Gas

Just before 1pm today, Newstalk‘s Lunchtime News announced that there were reports of an explosion in Belfast.

Later, RTE’s news website carried reports headlined ‘Chemical explosion in Belfast’, later downgraded to ‘Chemical incident in Belfast‘.

An early AP report said workers accidentally added nitric acid to a contaminated storage container, producing clouds of nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas.

It’s no laughing matter, but I couldn’t help but smile once more at how far we’ve come.

Time was when a news report with the words ‘explosion’ and ‘Belfast’ was followed by a grim wait as the death count rose and one or other acronym claimed responsibility.

On the first day of Ian Paisley’s retirement as First Minister, it was nice to reflect that these days, an explosion in Belfast is just a common or garden industrial accident. Still dangerous, but at least no longer intentional.

In fact, a brief survey of the Northern Irish news websites suggests that things are rather dull up there.

Sure, there’s the usual batch of political squabbles, tantrums, and a bizarre homophobic rant, but overall its nice and quiet.

To someone who grew up in a border county during ‘interesting times’, this is enormously reassuring.

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