No. 56 – “Bombings and their aftermath – the Birmingham experience”
Monday 9th May, 2005
St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Michael Nangle (Lord Mayor of Birmingham)
Jacinta De Paor (Coordinator, L.I.V.E. Programme, Glencree Centre for Reconciliation)
Gareth Porter (H.U.R.T. Group, Lurgan)
Chaired by Michael Reade (Presenter, ‘Loosetalk’ programme,LMFM radio)
Welcome and introductions:
Jacinta de Paor
Questions and comments
Closing words: Rev. John Clarke
Appendix: Birmingham and other bombings in 1974
©Meath Peace Group
56 – “Bombings and their Aftermath – The Birmingham Experience”
Introduction: Birmingham mayor’s visit to Navan (9/10 May):
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Michael Nangle, was in Navan as part of a two-day visit organised by the Meath Peace Group. His first function on the day was to address the Fair Trade seminar organised by Transition Year students in St Joseph’s (Convent of Mercy) Secondary School (where the Meath Peace Group has conducted a peace studies programme since 1995). Other speakers included Fergal O’Bryne (Green Party) and Joy Eniola (Oxfam) and the seminar was attended by students and staff from St Joseph’s and St Michael’s (Loreto) Navan as well as members of Navan business community and Meath TDs Damien English and Shane McEntee. Following the seminar, at a dinner organised in his honour, the Lord Mayor was officially welcomed to Navan by the Chairman of Meath County Council, Cllr. Tommy Reilly, and the incoming Chair, Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald. On Tuesday 10th May, the Lord Mayor visited the Hill of Tara where the group was given a guided tour by Susan Brennan.
Welcome and introductions: Fr Pat Raleigh and Julitta Clancy
The speakers and guest chair, Michael Reade, were welcomed by Fr. Pat Raleigh on behalf of the Columban community in Dalgan Park. Julitta Clancy of the Meath Peace Group continued: “Thank you all for coming, you are all very welcome… Tonight’s talk is dedicated to the memory of Fr Niall O’Brien, Columban missionary, who died of ill health a year ago and who was a tremendous inspiration and a great friend of our group. He devoted his life to the promotion and practice of ‘active non-violence’ and for over 40 years worked tirelessly for peace and justice in the Philippines. His teachings and experiences are recorded in numerous books and articles, and copies of his address to the Meath Peace Group on the theme of active non-violence (on the occasion of our 10th anniversary in April 2003) are available here tonight.” [also available on MPG website]
Birmingham bombs: “We remember especially tonight all of those people who lost their lives in the recent ‘Troubles’ and tonight we’re focusing particularly on Birmingham and the aftermath of the IRA bombs of 1974. Summary accounts of the bombings can be found in the book ‘Lost Lives’ and extracts are available here tonight [see appendix to this report.]. I believe that copies of Lost Lives should be in every house and in every school in Ireland to help us to reflect and to remember and acknowledge the terrible hurt and pain that has been suffered by so many people mainly in Northern Ireland but also in Britain and here in the Republic. We did invite some relatives of the Dublin and Monaghan bombing victims but they were unable to come tonight – some of them have been here before and hopefully will come again…..I will hand you over now to our guest chair, Michael Reade of LMFM radio.”
Chair (Michael Reade, Presenter, ‘Loosetalk’ programme, LMFM) radio):
“Thanks Julitta. I’ll be very brief this evening and after we hear from our speakers we’ll have a question and answers session. It’s probably worth taking a moment to again look at the political landscape of this island and the consequences of torn politics and a torn island – and not just on this island as we’ll be hearing through the evening. One of the most interesting observations about the recent elections in the North … I think the result probably didn’t surprise any body but it showed the reality, maybe it’s a positive but it seems a lot of the gunmen are being removed from the political structure and possibly that’s a sign of things moving on.
“Having said that I think we – especially in the media – tend to move on too quickly and we look at the here and now and the ongoing arguments that take place and to a large degree it must seem like a lot of rhetoric and nothing more then rhetoric because lives have been lost.
“We have a very interesting panel here this evening … I’m certainly here to listen and to learn… I’ll introduce our first guest, Michael Nangle. He’s the first Irish born Mayor of Birmingham which is significant in a city which has such a huge Irish population, he’s a self-made man – he’ll tell you a bit about himself and like many others he left this island to find his fortune. ..
1. Michael Nangle (Lord Mayor of Birmingham):
“Good evening and thank you for asking me here, it’s a pleasure to be here.
About myself: I left Ireland in the North in ‘54 and I arrived in Birmingham. It was a culture shock coming from the green fields although I’d worked in Belfast for a short time and around different places, it was a culture shock to move into a city of over a million people. The odd sign up ‘Irish not welcome’ – it was a bit of a shock to the system but then it moved from the Irish to the West Indies … so the BNP and people with similar ideas took it out on them and then along came the Asian group and they’re taking it out on them and it left us behind.
