The Side I am on


One of the eerie things about this year is that every day coincides with the exact day and date for the year 1972, the worst year of the Troubles in terms of deaths, insurrection and repression.

And so, last Tuesday, as I watched Palestinians being butchered by bastards, I had in my head throughout the day that night then. I was not staying at home. I was billeting, as we use to say. I was babysitting for a friend in Tullymore Drive, Kieran Meehan, with my girlfriend, Kitty. It seems like only yesterday, and what is scary is that my father was then the age that I am now, though I don't feel as old. The phone rang. It was Paul Fox. Paul's nickname was Basil, after the television character, a fox, known as Basil Brush.

Paul was crying and he told me that Paddy Maguire, John Donaghy and Joseph McKinney had died in an explosion. (By the way, if my memory serves me well, the Brits raided John Donaghy's wake and arrested about twenty people.) Paddy Maguire was, actually, not Paddy Maguire, but Paddy Pendleton. Occasionally, he worked in Hynes Bar, at the top of Broadway, but he was introduced to me as Paddy Maguire, though I knew his real name. That's how he started out in the IRA - cleverly, with a bum name. He was never interned because the Brits were always raiding for Paddy Maguire and he had ID for Paddy Pendleton, which got him passed.

Paul Fox and I were interned together, after we were arrested, dancing in Clonard Hall on a Sunday night, on the 26th November, 1972. Three years later, Paul, and Cumann na mBann Volunteer Laura Crawford, died in an explosion in a car park in Castle Street. I saw the flash that killed them.

1972. Stan Carberry will be shot dead on Monday, 13th November. He was one of the funniest men I have ever known. On Saturday, March 4th, Albert Kavanagh, who use to vie with me for girlfriends in St Paul's Youth Club, and won, was shot dead by the RUC. He was unarmed, therefore he was a great threat.

The list of dead is endless.

1972. An unbelievable year. Probably, for others, the equivalent of 1981, the hunger-strike year, or, for others, Loughgall, or, Gibraltar.

And so, last week, on Friday, 29th September, I was thinking all day of a young friend I loved, Jimmy Quigley, killed, at the age of eighteen, as he took on the Brits close to Albert Street. I love this country and I hate this country. Our life, our land, is what God bequeathed us and, so, we have no choice but to make do with it. Jimmy had been sentenced along with Tom Hartley for possession of acid bombs during the riots in Springhill in 1970. I first met him in July 1970 and later visited him in St Pat's Home, Glen Road, bringing him up a few cigarettes. He was already involved, but it was internment that swung me.

On television back then were programmes such as 'Upstairs, Downstairs'. Number One in January 1972 was 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)' by The New Seekers, and which Coca Cola had appropriated for an advert. But on Sunday, January 30th, 1972, the programme that was on television, preceding the news, was 'The Oneidin Line', whose theme tune was 'Spartacus' by the Armenian composer, Khatchurian, which he wrote in 1956, though you would think it was written a hundred years earlier.

Every time I hear 'Spartacus' I am back in front of a coal fire in the living room of our packed home in Iveagh Parade and everything is about to change utterly. I had picked up my eldest sister, Geraldine, at Aldergrove Airport, who had married the previous September, and on the radio reports were coming in that four people had been shot dead in Derry. Jimmy had just called in when the BBC news came on. It was appalling. I broke down and ran out to the bathroom in tears, embarrassing every body.

One could read through the tripe. As the death toll mounted I wanted to murder British soldiers.

For this past two weeks I have watched the news about the Middle East on television but even in middle-age I want to kill Israeli soldiers. Are not they the biggest cowards in the world? They shot dead a kid with his schoolbag on his back, like you or I dandering up the Falls, after your Ma wiped your face with the flannel, with toast still sticking to your teeth, wondering what it was all about, amazed at the world and what was going to happen to you, and would you be late for school and shouted at, and you wish it was Friday lunch-time because Friday afternoons were wonderful as it was almost the weekend. But who are these soldiers.

When I saw that I thought of 13-year-old Brian Stewart from Turf Lodge, coming home from school, shot dead by a British soldier.

Then there was a picture of a kid on a life-support machine and I thought of the photo of 11-year-old Stephen McConomy on a life-support machine, in Derry, in 1982, ten years after Bloody Sunday. He died three days later.

Don't get me wrong. The IRA have killed people. Have killed men, women and children. Caused grief. We caused grief and pain and unlimited pain. But we were held to account by our consciences, our community and by a thing called humanity, and it guided the progress of the Republican Movement. I would like to think that republicans learnt and have a measure of suffering and war which influences and informs their current attitudes That is what distinguishes us from our foes. That is why I balk at killing and the prospects of a resumption of armed struggle.

These restraints, these considerations, are completely missing from the conceited, arrogant Israelis, whose conceitedness and arrogance is only made possible because the USA finance this bridgehead in the Middle East and intimidate us with the Holocaust and try to make us feel guilty.

I watched that hypocrite, lyrical Clinton on television last Thursday condemn as murder the killing of two Israeli undercover soldiers because he wants to maximise Al Gore's potential Jewish votes in the Presidential election. I watched that hypocrite Clinton on television a week earlier not condemn as murder an Israeli soldier take pot shots at 12-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Durrah, until he eventually corrected his sights, killed the child and seriously injured his father. Bravo.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison