Strange things happen in Belfast. This morning, while we were having breakfast, Jeff and I heard a loud bang. Instinctively, we looked out of the window to check on the car: lately, it has been key scratched on one side and scraped by other cars. The fact that we have an Irish plate and we live in a Loyalist area might made us think we sort of ‘stand out’, but we could just be unlucky.
However, our car was still there and looked okay, so we got ready to leave for work as usual and walked to the bus stop. Only after a few steps we realised that something was wrong. The road was deserted. A damaged car was laying across Cregagh Road and the police were cordoning the entire area. They prompted us to leave and told us we couldn’t go back passing by there. At the beginning we thought it could be a car accident of some kind: the car looked like it had been rammed or something like that. But we hadn’t much time to think about that, as we had to walk up to the beginning of Woodstock Road to get on a bus. A woman who lived in the area said that it was a bomb. I was kind of surprised. Hadn’t the troubles finished long ago?
Once at the office, I read the news and found out that it was, indeed, an under-car bomb. The person blown up had survived the explosion and was at the hospital. My colleagues told me to get used to it: “such things happen.”
I forgot about the whole thing until I left the office and I got on a bus again to go back home: the bus driver asked me where I was heading, and explained that the bus would take another route to bypass the cordoned area. I was surprised: was the thing still going on?
Well, it was. I jumped off the bus at Tesco and went down a lateral road to go back to Cregagh Road. Not only the entire area still was blocked by the police, but news reporters were there with their cameras and TV crews while SCI men in their white suits where walking the grid in search for something.
I met Jeff there, and together we walked back home through a series of back roads in order to avoid the police blocks.
Only this evening I had the picture of what had happened: the man in the blown-up car is a prison guard, and the police believes that dissident Republicans are targeting policemen and military that represents the British rule in Northern Ireland. This year runs the centenary of the Easter Rising. This was was an armed insurrection in Ireland, during Easter Week of 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I.
The chief of police stated that the alarm is currently high, as is the risk of another attack. You can read BBC News about today’s facts here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35726837.
That’s sort of discomforting. I guess that we will find out soon enough what life in Belfast really is.