How realistic is the doomsday scenario?

Back in the bad old days a mitigation presented for loyalists convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms was that the guns were stored for a ‘Doomsday scenario’, the doomsday in question being a United Ireland. Nationalists should consider that for a moment. For many Unionists, a united Ireland spells the end of life as they know it, an unknown, full of dread. As a child at the start of the Troubles I can remember such fears being voiced and although one …

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“One of the most disturbing features of contemporary Ireland is the almost universal ignorance among the younger generation of the Northern Troubles…”

Una Mullally is a high profile Irish Times columnist: a gay left-wing feminist (although I have never seen or heard her describe herself as a socialist) who is particularly popular among the young. This is not surprising given that one of her recurrent themes is that young Irish people (idealistic, open-minded, liberal in gender and identity politics, probably Sinn Fein inclined) are mobilising to take over the running of this country from old Irish people (reactionary, narrow-minded, Catholic Church-influenced, probably …

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The Steel Shutter Revisited 50th Anniversary Conference…

In 1972 at the height of the violent Troubles in Northern Ireland a group of people believed that they could make a difference by simply getting people to listen to one another. Taking great risks for all involved they flew nine stakeholders (5 Protestants and 4 Catholics) from Ireland to Pittsburgh and filmed a three-day encounter group. The famous psychologist Carl Rogers, and colleagues, attempted something radical. For the majority, it was the first time they had any real interaction with …

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Why I think The IRA War was a failure…

Various posts by Mick Fealty and many others, most recently by Brian Walker in “Leave futile arguments about equivalence aside. We all need to come clean about why the Troubles lasted so unforgivably long” have asked us to re-examine culpability for the Troubles and the need to let the healing process proceed through a truth recovery process. Despite their best efforts, the ensuing conversations have always descended into a welter of “whataboutery” and the sins of the other side. The …

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The trouble with teaching ‘the Troubles’…

teacher, learning, school

The final episode of Derry Girls (spoiler alert) covered the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (GFA) with wit and plenty of pathos. After its broadcast, social media was full of older viewers reporting that they had quite forgotten the challenges that many people across the island of Ireland faced when deciding to support unpalatable aspects of the agreement, such as the release of prisoners. The younger adults were open about being entirely unaware of the context of this peace settlement which ended …

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Something Unresolved – The 50th Anniversary of Bloody Friday…

The room was spartan. Two chairs, a few books on a table and a filing cabinet. Where she kept notes, no doubt – on other stragglers who’d dragged their excess baggage up the stairs. I told of the house purchase gone wrong, how stupid I felt, and the sense of being trapped. She wrote something down. ‘If only I could get an unbroken night’s sleep, I might be able to cope.’ She asked when that problem started. I weighed up …

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Paras have at last told their grim stories of the Falklands War. With strong public support behind them, perhaps Troubles combatants would do the same

This week’s showing on BBC2 of the gripping  Our Falklands War: a front line story  will have forced comparisons and  contrasts with the Troubles. When I reported the Falklands War from afar in Buenos Aires I used to wonder how those spotty youths in ill fitting uniforms would fare against the elite of the British Army like the Parachute Brigade. Not well as we saw when 1000 of them surrendered to less than 100 paras at Goose Green, although the …

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Police Ombudsman finds “collusive behaviour” by police in 11 loyalist murders…

The Police Ombudsman has released her reporting into collusion between the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries. From the report overview: Mrs Anderson found that concerns about police actions expressed by bereaved families and survivors were “legitimate and justified”, and said her investigation had identified a range of collusive behaviours by police, which included: Intelligence and surveillance failings which led to loyalist paramilitaries obtaining military grade weaponry in a 1987 arms importation; A failure to warn two men of threats to their …

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The media’s role in peacebuilding: none of its business?

So is peacebuilding none of the media’s business? That was a conclusion that broadcaster and journalist, Declan Harvey, posed to a panel of fellow journalists and writers at an online webinar delivered through Belfast City Council’s PEACE IV Programme, which is funded through the EU and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Panellists Alex Kane, Amanda Ferguson, and Leona O’Neill shared their perspectives and experiences of reporting in Northern Ireland, answering questions from Declan Harvey and those submitted by …

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‘Politicians will argue, they will fight over it and they will come up with reasons for not dealing with the past’

It was hoped that the Patten reforms would herald a new start for policing in Northern Ireland, but, argues Denis Bradley, the PSNI remains burdened with its legacy from the old RUC. Denis is a former vice-chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past. He was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. “In the setting-up of the PSNI, the new service inherited, carried with it, the deeds …

