September 14, 2006
David Vance - Phantom Summit Meeting in Belfast!
Naw, it was just two guys getting together for a chat. I've been a frequent enough contributor to A Tangled Web over the past year, so I was delighted when David said yes to my suggestion that we meet for a couple of pints on September the first. We met at Belfast's wonderful old Crown Bar, right across the street from the famous Europa Hotel in the city center.
What did we talk about? Well, let's just say that it was a pleasant conversation. We don't agree on everything, but we agree on many important things.
I was really tired that day after the trans-Atlantic flight. I really didn't do a great deal in Belfast this trip, other than using it as the base for the following days' trips to Monaghan and Donegal. But it was good to see the place after an absence of some years.
When I was there the first time for a visit of only five hours or so, in the 1980s, the city was an armed camp. It was better when I went there for a couple of days in 1997. Still way more tension than any other city I've seen, but better than the eighties.
Today, after the flawed but invaluable Clinton-brokered "Peace Process", you don't see armored cars on the streets anymore, you don't see stationary helicopters over the city either, and there's vastly less sectarian bullshit by "nationalist" and "loyalist" terrorist groups.
Give the place half a chance, and Belfast will be one of the jewels not only of Ireland, but of all of Europe. The worst days are over. They could come back, but they won't. The years to come will be that city's best. Like Ahnold says, "I'll be back", and I'll bring others with me.