When journalists get together over a few drinks, they exchange some lively yarns about their experiences; the more alcohol consumed the better the recollections.

The story behind the story provides anecdotes about people in the news, including celebrities and what they’re really like.

No journalist, though, could ever match the tales of sports writer Hugh McIlvanney who became a close friend and confidant of a string of greats including Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Muhammad Ali and many more including George Best who once asked McIlvanney to come to court as a character witness when Bestie was on a drunk-driving charge.

McIlvanney, who died aged 84 last week, was revered by distinguished sports people and journalists for his poetic, perceptive, delightful writing.

Acres of coverage were published in tributes over the last week, and I devoured most of it about a journalistic genius and hero of mine.

Apart from his brilliance and sharp wit in and out of print, with his gravel-voiced west of Scotland accent, McIlvanney was a perfectionist.

Once, when a frustrated sports editor begged him to meet a deadline and send in an article he’d re-written numerous times, McIlvanney admitted: “I just hate letting it go if it’s not as true as I can make it.”

Ah, the truth, eh? From a journalist!

There’s a perception nowadays, given impetus by the cynical Trumpite “fake news” distraction, that one cannot take any information at face value any more. Journalists who play fast and loose with the facts are beyond contempt, in my opinion, but in the modern world the fog of doubt over information is made ever thicker by the misinformation pumped out by keyboard warriors on social media.

And, of course, the authorities employ plenty of spin doctors whose job at times seems to be preventing the public from seeing the real picture.

Look no further than some of the revelations in the recent RHI inquiry. Openness, transparency and accountability at Stormont?

Nowhere does the ability to get to the truth become more subjective, however, than in Ireland and its history of division over the last hundred years.

The RTE series on Sunday evening, “Resistance” comes to its conclusion this week and although a drama, it opens the door to consider the real events of The War of Independence in 1920. The brutality of the Black and Tans, the ruthless violence of the IRA and even the involvement of elements within the Catholic Church all feature.

What, though, do viewers make of it? One suspects that, as always in Ireland, the perspective is in the eye of the beholder. That is, we always form an opinion by looking at the things through the prism of our own standpoint and prejudices.

For example, here’s a question. What was the difference between the old IRA which fought for independence a hundred years ago and the IRA which engaged in the Troubles in the 1970s to 1990s?

Immediately, minds are made up and people look at that a number of ways, from they were both terrorists to both freedom fighters, or of course the modern day Provisionals had no legitimacy while the former IRA had the backing of the Irish people.

Anyway, it would seem that there is now some more analysis of the complexities of the formation of the Irish State, with one commentator suggesting that despite the romanticism of socialist ideals, the Irish Republican battle of yesteryear was nothing more than the sort of nationalistic taking back control which Brexiteers are now being castigated for.

Hmm, interesting one that.

But the writing of history from their own perspective still continues in Ireland today, particularly when it comes to, er, the North, Northern Ireland or the Six Counties. We hear a lot about seeking truth and justice and there are many people who deserve it. But there are factions who seem only to want the truth when it comes to the hurt perpetrated on their side and are strangely silent about the gross violence inflicted on their enemies.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa following the end of apartheid was a tough experience for all concerned; in Northern Ireland, I’m told that some people who ask for the truth about their loved ones “don’t want to know” when they realise it involves some unpalatable doubting of viewpoints they’ve held dear.

While we struggle with all this legacy, we’re also moving into a new era of discussion about the possibility of a united Ireland. And again, both sides remain in their silos, their comfort zones, in terms of what they want and believe in.

I felt one of the most significant events to have taken place in years was the Ireland’s future conference in Belfast on Saturday, when many shades of Nationalism considered the deep importance of where this island is headed with the changing demographics and the added dynamic of Brexit. Yet Unionists closed their minds to it, and one radio discussion I heard seemed to boil down to the whataboutery of whether the north and south had more of a disaster of a health service.

It’s a complicated business, complicated even further by communities convinced that their version of the truth is best served by closing their minds to the changes taking place in the early part of this 21st century.

Last year, the former DUP leader Peter Robinson answered a question by suggesting that Unionist might contemplate what might happen in a united Ireland; but this is not ground which Unionists are comfortable on even if many of their younger people don’t quite see it as the bete noir that their ancestors did.

The emphasis isn’t just on Unionists, either. If Nationalists and Republicans are really serious about convincing Unionists that they would be respected and reconciled in a new Ireland, they have been far from successful. There are many, many questions about the kind of Ireland envisaged which aren’t being answered.

Former MP, Bernadette McAliskey addressed the future in an interview with Ivan Little in the Belfast Telegraph.

"Do I think all the people on this minute island would be better off if we had a coherent, single, unitary strategic plan for the economic, social benefit of everyone? Yes I do," she said.

But she said that objective couldn't be achieved by absorbing the existing north into the existing south.

"Would I like to dismantle the Irish Republic? Yes. Would I like to dismantle the northern state? Yes."

"I would like to start again and have a constitutional conference, a series of clear discussions and debates and a democratic process for building a new independent republic in which everybody could feel they belonged."

It’s a good interview, worth reading.

It’s the sort of mature thinking that is sadly missing from Northern Ireland. As we continue to fail to face up to the truth of a changing world.