A man from north Belfast who has started his own black taxi tour business to provide an unbiased explanation of the issues hopes it will help people continue to be educated.
Choppers Authentic Cab Tours was born out of the pandemic, starting in May 2021 after Chopper found himself in financial difficulty after getting into debt at his job working for a large taxi company.
Over the years, Chopper has held a number of jobs, from carpenter, boxer, electrical engineer and taxi driver. However, at the age of 24, he went to jail.
But he used his time there wisely – reading about all sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland and learning about the region’s mix of politics and cultures.
That’s what, Chopper said, ultimately led him to start his own political travel agency this year.
Speaking to Belfast Live, he told us about his story and what he hopes to achieve in the months and years to come.
“A few friends of mine were driving around Belfast City Hall and telling me about black cab tours,” he said.
“They ended up asking me a lot of questions because they knew what I was studying and knew I had a lot of knowledge about The Disorders. So I ended up trying it out. I fought tooth and nail. to get a taxi badge, finally I got it, I hired my first taxi, then I ended up doing political tours for other people.
“I didn’t like the way some businesses were doing them a bit one-sided, so I stopped doing them for about a year and focused on another business in late 2019. My new business that I have open was to hire taxis., they all ended up falling apart from the coronavirus and no one needed taxis and they were all sitting at my door. “
Chopper, originally from West Belfast but now living in the north of the city, hopes his taxi tours will lead him to do cross-community work with young people from across the city.
He adds that education is key to helping Northern Ireland keep moving forward, urging people to respect all sides of the community.
Chopper continued, “You can grow up with your parent’s mindset shaping what you think, but if you don’t start educating yourself on the other side of the community, you’ll still be stuck with that vision by. tunnel.
“I hope the young people don’t continue to grow up with the mindset that you have to take separate sides of the road to divide. You are a human being, that’s all.
“Your parents aren’t the only ones who can teach you, there are other people outside your family circle that you should listen to and who can give you more knowledge than you already have. You shouldn’t. stop educating yourself. “
And he thinks we can all learn by exposing ourselves and asking questions, which he encourages on his tours of the city.
Chopper tours begin in the city center, before passing through key historical points of north and west Belfast, including some places many may not think of.
He said: “I talk to people on both sides of the community and ask stupid questions. You have to ask questions to learn. There is the same mirror image on Shankill and Falls Road – they will tell you their story, but will not know the other side.
“Both sides need to know each other’s history, just to understand it. The person you call the enemy is actually in the same boat as you.”
Adding that he hopes his tours can “inject a bit of positivity” to those who appreciate them, he believes those in Belfast have a unique way of getting through tough times.
“With all that Belfast has been through, humor can get you through it all,” Chopper added.
“As long as you can laugh at anything you can get through. That’s how this town is – without that bit of a joke you’d be worse off.”
You can find out more about Chopper’s Authentic Cab Tours by clicking here.