The reporter was a ‘ceasefire baby’ who grew up in Northern Ireland in the 90s. This is the essay she was working on at the time of her murder last year
They call my generation the “Ceasefire babies”, though I’ve always hated that name. I hated the mocking tone in which it was usually said, as if growing up in the 90s in Belfast was a stroll. There were still soldiers on the street when I was a kid. I remember them – in uniforms and maroon berets, at checkpoints, on pavements, crouching down on one knee, as if ducking out of sight of an enemy the surrounding civilians couldn’t see. I remember walking past one with my sister, then aged about 16, after she had picked me up from school. “Do they wear hats on their heads to stop them from getting cold?” I’d asked. “Yes,” she’d replied, smiling, and the pale-skinned recruit I’d gestured to had smiled as well. He looked barely older than her, perhaps 18. That was around the time I learned that the toy gun I used for games of cowboys and Indians could not be brought outside, in case a passing patrol saw it and mistook it for a real one. It didn’t matter that it was silver with an orange trumpet-top on the end of the barrel.
It had happened, my mother assured me, to a little boy, on the same street where I’d seen the teen soldier. I was never sure if this was urban legend, but the only time I took the gun outside, to the back yard – which was surrounded by a 10ft concrete wall – I’d had the arse smacked off me. The helicopters were out; what if they’d seen it with their cameras, my mother said, and thought it was real? The scenario seemed unlikely to me: that a helicopter, thousands of feet up in the air, would spot a kid playing with a toy and send a patrol to our house. But my mother wasn’t taking any chances.