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Malachi O'Doherty

Why it's best to keep your nose out of what you don't understand... From Ardoyne to Armenia, you shouldn't judge other people

Malachi O'Doherty



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The Armenian flag (AP)

The Armenian flag (AP)

The Armenian flag (AP)

About 20 years ago, I was invited to attend a conference on journalism in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. When I told security in Heathrow where I was going, they said they had never heard of the place. Armenia had, however, been through three huge upheavals - the collapse of the Soviet Union, a massive earthquake and a war with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh - so it had been in the news.

In Yerevan, I was given the worst hotel room I have ever had. And I have been in some bad hotels. The country was in an awful state then. The bath in my room looked as if it had not been cleaned for years. There was poverty on the streets and dilapidation in the public buildings.

On the first night of the conference, we were all taken to a concert in the Khachaturian Hall. The carpet was threadbare, the toilets so pungent that it was difficult to enter.