“Now what about being back home? … I used to go around with a young lady from the top of Lurgan and she was from the Protestant side, a lovely lady, and one Saturday night walking home after the dance – as you did in Lurgan, just walking up – the father and the two sons met me. The two sons were fine but the father said: ‘it has to finish’. And it was a parting that was a bit wrenching because I used to run around with the brothers and the only time we were ever separated was about three weeks before the Twelfth, they were taken away and we all met up after that and we all had a party before the 15th of August and we used to go to different halls together to have a bit of fun and we all thought that would be great but it didn’t materialise.
Violence: “In 1988 I was at home in a very republican area and they said to me: “now you’re in England and you’re an Englishman, what do you think? I said: ‘if you take to the gun you’ve lost it. You’ve got sympathy in the English, the Welsh, the Scots – civil rights – if you’ve got an argument you’ve got a reasonable argument , keep it going, don’t go to the gun, history is history. So maybe I was proved right I don’t know.
Birmingham bomb: “In Birmingham, there’s roughly over 200,000 first and second generation [Irish], we now have the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world after New York and Dublin and we’re very proud of that. In 1974 disaster struck. That was a bad bad time for us in the city – a lot of people were targeted, a lot of houses were stoned, a lot of fights, a lot of threats, I was one of the senior stewards in the factory and things were said down the line about IRA: ‘they’re all IRA’ and all the rest. So we just stopped. The factory had a meeting … and we had it straight out with them and it died a death but we had to keep ourselves low for many years.
Irish Forum in Birmingham: “In 1991 … Fr. Taffe said: ‘I want some money out of the City Council and I want to start an Irish forum.’ … And I said: ‘well Father you’re going to have to show your books to the City Council’ and he said ‘don’t you trust me?’ and I said ‘I didn’t say that. You have to show your books to the City Council because they all want to know where the public money is.’ He said: ‘you don’t trust me’. I said: ‘we do trust you’, and we got on quite well after that and we started the Irish Forum and as years went on we said we would create the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
1974 and its aftermath: “But that period [following the bombings] was very very bad for about a year. I would say it was pretty bad, and we had to live it down because some people tar you with the same brush. It didn’t matter if you had an Irish accent from the North or the South or anything else, you got it. There was one nice thing about the night of the pub bombings – it came up on the television and it was Friday night and it was one of the two pubs that we used to use as stewards coming home from a meeting and we decided that night – it was half five, a quarter to six, that we wouldn’t bother going into any of them and I asked myself ‘do I stop at home or do I go up to my local?’ And I said ‘no, I’m going out, I’m facing the dark and I took myself up to the pub and I walked in and the gentleman that had run the pub for nearly 30 years, Mr. Gallagher, lovely man, he didn’t wait for me to ask for a pint he just walked to the brandy bottle – double brandy – stuck it in front of me and said ‘take that.’ I stood on my own for about 15 seconds and the people that came up to me were actually English and said ‘we know it’s not people like you.’ So that was nice, it gave me heart to keep the fight and to face people out and decided that they wanted to make trouble.
“Now we’ve rolled on … the world is so small now. You can get to Australia in 48 hours where before it took 8 weeks. Children are better educated, they can go any where in the world … I believe that it will take time but it will happen. Maybe another 30, 40 years. … How can you take away bitterness from people that really hold a grudge with you from the day they were born on both sides – on both sides? I went home many years ago to a funeral and they put the flag on his coffin but they said ‘he’s a wonderful man, he’d been a great man’ and I said ‘tell me what he did.’ They brought up the family. He went to work, but what else? Oh he was a ‘great man, a great republican’. Yes, ‘but what did he do beyond raising his family and working hard?’ and there was no answer to that.”
Multicultural world: “You take Birmingham – it’s so multicultural now it’s unbelievable. Yes, you still have the BNP around but we never got into the Bradford riots, they tried to come down and do it but they were met head on by all the religious leaders and by the politicians who said: ‘clear off, we don’t want any of this down here.’ And I think that until we understand that we’re going to have a multicultural world, that it is going to be multicultural that people will come in from Kosovo, Arabia all over the place, that’s the world it’s going to be – diversity.
“And I do what’s called citizenship – people taking out citizenship – and I do 80 a day twice a week, and they’re from all over the world, taking out British citizenship. You mention any part of the world – they’ve taken out citizenship. And you see people walking up to them, and they’re coming from Kosovo and Romania, and they just say thanks for looking after them. Until we get that in our heads no matter what political stance that we are, that it is going to be a changing world, that if we hold onto bigotry we’re not going to proceed into the real world….
