I was just listening to Grannymar talking about her experiences in Belfast in her blog Oldbones.
It brought back some memories of my own.
In the course of my work, I had to go to Belfast for a week during the Good Friday Elections. The company I worked for put me up in the Balmoral Hotel. It was a nice enough place and I wasn’t there much anyway apart from sleeping.
It was only when I got back to Dublin that I learned that the Balmoral had the reputation as the second most bombed hotel in Europe. That record was held by the Europa Hotel.
A while later, there were more elections and I had to go up again.
“Don’t put me up in the Balmoral” says I.
So they didn’t.
They put me up in the Europa.
I had a bit of a problem working in Belfast. Apparently I bore a remarkable resemblance to Gerry Adams [at a distance]. Now this may not seem to be a problem to you, but it was to me.
Everywhere I went there were calls of “Hey look – it’s Gerry Adams”. Now the atmosphere was a little strained at that time, so I never knew whether I was going to get a handshake or a bullet. I had to play it very carefully.
One night, we decided to go for a few pints in The Crown. We sat into one of the snugs, and got chatting to a crowd of women. They were all locals. Of course the crack came out – “D’ye know ye’re the image of Gerry Adams”. They knew I wasn’t him of course and were delighted to hear we were from Dublin.
It transpired they were staunch Loyalists, and had a great sense of humour. They kept calling their pals over to show how they’d kidnapped Gerry. We had great craic.
In the course of the week I got to meet most of the Big Names in the Kings Hall – John Hume, David Trimble, [not Ian Paisley, unfortunately] and of course Gerry Adams.
“D’ye know” says he, “Ye look a bit like me”
“Would ya f*ck off” says I, “you look a bit like me”