> Suppose that must have been the experience for in Belfast...
It's interesting how much Belfast has been portrayed as a "War Zone" in international news over the years, but I can say that growing up here has been a vastly different experience.
I was born in the very early 80s in East Belfast. I remember hearing bombs going off and there being a security fence around the pedestrian precinct in the City Center.
Occasionally I heard bangs in the background (one or two a year perhaps?) and later on I might see the front of a building lying in rubble and/or being rebuilt. But generally any violence I saw was more just young thugs chucking bricks at each other - which happens in most cities but at least in Belfast you could tell what side they were on by which football top they were wearing.
There were security mesh/bars on the windows of most public buildings to stop them getting a brick or petrol bomb thrown through them. My Mum used to get her handbag searched going into shops in the City Center until they took down the security fencing, and during parade season every July there were a slew of buses + cars being stolen and burnt out to block a road and we had to go home via a different route.
Apart from that, life pretty much just went on - aside from developing a rather black and sarcastic sense of humour, myself and most of my friends that grew up all over Belfast weren't too badly affected by the "Troubles". I had two school classmates die, but neither was related to the violence - one was due to a congenital illness and the other was a teen suicide.
Once you got further outside the City Center into the suburbs, it was very rare for there to be any trouble. At least in East/Southeast Belfast which was predominantly Loyalist (and I assume also Northwest Belfast which was predominantly Republican...) where the only trouble you heard of tended to be infighting between different Paramilitary groups. If you went further out into towns/villages it was rare to find a "mixed" town - you could tell what the town's political stance was by the flags and the colour of paint on the kerbstones, and things were generally quiet as long as nobody stirred up any trouble.
The various paramilitary groups had pretty much cornered the market on crime, so much so that you never really heard about anyone selling drugs in the schoolyard or pedophiles pulling kids into cars because the Paramilitary groups put the fear of God into anyone that looked remotely shifty. During the late 80s and early 90s I walked home from primary school and got the bus to/from town regularly and never had any trouble - the place was probably safer for a civilian than it is today.
Most of the province was even fairly receptive to outsiders (unless you had an Irish/English accent and were in the "wrong" part of the city). Although understandably there were very few foreigners that actually wanted to come to Belfast... I think I only saw a single person with black skin my entire childhood - he was the much-loved owner of a local Corner Newsagents/Sweet shop.
Over the years as the peace process developed, most of the hatred just seems to have been redirected. Young thugs are now more likely to target a local Asian or Polish family than their traditional "other side"... and heaven help you if you're non-white and Islamic with a foreign accent.