Belfast Telegraph

Outstanding success of Game of Thrones just shows how far we've come since our dark days of non-fictional slaughter

By Lindy McDowell

Actress Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys Targaryen in the global hit television series Game of Thrones, has posted a final season farewell on Instagram.

"Hopped on a boat to an island to say goodbye to the land that has been my home away from home for almost a decade. It's been a trip @gameofthrones thank you for the life I never dreamed I'd be able to live and the family I'll never stop missing," she posted.

But it's us who should be saying thank you to Game of Thrones. And to its entire cast and crew. Filming will wind up soon, apparently. The last series is due to air in 2019. Game of Thrones has helped put this place on the tourist map. And from our dark history to this point - that's also been some trip.

The glorious landscape of this place has been opened up to world view. Visitors now flock to see the fabulous sights we were previously accustomed to taking for granted. Tollymore Forest, breathtaking Benone, Inch Abbey, the harbour at Ballintoy, and of course, what is probably now the most photographed outcrop of trees in the entire universe.

This is the new image the world has of Northern Ireland. And maybe like me, you have to be of a certain age to understand how utterly amazing and once unthinkable that would have seemed.

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The aftermath of a 1972 bomb at York Road railway station

You had to know a Northern Ireland where about the only time you heard the accent of someone who didn't come from here was the soldier (from a real Army) asking you for identification and where you were coming from and where you were going to.

Where even in the most scenic settings, terrible atrocities were committed. And real blood was shed. But maybe hardest of all to convey to the GOT generation was the everyday nature of the abnormality we took for normal back then.

I remember standing along the side of what is now Primark idly waiting with dozens of others for a bomb to go off way down in High Street, as a red-faced policeman yelled at us: "Get back. Get back."

Only part of the explosives went off but it was enough to make us scream in terror and to blow him off his feet. "Now will yiz get back," he snarled as he picked himself up.

And we laughed at that. And then went about our business.

You got accustomed to getting frisked going into shops. You moaned about bomb scares that brought you out in the winter cold.

You were cautious walking past oddly parked cars and suspicious of any object even momentarily left unattended. You were addicted to news bulletins. You were used to crying at them. The only cameras in town were here to record horror. And all too often you'd see them at some taped-off scene of barbarity going about their bleak business. The only visitors were media. Generally from the war reporting staff.

Cities and town closed down at nightfall and sometimes even before that.

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The Duchess of Sussex

You had to stand in a cage and be scrutinised on the indoor CCTV before being admitted to the pub. And once inside you always watched the door...

Fear wasn't just a word. It was something real and tangible and ever present. There was a time we thought it would never end. And certainly we would have found it hard to envisage our fantasy future.

So thank you to Emilia and Daenerys and Jon Snow and all the rest. Those who starred on the show and those who worked on it.

I've a confession to make. I've never actually watched Game of Thrones. But I do know you've made us look, well, normal. You've helped spark our lucrative new film industry, you've provided jobs for hundreds if not thousands of locals.

And you've given us pride and confidence. Not just in our ability and our landscape and our photogenic trees. But in our new normality. In our future.

Meghan's dad all quiet on nice little earner

The two most important things to emerge from the interview with Thomas Markle, father of the new Baroness Kilkeel, isn't what he said Meghan said when he told her he couldn't make the wedding. Or even what he said Harry said about Trump and Brexit. It's that he got paid for it and didn't tell his daughter and son-in-law in advance.

Despite Piers Morgan's assurance he only got a 'small fee' for the Good Morning Britain interview, there is about this the whiff of a man not afraid to cash in on his new family connections. And cute enough not to inform them in advance in case they put the brakes on it.

No joy as Brazil fail to roll over the Swiss

I have some very good friends who are Swiss.

But I also take a bit of time to get over sporting injustice - such as their football team getting through to the World Cup final when it should have been us.

So watching the mighty Brazil taking on team Switzerland the other evening I definitely wasn't cheering for the underdog nation famous for its clocks, its cheese and its jam sponge roll.

I was backing the diva that is Neymar and his teammates. Never mind the old Green and White Army anthem.

Sometimes we are Brazil, not Northern Ireland.

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