Recently I had a conversation with someone from my estate in Newry who claimed to have been in the Fianna – or junior IRA. I was rather surprised because even as a teenager he was quite loquacious and gabby. I always imagined those who graduated fully into IRA membership learned to be better served by silence.

Anyhow my acquaintance asked how come I was never tempted to become involved with the Republican movement given my interest in politics. The simple answer is that those I knew in that movement back then weren’t interested in politics and I wasn’t interested in their nefarious activities.

Of course, my friend, like many of those who supported or joined the IRA, has lost all collective memory of the atrocities and hurt caused by that organisation. Everyone it seems is on the party political fun bus. It may surprise some to know that I was tempted – just once – to become involved with republicanism and it was at the start of the Hunger Strikes. It was a fleeting dalliance as soon I was paying more attention to the more mature voices of the then Father Denis Faul and Father Raymond Murray.

So as it was in my youth I was only ever a member of two organisations – the 1st Dromore Catholic Boys Scouts and the junior St Vincent de Paul in Newry. In the scouts I was taught to tie knots I would never use and bizarrely learned Morse code lest I ever found myself on a sinking ship. I did learn that dry cowpats could make for a good environmental friendly briquette but my home experiment with a less than dry one abruptly ended my early dalliance in renewable energy.

Those days were during the high watermark following the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Republic of Ireland.

We were enthusiastically Catholic back then and went about painting houses, visiting senior citizens, running errands, putting on concerts and organising Christmas parties. Each Friday we gathered in the parochial hall near Trevor Hill, mainly because there was nowhere else to go in war ravaged Newry.

As July approached the junior Vincentians never met as our parents deemed it too dangerous to be isolated on the wrong side of the parades. While these unnecessary parades left me cold; on reflection they were in part responsible for the ‘radicalisation’ of so many young people of my generation, who saw these marches as provocative and sectarian; that and the increased militarisation of places along the border.

Living as I did on the Armagh Road, around the 12th of July some of our neighbours donned their best clobber and walked off to meet their respective lodges. Pleasantries were exchanged and we often met them on the way back, a little more inebriated and often generous to us kids perched on the wall. Mullaglass Orangemen often walked to Newry rather than bus it even at the height of the Troubles. Back then there were unofficial protocols and Orange bands didn’t play going past Catholic churches, certainly not in rural towns. Many even lowered flags on the way past.

No one to my recollection ever saw these events as being collectively owned. As communities we may have walked the same streets but didn’t share the same space.

Over the past week, I caught three of the five Stephen Nolan shows and of those I heard issues of identity dominated each.

Flags featured heavily and a cacophony of angry voices filled the airwaves. It’s hard to believe that even in 2017 so many people seem so incapable of outgrowing their cultural boundaries. Its unfortunate too that the BBC provides a platform for this gladiatorial sectarian inter-community verbal bashing.

Back in the 1970s/80s we couldn’t see each other because of the sectarian fog clouding our vision and the bombs and shootings deafening us to any form of understanding. Unbelievably peace and rafts of equality legislation has brought about increased political polarisation and further strained community relations.

I wonder had we learned the skill of untying knots would we have been better off?