Belfast Telegraph

Police officers among those signing up for new Troubles walking tour

By Linda Stewart

Police officers who joined up in the wake of the ceasefire are learning about the shocking murders that sent shockwaves through Belfast's streets during the Troubles.

Organisers of a new walking tour that uncovers the dark events that took place in the city centre 30 years ago say they have already received a number of bookings from PSNI officers who are interested in the past.

A History of Terror explores 12 sites around the city centre associated with some of the most brutal deaths of the Troubles.

According to Mark Wylie, of organiser DC Tours, a number of police officers have signed up in a personal capacity to take the tour this spring.

"The officers who are going are all from west Belfast," he said.

"The ones who have expressed an interest are cops who were joining up around the time the ceasefire was being announced and their only experience of terrorism would have been the dissidents."

He insists the tour is not in any way disrespectful to those who lost their lives across the city in the 1970s and 1980s, citing Auschwitz and the Titanic Centre as other good examples of "dark tourism".

"There is an initial catch of breath when we tell people about it. But we're very careful not to be sensationalist in any way – not focusing on the macabre – and once people realise where we're coming from, they realise it's a very worthwhile thing," Mark said.

"Although we see it primarily as a tourism venture, the feedback we're now seeing is the amount of interest from the community here and people in Belfast who don't know what happened on their own streets 30 and 40 years ago.

"The tour is 90 minutes long and we discuss 12 sites where people lost their lives, through shootings, or bombings or beatings. The content is balanced up to make sure that everybody is represented – civilians, security forces, loyalists and republicans."

DC Tours have had their script vetted by Belfast City Hall to ensure accuracy and lack of bias. Among those who took a 'test' tour ahead of the launch last week was James, who has been a police officer for 22 years and grew up in Belfast near many of the trouble spots featured. "Growing up in Belfast, studying history and politics and being in the police, I still learned a lot," he said.

"I know they've put a lot of thought into this and they've been very careful about what incident they cover and the manner in which they speak about it.

"It's very much living history and it's certainly not too soon to do it.

"If it even slightly aids conflict-resolution, it's all positive. Personally, I found nothing in it that would be concerning or salacious.

"As it catches on, it could really appeal to a broad spectrum of people – to tourists, to local historians, to schoolchildren."

Tour leader and company founder Paul Donnelly is a lecturer in history and politics and was born in the year the Troubles started.

"The tour has been developed to be non-political, objective and factual," he said.

"A huge amount of research and information gathering has taken place to make it historically accurate, educational and commemorative.

"We believe it is an important addition to the city's tourist offering, and sensitively handles a period of uncomfortable heritage."

Mark added: "Everyone who comes on the tour learns something about Belfast's hidden history.

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