Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

They're worlds away from riots on streets ...meet Northern Ireland's other hotheads

Soaking up the sun
Soaking up the sun

The story of Belfast is a tale of two cities – one is sunny, peaceful and laidback by day; the other is tense, threatening and violent by night.

Yesterday workers were soaking up the rays during lunch hour in the city centre, just hours after Belfast's fifth night of rioting.

"It's night and day," Anton McGonnell, an IT worker said, sitting in the shade at Belfast City Hall.

"You would not even know it's happening here.

"It's a different world," Pauline McConville from Belfast agreed.

They echoed a general consensus among sunbathers lounging on the grass outside the City Hall.

Gemma Nixon, an office worker, was enjoying the heat with three of her friends. "The weather has been great. But I live in east Belfast and when you are home you are home now, because of this trouble," she said.

"In this weather you want to be out – but you are scared to go out in your car at the minute.

"Seeing pictures of this in the papers, people in the sun, it would be a nice change to all the bad news lately."

The atmosphere around Belfast's 'Dome of Delight' was touching on carnival yesterday afternoon.

Multi-coloured, lifesize reproductions of China's terracotta warriors flanked the grass banks, as children and adults got their hands dirty with face-painting and jewellery making.

Men and women in their work suits or shorts and T-shirts surveyed it all from a distance, tucking into lunchboxes of salad and fruit amid the UK's hottest spell of weather for seven years.

Beata Biotrowska, a 39-year-old mother-of-three from Poland, has lived in Belfast for six years.

"It's better education for children to see this and meet with people from other cultures than seeing that trouble," she said.

Geraldine Cunningham was sitting nearby with a friend. "It's brilliant. The terracotta warriors and face-painting and music – it's just something different for the kids, and it's nice to see everyone sitting out and enjoying themselves," she said.

"Anything is better than the rioting."

Northern Ireland saw milder temperatures after last week's highs, with a peak of 23C in Belfast yesterday afternoon. The temperature will dip slightly to 22C amid cloud cover today.

But sun worshippers were rooting for the mercury to keep rising.

"It could be warmer. I love the heat," Pauline McConville said.

"The only pain is the air conditioning in the office.

"You come in in your summer clothes and you're freezing until you get outside."

Pauline, from Belfast, added: "It's lovely to see people here relaxing and socialising. I think the heat makes people do that."

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