In this episode of What Northern Ireland Means to Me, we meet Paul McLAUGHLIN, who is a journalist with experience in the corporate, voluntary, and charity sectors.
My father was in the Royal Navy during the war. He traveled the world. Yet he came home to live in Belfast, because he said he had never been to a better place, he had never met better people. My mother comes from a forces background as well. She was a great believer in people. She brought us up to treat people with respect and partly to paraphrase Saint Paul, to treat others as you would like to be treated.
So, my Northern Ireland is where my home is and where my heart is. And every day when I meet new people, from both sides of the so-called peace line, I think to myself, “Aren’t I lucky that I stayed?” I could have gone, you know, contemporaries of mine from school and college said, “Oh, there’s no future here.” And I thought, well, the only way there’s going to be a future here is if some of us stay and try to make one. So that’s what I’ve tried to do.
And thank goodness I’ve got involved with the Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association. It’s only a little thing, but it’s my little contribution. My work with NIMMA, basically, it’s the pastoral care of people who [are] either in mixed marriages or, to use an awful word, contemplating a mixed marriage. So I’m just there basically as a sounding board, first of all, because a lot of the people who come to us have problems that they’re not able to discuss within their own families or friends.
One day a politician said that mixed marriages dilute a person’s identity. Now, before I had the chance to explain to him that they actually enrich a person’s identity, because they give them a foot in both camps, or give them an understanding of two marvellous cultures, and they give them the opportunity to marry those cultures together, he’d already gone, because he realised very quickly, I wasn’t a potential voter.
So, it saddens me. We should have statemen and women capable of seeing the bigger picture and saying what we had was no good.
I don’t hark onto some of the characters who think that, because there are more “Catholics than Protestants”, that this means that there’ll be a vote for a united Ireland. And despite the fact that I come from a Roman Catholic background, I don’t see that. I see people who look at the bread and butter issues. They look at what I describe as the fairness of Britain.
I mean, I was brought up by two parents who I have described as Christian socialists, where they had their God, they had their faith, but they saw their faith as being the faith of Jesus Christ as being that manifesto of the labour party. And that’s how I was brought up. I’m that’s where I sit today. I would love to see that the meaning of Christ brought down to the streets, and brought back to our people.
I feel that Northern Ireland has so much to offer the rest of this island and that’s been ignored.
What Northern Ireland Means to Me is presented by Julia Paul and produced by Shared Future News, to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland, with funding from the Heritage Fund on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office.
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Images © Allan LEONARD