things around here.

You learnt to deal with attacks and you learned to deal with your house being maybe attacked or petrol bombed. You learned to--if there was a shooting in the area you knew exactly what to do, where to go. Stay in, don't open your mouth about that, you didn't see that. You were street-wise as a child in Belfast. Every child brought up in Belfast was very street-wise. It was a problem to explain things, and we're told not to do this and not to do that. That's the way the community, you acted as a child.

Once you get older, you can get involved a wee bit more. They let you start--if there's a brick threw, so you throw two back. Even the kids today are very streetwise, because once there's a brick comes over that wall, they'll run. They'll go and tell their father and mother or whatever. They're very streetwise these kids. Very well brought up.

We've had attacks in the last two or three years, we haven't had Many attacks. We've had maybe two or three in the last, say, five years, as far as being serious attacks. You'll see the kids. The kids know how to retaliate. Once a ball bearing comes over or a brick comes over, they’ll be aware and they’ll know what to do yet. The closest house they can go to and then you’ll see the younger ones go out and the older one’s start. It’s a strange situation but it’s a situation that you're brought up. If there was an attack here in the next 10 minutes, you'd see 200-300 people here within no time. The communities all know how to operate and know who to contact and what way to go about things.

You just make one phone call and this place will be crammed in no time. Cluan Place, it was attacked a few times over the recent years and once that gets attacked even the people from round this area, they know who to send round to protect and things. All the communities stick together. All of East Belfast sticks together. Same with the Short Strand, they all stick together as well and they would bring people from different areas to protect them and in no time they’d have maybe 1000 people in there, 500 people in there there to fight back against our ones. It’s just the way it works.

I think Brexit's a good thing personally being British, I think British should be British and I do support Brexit and I think it’s going to very very hard to please both sides. It’s going to be very hard to please the Irish and the British. Brexit is going to divide them somewhere along the line, it’s going to make one side bitter.

A lot of it depends on border over here. For years Sinn Fein IRA has been fighting for an all Ireland. Brexit is going to stop that it’s going to put an end, it’s not going to be an all Ireland. Britain is Britain and Ireland is part of Europe so that is going to put a divide there. I think it's going to depend a lot on the border, the way the Irish are going to go about it. If they don’t get their own way they’ll start trouble again. They will start trouble again. They'll want a divide, they'll want out of Ireland, or out of Britain. They will start up again. If it does come an all Ireland which I can’t see for the next 10, 15, 20 years maybe. Then the British people here aren’t going to like that and they're going to retaliate and they're going to say, "Well this is our country and you want it back again." You can’t blame Brexit it’s more of the divide in the country. As I said it's two communities, two different identities. If you put a big line down the middle it's going to cause-- one side is not going to be happy. I agree there should be a border because if there’s not a border this is going to be like a back door for everybody to come through into Britain. We’re part of Britain so put the border up and stop them coming in this way and stop them using us. If the Irish don’t like it, let them go down the south of Ireland to live. That's my personal views it's not everybody's views. They're living up here blame the British state, blame the British money, everything's British. For the British to say they've suddenly got a border up there, you'll have to live here as part of Britain.

There's a lot of history-- this doesn't only go through the troubles, it goes for hundreds of years in this country. The history has always been there there’s been trouble, there’s been this and there's been that. It’s not just recent troubles, it’s not just recent Brexit and things. The border's been there before and it caused trouble and they tried to blow it up and they've tried to do this and they've killed people at the border. I'm British so I understand. I actually believe it would be easier for Ireland to come back part of the British Union and join Britain as the way it used to-- It was a hundred years ago, they were part of the British empire. I actually think it would be easier for them to come part of Britain and leave Europe themselves, it's not doing us good, it's not doing them much good. That would be the easier situation not that anybody'll do that, especially not the the Irish. They want Ireland as it's own country. Yes it’s complicated, it’s going to be hard to take 750,000 British people in this country, it's going to cause a lot of trouble.

It would be hard for somebody in Northern Ireland to turn around and say that they haven't experienced violence, one way or the other. We see it everyday you know what’s going on and when there's troubles you experience maybe bombs going off and you experience maybe kneecapped or shot or your friends that's died. Everybody's got friends that died over here, in the troubles. A lot of me lads on the other side, been shot, close friends, one day he’s out doing something and the next day he's been shot dead. That was in the 80s. People my age, 90% of people my age would know somebody or have spoke to somebody or witnessed something.

I remember as a young, young child some six, seven, eight, nine year old watching the bombs go off in Belfast and it was terrific and just up the road there. It went up in fire one night and I think there was 20-odd killed it and there's smokes and there's fumes and you stood and you watched it and you knew people were getting killed there. Everybody in Belfast has witnessed something I'd say. There was 3-4,000 killed. It's a small population in Belfast. Everybody has an uncle, an auntie, a cousin or a friend that's been killed. When you're a size of a small town you're a big town or small city. 4,000 people to be killed in those years. A lot of people.

We protected our areas as well, you might consider I've have gone out with a scarf round my face and done something stupid, so that does happen, that does happen. You don't see it as violence you see it as protecting your community. It doesn't take much to spark off trouble round here. Maybe kids over their side throwing fireworks over but you don't know who's on the other side of the wall. Next thing maybe one of your kids got hit with a firework or whatever, you retaliate. Next thing you're putting windows through and the next thing they're throwing things this way and there's shots been fired maybe worst thing is blast bombs going off. It started off with just a wee brick or something from an eight, nine year old. Bigger ones throw something back retaliating.

I feel like an identity is a far important part of life. I think that you should be actually proud of saying I'm Dutch, or I'm French or I'm from Great Britain. I honestly think to have even a monarchy, to worship, not worship her, but to respect her. I think it's actually a very, very important part of life and kids should be brought up in order to respect their identity.

Don't matter what identity they are I just feel identity is a great part of life. There's kids out there that have been singing the queen from their five year old. They're told they're British, they're out watching the bands and they know their history from their four, five, seven year old. They know that's Catholics over there, and that's Irish. I think it's a very very important part of life, your identity.

I don't see it as more of a religious thing. If you're Catholic and you're proud to be British, you're British also. I don't see it as a-- I think it's more identity. Identity is an important part of life. There's black British, and there's white British and there's Catholic British. I think the British part is the most important part of it. No matter what, even the Muslims, they respect Britain as Britain, fair play to them. These other ones… The hatred for Britain is just… don’t agree with that… If you hate a country so much, get out of it. You shouldn't live in a country that you hate. Definitely shouldn't.