Fisk reminisces.

From the Independent:
You can check in any time you want – but you can never leave.:

On the Europa Hotel’s message pads, my handwriting records “2 sold VSI RVH” (two soldiers very seriously ill Royal Victoria Hospital), “bomb in SR and VS St” (Sandy Row and Great Victoria Street railway station), “son of judge shot dead”, “policeman ser ill”, “2 Provos arrest, staff officers in 1st Batt, F co”, Europa office bill for 22 May/10 June ’73, £145, day after day, year after year. “An agreement was reached between the two anonymous and uniformed leaders of the UDA and Maj-Gen Robert Ford, Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland,” I had typed, “that the army should man checkpoints at the end of seven mainly Protestant streets in West Belfast and allow the UDA to carry out unarmed patrols through the area.”

The lot is worth a read but here’s another good bit:

My tray at the Europa filled each morning. The Quakers (3 June 1972): “Northern Ireland men and women must be given every encouragement to solve their community problem (sic) for themselves in sanity and peace.” The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (23 January 1973): “…unity of action is possible without distinction of creed or political affiliation between workers North and South…” The same phrase repeatedly, “the vast majority of ordinary peace-loving people” – the VMOPP, I cynically called them – were uselessly invoked. “…1972 goes out with sorrow for many and with shame for some,” wrote Lord Grey (Governor of the province on New Year’s Day), “but 1973 should come in with hope for all men and women of goodwill.” Pull the other one.

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  • tacapall

    I like this from Fisk.

    Robert Fisk: Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?

    “But as the years passed, old Bill Fisk became very ruminative about the Great War. He learned that Haig had lied, that he himself had fought for a world that betrayed him, that 20,000 British dead on the first day of the Somme – which he mercifully avoided because his first regiment, the Cheshires, sent him to Dublin and Cork to deal with another 1916 “problem” – was a trashing of human life. In hospital and recovering from cancer, I asked him once why the Great War was fought. “All I can tell you, fellah,” he said, “was that it was a great waste.” And he swept his hand from left to right. Then he stopped wearing his poppy. I asked him why, and he said that he didn’t want to see “so many damn fools” wearing it – he was a provocative man and, sadly, I fell out with him in his old age. What he meant was that all kinds of people who had no idea of the suffering of the Great War – or the Second, for that matter – were now ostentatiously wearing a poppy for social or work-related reasons, to look patriotic and British when it suited them, to keep in with their friends and betters and employers. These people, he said to me once, had no idea what the trenches of France were like, what it felt like to have your friends die beside you and then to confront their brothers and wives and lovers and parents. At home, I still have a box of photographs of his mates, all of them killed in 1918.”