Many years ago (everything that ever happened to me, happened a long time ago!) I used to run interpersonal skills programmes for senior managers in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.  This was in the days of IRA activities with bombs a frequent occurrence in Belfast.  It was decided to use a venue well away from the troubles – a small hotel on the quayside in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, not far from the Giant’s Causeway.

The course was attended by about twelve managers.  We were all residential for the week (yes, this was in the good old days when management courses ran for five whole days).  Not unnaturally, much talk in the bar after the day’s work was about the IRA and the Irish Problem.  I heard many stories of sectarian violence, but was assured that there had been no incidents in sleepy Ballycastle, or even in the whole of Co. Antrim.

The course went without a hitch – unlike some other programmes I have run in other places where different hotels have flooded, caught fire, been engulfed in sand, had windows blown in by a storm, had a large tree crash into reception, and where all the cars with alloy wheels were jacked up one night and the wheels removed (my car had alloy wheels!).   I have run courses in hotels where the sound system couldn’t be disconnected, where every night the hotel manageress and the head porter had wild sex in the room next to mine, where I accidentally locked myself out of my room stark naked (don’t ask!), where I was caught asleep in the bath in a room that I thought was mine but had been double booked….and so on.  Typical incidents in a life spent in too many hotels.

None of these things occurred in Ballycastle.  My week there was entirely peaceful, with morning jogs along the shore and a memorable visit one evening to the Giant’s Causeway, which has to be seen to be believed.

After a successful week, we all parted and went our separate ways.  A few days later, when I was safely back in Maidenhead, one of the course participants telephoned.  He asked if I heard the news about the hotel; it had been bombed by the IRA.  Apparently they had heard that the N.I Civil Service were using it as a venue for training courses and, after giving a warning, had blown it up.

I was shocked of course but a sneaky part of me felt rather flattered.  Clearly, the IRA had decided that my dear little interpersonal skills course was something so powerful, so effective, that it had to be stopped at all costs.

No one has ever been to such lengths to prevent me from being influential!



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