Newry Play Park Farce: “In my view one word sums it up, a waste. A waste of life.”

If you missed it, this is well worth listening to the whole of this Audio Boom from Nolan this morning.

There’s a number of points worth picking up, not least Conor Murphy’s defence of Ray McCreesh’s Attempted Murder charge as being part of a war. But this segment from a caller called Alex in Lisburn is also illuminating.

I used to be, for a brief period, a prison officer. And I was on duty one night in the Maze, and the prison was locked up, between two Provisional IRA wings, two Republican wings. I’d been a part time Police Officer before this. And it came on the news that nine civilians I think it was, that nine civilians had been killed in Loughgall at nine o’clock, I think it was.

And they banged their cell doors and they cheered, it was on their radios. And I remember thinking that you know they’re not even cheering the death of police officers or soldiers, they are cheering the death of civilians, because as ex police part timer I felt guilty I even thought that. But they cheered.

Now, they didn’t cheer at 10 o’clock and eleven o’clock when they realised who it was that died. But that to me that night, shone a torch on what was the soul of the Provisional IRA and the Republican movement. They didn’t care who they killed. And I’ll never forget that, I’ll never forget that.

This of course, on one level might be just a matter of perception.

It’s possible, probably even likely, that those prisoners may have been under the erroneous impression this was a successful operation against security forces in Loughgall RUC Station and simply discounted the reference to civilians.

But the impression of the prison officer who heard the same news that same night was and is very clear about the divergence in his reaction and those of republican prisoners nearly thirty years after.

In way perhaps divergence is the actual theme here, like Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author the Ray McCreesh Play Park for Children affair reads like an absurdist/tragicomic plot ending with the director utterly confused over whether any of it was real or not.

Same old, same old. But listen too to William, talking about the feelings of ‘moderates’ like himself who abhor Bill Wright and Michael Stone and how alienating all of this unremitting focus on the past is.

There’s also former prison officer Alex’s final words:

“In my view one word sums it up, a waste. A waste of life.”