A moment that changed me: ‘We crossed the border from Northern Ireland when I was six, and the adults bristled’

A family outing to County Mayo had a fairytale, idyllic quality. But it was underpinned by dramatic tension as we were questioned at a checkpoint heading into the Republic

I grew up in Northern Ireland in the 1980s during the Troubles. For my parents, and just about every other adult, daily life was punctuated with news of bomb attacks, incendiary devices, kidnappings, kneecappings and murders, all motivated in one way or another by a border.

Plenty of children’s lives were blighted, too, but I had no direct experience of the conflict – or even, initially, of the border. Then, one day when I was six, I ended up in a car heading south with my little brother, my parents and my maternal grandparents.

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