Eamonn Holmes recalls the day the IRA blew up his school bus – and he got detention as a result!

File picture of members of the Parachute Regiment comforting bomb victims in Belfast in 1972. Inset: Eamonn Holmes

Eamonn Holmes has revealed what life was like growing up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

Speaking to Kate Thornton on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time, the TV presenter recalled a particularly memorable journey to school when he was 14.

“Our bus was hijacked,” he recalled. “This guy came on and said: ‘We’re commandeering this bus for the Irish Republican Army. Everybody off!’ Everyone gets off and this guy is wearing a mask and he starts sprinkling petrol all over the bus… They threw a petrol bomb into the bus.”

While the bus burned, Eamonn and his school buddies had to walk the remaining couple of miles to school.

At the gates of the school, which Eamonn recalled as an “absolute oasis in the centre of troubles all around us”, he was greeted by Father Walsh who proceeded to give him a detention for being late!

Bishop Patrick Walsh (right) – the detention giver – seen here signing a book of condolence for Pope John Paul II with Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Eakin (left)

“The gates were closed and Father Walsh was standing at the top of the driveway reading his matins and he looks at you and you think, ‘I'm dead, dead’,” he said.

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Eamonn went on to say things would be very different now in “this caring snowflake society.”

“They would say, ‘OK, we’ll get a counsellor to speak to you and deal with you’. I would be suffering post-traumatic stress disorder for the rest of my life. But what did I get? Detention… for the IRA hijacking my bus!”

From 1969, the IRA conducted a paramilitary campaign in Northern Ireland and England, aimed at ending British rule in Northern Ireland. The troubles officially ended with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Father Walsh may have handed out harsh punishments, but he also recognised the future journalist in young Eamonn, calling him the “most tenacious and argumentative young man I've come across in many a year.”

The future news anchor had argued his case for studying journalism and although the Father didn’t agree with him, he admitted he was inclined to believe that Holmes would go “far in this profession.”

Gloria Hunniford mentored the young Eamonn Holmes when he started his career at Ulster TV

Eamonn began his career aged just 19 on Ulster TV as a reporter on a farming show. At 21, he became a news anchor on popular news programme, Good Evening Ulster. Since then, he’s become a stalwart of TV, best known for presenting Sky News Sunrise and This Morning. In 2018, he was awarded an OBE for his services to broadcasting.

Hear more from Eamonn on his early years by downloading the latest episode of White Wine Question Time on Apple or Spotify – or listen to the full show below.