By Laura Lynott
Evil acts make us want to hate, it’s a natural reaction in many ways but hate is something I as a Mancunian with Irish blood refuse to allow into my heart.
Back in 2008, when I left my hometown to move to Ireland – the birthplace of my mother and father – terrorism was more than a fleeting thought.
I looked at my then nine-year-old daughter and felt Ireland would offer more safety and security than England, the country we love but which has been struck repeatedly by terrorism in recent years.
Terror was not the reason we left. We wanted to be close to family. But I remembered the attacks in Glasgow Airport in June 2007 and one of the worst terrorist atrocities in English history on July 7, 2005, when 52 people were killed and hundreds injured in London, as I boarded the ferry from Holyhead.
But still, though I said goodbye to my country, my home, I never really thought such horror would visit Manchester, an intimate city, with so much in common with Dublin.
I went to bed in tears after I saw the Manchester terror attack unfold on rolling news reports. I was like most people, in shock, as I watched the aftermath of the tragedy on TV. How could such an abomination take place here, in my city, at a pop concert filled with innocent children?
I don’t know any of the victims but every bit of me is with Manchester through this pain.
I know the city for its honest down-to-earth charm and the welcome its people offer to those who move there from across the world. This is no place for hate. Manchester is a city of love, of forgiveness and ultimately, peace.
And Ariana Grande’s bravery to return to take the children of Manchester into her arms, was a true act of defiance and one that should never be forgotten. The One Love Manchester concert was without doubt a beautiful, compassionate act organised by a singer, who is a young woman who’s without doubt, also been scarred by the events of that terrible night.
Now in the days and weeks after the Manchester and London attack – another horror that hit us all – I hope the good in humanity can unite. There is no room for hatred in Ireland or England.
I was studying my A Levels in 1996 when an IRA bomb ravaged the Arndale Centre in Manchester city centre.
I’d been about to go into town but I had a habit of being late everywhere I went and that day was no different than any to a teenage me.
That event shook the city and being of Irish extraction, I worried how some people might feel about the Irish in the bomb’s aftermath. Of course that attack was nothing on the scale of those carried out by young men pledging allegiance to ISIS.
But I need not have worried. Manchester united with the Irish. Any right-thinking human being knew that bomb was not a crime of the Irish – it was an act of evil carried out by criminals and their nationality or religion had no bearing on that fact.
This is the way most sensible, peace-loving Mancunians and Londoners feel today also.
As the two cities and England mourns the innocent who were mercilessly killed by monsters, it ought never be far from our thoughts that we cannot let this hatred win.
Before I left home, I remember smiling at a Muslim woman in the park and chatting about the weather – a beloved topic of the Irish and English alike.
I was saddened to see she was surprised I spoke to her. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ignore her. She was a mother like me, a woman, and a Mancunian, who just happened to have a different religion.
That didn’t matter to me, it certainly doesn’t matter today either. Women like her don’t carry out murderous acts like this in the name of religion. She is as innocent as anyone.
I will continue to show humanity to anyone of any race or religion today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life and nothing will ever stop that.
My heart bleeds for Manchester and London but I pray that the cities, the country, Ireland and indeed the world, unites against hate and refuses to spread fear.
Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the suffragette movement, from Manchester, said: “Manchester is a city which has witnessed a great many stirring episodes, especially of a political character. Generally speaking, its citizens have been liberal in their sentiments, defenders of free speech and liberty of opinion.”
Her words utter truth today still. We cannot let terror rule us or breed hatred among us; instead we must spread the message of love and work to root out evil in our societies.
A united Manchester is a strong Manchester, a city I adore. And London all my love goes to you today too.
Instead of letting hatred into our hearts, let’s take a leaf out of the children of Manchester’s book. Let’s dance and sing when the darkness threatens to shut out the light.
And today, tomorrow and for as long as possible, give hope by offering kindness to those around you and remain vigilant to watch out and report the monsters within our midst. If we stand together, Ireland and England, the world – the isolated terrorists will soon be rounded up and made pay for their crimes.