When Terror Gets Old: an insight into ex-combatants

One of the legacies of any conflict are men and women who took part and survived. In the case of Northern Ireland, some of those players are now reaching pension age. Many ex-combatants from the Troubles are publicity shy; only a minority speak out publicly about their experiences.

Corinne Purtill is senior correspondent in the UK for the US-based GlobalPost news organisation. This week she has published a series of articles to accompany a 15 minute video that explores what happens “When Terror Gets Old”.

Corinne Purtill Mark Oltmanns When Terror Gets Old screenshot 1Videographer Mark Oltmanns‘ beautiful shots captures contributions from former loyalist and republican combatants.

Each brought their very personal reflections of the actions that they had taken, their impressions of the peace process and their analysis of what may happen in NI in years to come.

A real mixture of remorse, disappointment and disillusionment along with admissions about levels of alcohol dependency.

Corinne Purtill Mark Oltmanns When Terror Gets Old screenshot 2Despite being an outsider who grew up with the tail end of the conflict and the emerging peace process as international news on US television, Corinne non-sensationally captures the mood of a sample of Troubles activists who are often ignored in favour of only telling the stories of their victims. Corinne spoke to me about her report this afternoon.

One of the articles that accompanies the video looks at what lessons the Troubles can teach us about the global War(s) on Terror. Does the historical treatment of Irish communities in Great Britain – guilty by association – during the Troubles mirror how Muslim communities are treated there today? Are misunderstandings about the motives and characterisation of activists in the Troubles being repeated with Western views of Al Qaeda and IS? Will the violence in each conflict eventually reduce?

You can follow Corinne Purtill’s UK coverage on GlobalPost’s website and on Twitter.

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  • Combatants makes it sound like the latest Video Game. These terrorists were serious and deadly. There is a reason why the victim-makers don’t get the sunlight of attention.

  • Granni Trixie

    There still are voices yet to be heard such as those ‘exiled’ or who are victims of punishment beatings. I suspect we will know when we have reached the bottom of the barrel when their stories are told . I say this because people generally tolerated such barbaric behaviour during the Troubles and the climate hasn’t changed that much.

  • kalista63

    Do you know many of them, any of them? Do you know how their lives, the greater majority of them would have played out if they were born over the border or in GB? How many of them became criminals, continue to this day in breaking the law?

  • Thomas Barber

    Victim-makers, now thats a catch all descriptor in this part of the world as recent revelations have proved. Thousands of security force agent provocateurs, an unknown known number of victim-makers in both the RUC and British intelligence agencies and not the few bad apples in the barrel those in high places would have us believe. Are those people above life savers, bad apples or just plain old terrorists ?

  • Mike the First

    That’s not much of a defence, really, is it? One could say the same about some of those prosecuted over their crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s, or for that matter (can I invoke a temporary Godwin’s Law waiver?) at the even more extreme end of the scale, Oskar Groening.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    It’s very easy from a midle class platform to say that but that is speaking from our bubble. One of the protagonists in the video stated that “we are all victims”. Well I and most of my friends weren’t so that is him speaking from his bubble. Middle class distate for the conflict was because it was aloof from it. Working class distaste for the conflict was due to everything that may or may not have been happening all around them.
    Why some people chose to ‘get involved’ is a huge area but understanding it doesn’t mean absolution. How they are adjusting to or exploiting it is another huge area. The main thing we learn from the history of internecine conflict is that we never learn from history.

  • Zeno

    “Corinne non-sensationally captures the mood of a sample of Troubles activists who are often ignored in favour of only telling the stories of their victims.”

    Ahhhhhhhhh the poor wee pets.

  • Reader

    We mustn’t abandon the perps. At the very least, there should be an attempt at counseling and rehabilitation while they do their 2 years in prison.

  • Zeno

    I don’t think they want that, some of them are now looking for sympathy because they murdered people!!