Nursing the Troubles

The September launch of Kate O’Hanlon’s autobiography passed me by but I’ve just learned about her from an interview in Radio 4 ‘s Midweek. A rare Catholic nurse in the Royal before the Troubles, she served most of her a time as a sister in A&E.

The famous consultant William Rutherford once remarked that running casualty was simple: “You have to love everybody; you have to listen to everybody; and, when in doubt, you just do what Sister O’Hanlon tells you.”

Susan McKay’s piece in the Irish Times brings tears to the eyes. Kate is a natural writer and brings some of the sharpest edges of the Troubles right back to life. What was just as evocative was Kate on the radio today, recalling that the early 60s when she started out “the regulations said there should be no more than two Catholics in every group in case they contaminated the others.” She said this wryly without bitterness. Listening to Kate brings it home how much those days were the vivid, endless present. As they slide into history their impact on people has begun to be forgotten. The tendency to use them as mere ammunition in ideological arguments will be checked by vivid accounts like Kate’s. She tells it was it was to the younger generation. Buy her book for Christmas.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London