Belfast Telegraph

Games without frontiers for youngsters at Belfast Interface event

Communities on interfaces united for day of activities

By David Young

The Troubles feel like a thing of the past according to young people participating in this week's seventh Belfast Interface Games.

The Games - which attract participants from the Middle East, Norway and Cyprus - were held at Girdwood Community Hub, built on the site of a former Army barracks in north Belfast.

The event is organised by PeacePlayers International, and is supported by the Ulster Council of the GAA, Ulster Rugby and the Irish Football Association.

Ajay McMinn (17), from north Belfast, attends the Belfast Model School for Girls.

She was raised in Ardoyne, living across the street from Holy Cross Primary School - the scene of protests back in 2001.

"I would hear my Granda saying things about the conflict - and tell me what it was like years ago," Ajay explained.

"But when PeacePlayers came and did a twinning project, I discovered what the 'other side' was like and that not all the stories I had heard about where I grew up were actually true."

Ajay said that stories about the Troubles "only reappear around St Patrick's Day and the Twelfth".

"Maybe the older generation may talk about the Troubles among themselves but I'm pretty sure that my friends, my parents and grandparents, have completely stopped talking about the Troubles.

"I'm interested in positive things, not negative ones."

Her friend, Martin Johnston, from Clonard, agreed.

"I live right beside a peace line in Clonard, which separates us from the Shankill," he said.

"When PeacePlayers came to my primary school it was really different from what I expected it to be with Protestants.

"From all the stories that we hear from years and years ago, you'd think they were terrible people.

"But they're really not. Half of my friends are Protestant, and they're really nice people - and what everybody else says doesn't apply to them. It's really different."

St Mary's pupil, Martin (15), said he only learned about the Troubles at school - and is upbeat about the future.

"I think that the future will be really bright for the north of Ireland," he commented.

"Organisations like PeacePlayers are building bridges between divided communities. "That's what they do.

"I think it's really good - it's going to make this a more friendly place, where you won't have peace lines and won't have gates that separate communities."

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