LAST month, I walked from top to bottom of Belfast’s Shankhill Road, took a right, and within 10 minutes at most was on the Falls Road.

I read tributes to the dead, both parliamentary and innocent citizens - of which there are far more - and took in the murals. These are poignant, troubling and beautiful all at the same time. I couldn’t help wondering how on earth a country could ever truly move forward so soon after a war when so many of those involved are not only alive but are revered in many quarters as respectable public figures.

So, I made it my goal to ask the people of the city and Northern Ireland how they have managed to do it; because my country, at least a sub-section, feel it is impossible to let go of the Troubles.

We have two more Old Firm games this season and as always songs of the UVF, IRA and so on will be chanted inside and outside stadiums, and in pubs and houses during match-day.

Young men, and a few women - although they tend to be more sensible - will sing about a war they never took part in, never lost anyone in and are too young to have even watched the carnage on the news.

Oh, and they’re not Irish, north or south, either. And while they claim to be Protestant or Catholic, at least on derby day, they won’t be regulars inside any place or worship – Celtic Park and Ibrox don’t count even if an awful lot of praying gets done in those arenas.

Belfast has moved on, even if not all of the citizens in this city I’ve grown to love have left the past behind. Some remain stuck in their sectarian ways, while others find it impossible to forget the violence, especially if they had to bury one of their own, which too many families did.

However, as a people on the whole, the future is way more important than the past.

It is estimated that 107,000 people were injured in the Troubles. The number killed has been debated but the lowest figure is 3,532.

This didn’t happen that long ago. I first visited Belfast in 1995 – a ceasefire was on – but a pal and I were warned not to stray anywhere out of the city centre. A big Ulster policeman told us where to park and where to go. We did exactly what he said.

When we returned, my mate quickly worked out that the boot had been jimmied open. You couldn’t be too safe even when the guns were silent.

My idea was to watch Celtic’s game on the Falls, their away match in Copenhagen, and then Rangers taking on Braga on the Shankill. It would be a good feature, I thought, unless someone kicks my head in.

As it was, I hardly got a glance from the locals. Both pubs had not only Celtic and Rangers memorabilia, there were pictures of Republican and Loyalist ‘heroes’ over the walls.

The only conversation I had was someone asking where I was from and whether I wanted a pint. Then everyone went back to watching the football. I didn’t get the colour I had hoped, just some nice Guinness.

A thing you must do in Belfast is take a political black taxi tour. My driver Patch, great name, brilliant guy, showed me the sights (if you can call them that) and explained what had happened and where things are now.

“There are still some clinging to the past,” Patch told me. “But they are on the fringes. The rest of us just want to look ahead…you see, Belfast is a great town full of fantastic people. It’s just a shame we hated each other for 40 years.”

Patch’s best pal, a fellow taxi driver, came from the Shankill area, Patch from a republican part of town. I didn’t ask but my guess was that both had been involved back then in some way.

And yet they are mates.

I brought up Celtic and Rangers and the fact so many young people sing songs about the Troubles as if they had experienced those years and that they were still going on.

“It’s nothing to celebrate, nothing to sing about," Patch said mournfully. “Every decision you made, large and small, was dictated by the Troubles. The paramilitaries terrified their own communities. Drug dealing was a huge problem and still is.”

He continued: “Look up the interviews of any former member on either side and 99 per cent say it was a waste of their lives and how them being in prison or on the run hugely affected their families.”

And yet amid the older tunes, which I personally find dreary but not offensive per se, songs about hunger strikers and Michael Stone are belted out. Those singing look delighted, as if they were joining in a Christmas carol.

The clubs must do more. Various schemes have been introduced but they haven’t worked. And too many in our society need to grow up.

If the good folk of Belfast can, for the most part, look forward and not backwards, if those who lived through those awful years don’t dwell on them, then why can so many in the west of Scotland – and why choose to vocalise their ignorance at a football game?

It as reported that Rangers fans sang ‘we hate Catholics’ on a plane to Braga which terrified and disgusted the other passengers.

I’m told the rebel songs, from the Now That’s What I Call the Troubles album, were given laldy at Celtic’s game with St Johnstone on Sunday. As we all know, the city of Perth has close connections to the island of Ireland.

You can’t write about this after every game because it’s boring. However, so many I met in Belfast laughed when I brought up the problems we have when it comes to what is heard at our football games that I felt it necessary.

“They wouldn’t be singing them if they’d lived through them,” said Patch. But hey, what would he know.