Personal Views

Turning off the lights in Northern Ireland

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 15 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:524
  1. George Gardiner, staff grade anaesthetist
  1. Belfast

    At Christmas the lights in Belfast were switched on by bubbly children's television presenter Zoe Ball. This was in stark contrast to the celebrity in 1995–the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Having the leader of the most powerful nation in the world to switch on the Christmas lights is a great honour for a small country like ours and a difficult act to follow. It was inevitable that last year's guest would appear lightweight in comparison, but surely this difference in status mirrors the change in fortune of Ulster itself over the intervening 12 months. One year ago the mood of the city in the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy was optimistic, and spirits were high—higher than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Since then we have witnessed the failure of a peace process, terrorist explosions in London and Manchester, and an attack on an army base near Belfast. So a shadow was cast over Christmas 1996.

    People from both communities reacted to each setback with shock, disbelief, and then resignation as the usual factions …

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