Dave Allen, the Irish comic, used to tell this joke :
"What is the fastest game in the world" ?
Answer : Pass-the-parcel in a Belfast pub.
Many people have some very strange ideas about personal safety in Northern Ireland - and will not visit out of a sense of misplaced fear.
It is, of course, true that there have been disturbances, bombs and shooting in the past, but your chances of being caught up in anything nowadays are extremely remote.
In the centre of cities such as Belfast , the Catholics and Protestants mix freely. In surrounding areas ( Shankhill rd / Falls rd ) the sectarian divides are very obvious as the whole place will be painted Gold, green and white in Catholic areas and Red white and Blue in Protestant ones.
In such places, any discussion of politics should be avoided and any clothing that could be considered inappropriate : e.g it would be suicidal to wear Union Jack Shorts in a Catholic area or a Green Irish Jersey in a Protestant one.
This image perhaps will give you an idea of what times used to be like in Belfast...as you can see the building in the background had its interior destroyed by a bomb. This was quite comon place in the city center throughout the 80's and it was something people had to watch out for whilst shopping. Thsi picture is an old picture taken on Ann Street Belfast during the early 80's....it hasnt changed much since then although alot of the shops are different and that bombed building has been redecored....and we have moved on fashion wise:)....
During our visit to Belfast over the Easter holidays weekend, violence broke out in the northern part of the city. The only evidence we had was the news, a helicopter flying overhead during the day monitoring the area, and police cars at night at high speeds. We never saw nor heard anything personally. We walked the streets, Falls Road, at night, late--2:00, 3:00 am---and never felt unsafe.
Do not take photographs of police stations, armed personnel, military checkpoints or anything you have to question whether it is allowable. If you see an unattended package, get away from it as quickly as possible. Do not get into political conversations with the locals since you don't necessarily know what side you are talking to and how deeply the person you are talking with is involved in local politics.