Three men left the church by a side door. They made to walk down the stone steps, saw our camera, hesitated. We had been filming what every media-savvy toddler in Belfast seems to recognise as a 'gv' - a general view - of the Holy Cross Church and Monastery in Nationalist Ardoyne. It was forty-eight hours or so after an IRA bomb had killed ten people on the Shankill Road, including the Ardoyne man who had been attempting to plant it. The local BBC radio station had just been airing a phone-in on whether he deserved a funeral. With its granite exterior and its rook-loud turrets, the Holy Cross improbably recalled Greyfriars School during autumn term. The dead giveaway that this was not Billy Bunter's alma mater but a church in Northern Ireland was the RUC land-rover drawn up in the drive like an armoured hearse. We wanted the pictures to introduce a story about a priest who had agreed to talk to us about his flock's fears of Loyalist reprisals. The three men were an irrelevance to the shot - at most, providing a little foreground movement, three parishioners on an errand or call. To tell the truth, I only noticed them as they havered on the bottom step, and then the only one who registered distinctly was the youngest - moustache, grey fleecy sweatshirt. The other two, in their late forties or early fifties, were neutrally swaddled in anoraks or car coats. But now that I gave them my attention, they all looked alike: they were all as shinily pale as camphor.
LRB 18 November 1993 | PDF Download