on this day 30 years ago. I was a student in Belfast at the time. I recall that it really seemed as if Northern Ireland was on the precipice of outright civil war. Just one memory I have of the time was queuing in a supermarket on the Lisburn Road, along with many others, and stocking up on basic supplies, just in case...
Slow forward thirty years and all eyes are on Tyrone again: this time on the funeral of Ronan Kerr, a young man murdered for being a Catholic in the PSNI. Sometimes such tragedies represent real turning points, and no hindsight is required to see it. Most people realised at the time the huge strategic mistake Thatcher made in not compromising with the hunger strikers, and most now realise - as Noel Whelan puts it - the strategic error made by the dissidents as a result of last week's murder.
Sometimes, however, such events blind us with their short term intensity to the long term trajectory of the future. Just as 30 years ago no-one could foresee a future in which GAA, Sinn Fein, DUP and PSNI officials would together attend the funeral of a murdered Northern Irish policeman, so I wonder what eventual future awaits us on this island in 30 years time?
Remarkable things are possible - mostly for the better - over such stretches of time. I have witnessed it for myself in the decades that followed the election of Bobby Sands MP.