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‘My coping mechanism is talking, seeking peace and reconciliation’

  Alan McBride’s personal journey is well known, but remarkable nonetheless. It was in 1993 that his wife Sharon and her father Desmond Frizzell were killed in an IRA bomb attack on the family fish shop in Belfast’s Shankill Road. But with immense dignity, Alan has since dedicated his life to reconciliation and progress, as well as campaigning on behalf of victims. He is the latest interviewee in the Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts. Alan admits that initially after Sharon …

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From Northern Ireland to the US, from 1968 to today, the camera is a powerful catalyst for change

The  horrific  image  of policemen in Minneapolis  caught in the act of slowly  choking  George Floyd to death  has prompted the thought :  how  different would have been the course of the Troubles if  they’d been waged under the eyes of  24/7  live news coverage and video cameras with sound on mobile phones?    Would a whole race of citizen journalists,  citizen terrorists and citizen security forces have been created  all videoing each other like crazy? Might violence amounting  to …

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What is justice anyway?

What is justice? The answer might be obvious, but in past Forward Together podcast interviews it has been noticeable that the responses to that question have been inconsistent. While parts of political unionism seem focused on the judicial process for acts going back to the Troubles, the response by some in republicanism has been that the core of justice is about creating a fair society today. Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, tells the …

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Northern Ireland’s mental health crisis

Mental health is a global challenge, but poor mental health is at crisis levels in Northern Ireland. That crisis is in part an ongoing impact from the Troubles, Siobhan O’Neill, professor of mental health science at Ulster University, says in the latest Holywell Trust podcast. “We’re seeing a rise in mental health problems in the Western world,” says Siobhan. “We know that around one in four or one in five people in Europe and the West have a mental health …

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Lost Lives Reminds us we can’t Forget…

For Terry Maguire, a recent BBC programme, Lost Lives, featuring deaths in the Troubles, triggered a flashback on his way to work. This caused him to reflect on an incident he witnessed as a schoolboy in Derry in 1972, making him reassess his long-held view that the Troubles had no personal impact. As I walked to work in darkness one morning in 2020, work tasks and concerns swirled unhelpfully in my half-awakened mind. When I reached the entrance of the …

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Considering Grace: An invitation to listen

Considering Grace: An invitation to listen by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News 5 November 2019 Considering Grace, by Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis, is a new book that explores how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles, through a series of narratives from 120 people who tell their stories of how they coped with trauma and tests of their faith. The book was launched with a set of readings and short presentations at Assembly Buildings, Belfast, to an audience of several …

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Behind the scenes of Spotlight on The Troubles: Willie Frazer, Alan Oliver, Patrick Ryan, and ongoing questions about ‘The Secret War’ film (Thu 9pm on BBC One NI)

At a screening of the behind-the-scenes companion show about the making of Spotlight on The Troubles (to be broadcast next week on Thursday at 9pm after the final extended episode airs on Tuesday at 8.30pm), Mandy McAuley explained her shock when victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer – with whom she had worked while making programmes about victims for two decades – admitted to his role in the distribution of weapons to loyalist paramilitaries. Further questions about the making and suppression of US film The Secret War that captured footage of the IRA at work, and the painstaking efforts to line up interviews and tie down evidence is explained.

Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History (ep 6) – Mid-Ulster UVF gang members who avoided being charged for murder (Tuesday 15 October at 9pm on BBC One NI and BBC Four)

The penultimate episode of Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History asks why some UVF members of a Mid-Ulster gang escaped prosecution – confronting an alleged prolific serial killer – and asks whether there was a deliberate loyalist strategy to kill family members of committed republicans during the late 1980s and early 1990s, during what is described as “the final burst of violence” before the ceasefires? Tuesday evening at 9pm on BBC One NI and BBC Four.

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan by Allan LEONARD 3 October 2019 Sheelagh Murnaghan was the only Liberal Party MP (1961-69) in the Northern Ireland Parliament, representing the constituency of Queen’s University Belfast, which was the venue for a launch event of a new biography about her remarkable life. There were many Murnaghan family members in the audience of a few dozen attending. The book, Sheelagh Murnaghan, was commissioned by the Albert McElroy Memorial Fund, which was established to commemorate the …

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The Unresolved Conflict Begins (August 1969)…

I am not sure why the early part of Thursday 14th August 1969 seems so ordinary. There was a certain feeling that the storm had passed. There was a sense of shame looking at the self-inflicted damage on the Falls Road after the night before. A certain excitement maybe that some of us had heard gunfire on Wednesday night. And a certain pleasure that the RUC had been defeated and humiliated in the Bogside. The news said they would be …

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