The Guardian and Observer’s veteran Ireland reporter recalls growing up in 1970s Belfast – and meeting paramilitary leaders almost 20 years after their car bomb exploded outside his home

When I was blown up I was watching It’s a Knockout. Seconds after one of the European nations played their “joker” there was an almighty boom, an invisible force propelled my father and me across the front living room and the panes of glass from the windows scattered in slivers and fragments all over our bodies.

My dad had dived on top on me as we crashed to the floor and, even above the ringing in my ears caused by the explosion, I could hear a hyperventilating Stuart Hall on the TV: “Ha ha ha, look at the Belgians, just look at the Belgians.”

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Read More The day a loyalist bomb nearly killed my dad and me

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