After 3,700 funerals…

David McKittrick, one of the veterans from the worst days of the troubles casts an elegiac eye back over the bloody road travelled by the IRA and its one time fierce opponents the Loyalist paramilitaries:

Unless something goes horribly wrong, it [IRA statement] has the potential to go into the history books as one of the most decisive of all the “historic” moments that the last decade has seen. It was a statement that has been keenly awaited for years. Though some reacted initially with deep scepticism and suspicion, it was hailed in other quarters as a historic change of heart.

But it is too late for all those widows. Nobody knows how many the IRA created, but the figure runs into the hundreds. The organisation killed 1,700 of the 3,700 people who died in the Troubles, leaving men, women, children, families to grieve.

The guns and explosives it now promises to do away with caused decades of destruction as it sought to unite Ireland by force. But instead of achieving Irish unity it caused all those deaths, ruining lives and shattering families. The bereaved and injured will have mixed feelings about this latest move: the main hope of most of them will be that no one else should suffer as they have. Some of those affected are deeply bitter; others have shown transcendent qualities of forgiveness.

  • bertie

    … and some of them consider forgiving people who are not sorry is immoral and whilst hating the activities and the lact of repentance of the terrorists and their apoligists would aspouse the principle “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

  • barbara

    Families are still suffering from the hands of the terrorists, how will the daughter of the young man murdered a couple of weeks ago by the uvf, cope growing up without her father.

    We need to see an end to all murders, from all groups.

    Take all the guns off the streets.

  • Jo

    Can I recommend to all reads if they haven’t already seen it, “Lost Lives”

  • tom

    Yet another loyalist murder last night.

    Another name to the next revised edition of ‘Lost Lives’

  • bertie

    I was thinking long the same lines that a “lost lives” book is like our phone directory at work – already out of date when it is compiled.

  • BogExile

    Lost Lives is utterly chilling. My wife hates it in the house and accuses me of morbid fascination when, as I often do, I reach for it. Sometimes, living in a very nice rural part of Southern England, thanks, it’s the only way I can reconnect myself to those alien times, living near the Fermanagh border when it did seem we were on the dark side of the edge of the Union, forgoten and almost abandoned to the IRA. Why do I need to be reminded? Beacause of something dark and visceral and tribal inside me which preversely longs for a time even a dangerous time shorn of ambiguity and moral fudge. When we were up against it and they were the bad guys and we had only ourselves to rely on. As bad as it got, I think I emerged from that community stronger and better.

  • Jo

    BogExile:
    In terms of freezing an atmosphere and a time, another book “Political Murder” captures the atmosphere of 71-72 and all of the potential that there was for developments different from those which actually materialised.
    Although it was mistaken in some assumptions, it analyses a relatively small no. of lkillings in a way which presaged “Lost Lives” – albeit that Martin Dillon and Denis Lehane couldnt have countenanced that there would be so many more lives to be lost…we all should hope that such books stand as historical documents of a different age from that in which we aspire to live.

  • BogExile

    ‘we all should hope that such books stand as historical documents of a different age from that in which we aspire to live.’

    Thanks for the recommendation, Jo. I think the point that i was trying to make, and i know it’s extremely contentions is that I actually miss something about that awful time, the solidarity, the certainty. I once spoke to a Palestinian in Belfast and he said that I was a ‘settler on the west bank’ referring not to the River Jordan, but the Bann. In a sense he was right, there’s something bizzarely exhilarating about living on the frontier, even one as murderously twisted as ours. Somehow, I miss that and I’m sure I’m not the only Unionist who does. I’m certainly not advocating a return to sectarian murder, I’m just reflecting this as part of the legacy of the troubles in an increasingly atomised society. Or to put it another way, will every Republican in South Armagh celebrate the removal of the watch towers? Or will some inner voice register regret that part of their moral and phyisical landscape is being removed.

  • Fishfiss

    BogExile

    “Or will some inner voice register regret that part of their moral and phyisical landscape is being removed”…forgive me but….is this a joke ?

  • BogExile

    Not a joke Fish, but perhaps clumsily put. I’m just reflecting on how the physical and mental architecture of the troubles has made its mark on us and not necessarily in a straightforward or even healthy way.

    Yes I do think that people have ambiguous reactions to the changing landscape of post-conflict Ireland where the old certainties are pulled down. I’m not expecting Gerry Kelly to be moist eyed at the removal of Forkhill base but on a more subtle level, the removal of representations of our own dirty local war might not be as straightforward as is usually assumed. Or maybe I’m drunk.

  • Fishfiss

    BogExile

    ….well, one of course was keen to avoid accusations of man rather than ball…..perhaps you can see two balls ?

  • BogExile

    Charmingly put – pull up that bar stool and we’ll have a chat. In the meantime:

    DOON

    When God painted Ireland
    He used watercolours
    Smudging the dun, sodden landscape
    With occasional sunshine
    This wringing wet romance
    Is here at Doon
    Splashing through the quiet graveyards
    With their screaming dead suffocated
    With the rank soil of politics
    The rivers run through
    Our shining, murderous hillocks
    Where soldiers once drank
    Washing the clay clean to Enniskillen
    It’s a pity spilled blood
    Can’t be got rid of as quickly.

    A more lyrical response, perhaps.

  • Jo

    B-E:
    I think I can identify with this form of “nostalgia” for the Troubles, however paradoxical it seems to put it into print in that way!

    A similar interest tends to grip when looing back at my video collection of Counterpoint/Spotlight or archive documentary footage of the 70s/80s.
    It is perhaps mixed up inextricably with longing for a lost youth which might (who knows?) have taken different and more positive forms had there not been such a horrific backdrop.

  • BogExile

    Ah, Spotlight and counterpane…the production values, the wobbly sets, a slim david Dunseith – all sadly lost…