Border Protestant community: “I was reading the paper tonight – I was reading about the election. I know a sad thing that’s going on – that the Protestants in the border counties are having a bad time and I think to myself: ‘God, it’s 2005, what’s going on here?’ This is not the real world … taking it out on another human being is wrong. We don’t seem to grasp – or some people don’t seem to grasp – that life is so short. Why take it out on people? We’ve signed the political Agreement, the peace Agreement, as I’d say … everything revolves around a table. The surrender of 1945 was around a table, the Good Friday Agreement was signed around a table, peace in any part of the world usually comes from sitting around with politicians having to bite the bullet and surrender something to be able to gain peace.
Leadership required: “Both sides north of the border where I come from are going to have to give …and they’re going to have to give leadership, they’re going to have to be strong people, they’re going to have to be people with iron will to say ‘this is wrong, it is wrong to hold these views, that what happened in the 14th, 15th ,16th and 17th centuries is irrelevant, it’s totally irrelevant.”
“On Sunday I was at the at the V.E. celebration in London – a big parade and all the rest. There were people there from Russia, Germany, Netherlands, France, America, Canada sitting around a table together where before they slaughtered one another. But then they’ve all realised – as one German person said ‘thanks, you relieved us from tyranny, it was hard to do but you relieved us from tyranny.’ And unfortunately we have had to go through this period to realise that we don’t want that to happen.
Peace is what we need: “But we do have to press upon the politicians that they have to grasp the nettle, that peace is what we all need. …When I went through years and years of having to lie down after the bombings, I have said to people that I’ve met in Birmingham: ‘you weren’t here, don’t come preaching to me with your politics. I was here and I lived through it and I don’t need you to tell me what politics are about. Some of your people planted the bombs and left us with a mess while you took yourself back home or didn’t even bother to come here.’
Apology demanded: “And I still demand an apology which I asked for many years ago and haven’t got yet, but I still say today: ‘you should apologise to us Irish community for what you put us through in Birmingham, you had no right to do it – you weren’t speaking for the Irish community in Birmingham and you didn’t do it in our name, so you can catch the next plane back home and take that message back.’
Irish quarter in Birmingham: “We have come through it. We are rebuilding what’s called the Irish Quarter – it’s not going to be a Temple Bar, it’s a city quarter that’s being built as a legacy to the elders that started it all. We hold ourselves proudly and highly in Birmingham and we are the only city in England that has declared an Irish quarter and I hope to leave that as a legacy to the Irish people in Birmingham and to the second or third or fourth generations.
“I will stop here because I could keep on talking about this for hours … but I hope you understand that we felt very angry that someone planted two bombs in a pub not in our name cause they didn’t do us any favours and they never came back to say anything about it and I hope before I die that one day they’ve got the guts to say they were sorry”. Thank you.”
Chair (Michael Reade): “Thank you very much indeed – you have depicted the reality of living in England and I’m sure most of us would have been aware of … the type of racism that existed in Britain as a result of the Troubles, and understandably so, to a large degree as well because people there felt threatened and that is undoubtedly the way people responded. Julitta came on the radio programme with me this morning to let people know that this talk was taking place. We spoke very briefly about the bombs in Birmingham as well and I mentioned that one of the things that people always remember is the miscarriage of justice – the Birmingham Six. What we have probably forgotten is the families behind those who were dead, maimed and injured and that type of suffering is indiscriminate regardless of where a bomb takes place. Our next speaker will be completely aware of this – Jacinta de Paor, coordinator of the L.I.V.E. program…”
2. Jacinta de Paor (Coordinator, L.I.V.E. Programme, Glencree Centre):
“Thank you. I was asked to talk about the programme that we run in Glencree so maybe if I tell you just a small bit about Glencree and a small bit about the programme and how it came to be and then we will take questions afterwards.
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation: “Glencree – for those that don’t know – is the reconciliation centre that nestles in the middle of the Wicklow Mountains and anyone who has been there will know it’s a beautiful spot – a large British army barracks built in 1802 that has gone through a chequered history of being a reform school subsequent to that but now transformed into a reconciliation centre, hopefully redressing some of the history that had happened there in the past. It’s been a reconciliation centre for the past 30 years and the present phase of Glencree is really in the past 10 years – all since our peace agreements – and it has really taken off since then. It started with programmes that were political programmes – getting politicians at all levels, generally middle level politicians, to talk to one another from all sides of the divide. They would come down from Northern Ireland and talk at Glencree where it was relatively safe and secluded and supportive and they were away from their main line of business, and they were away from their areas that were very troubled.
L.I.V.E. “And in 1999 Sir Kenneth Bloomfield came down to Glencree, and he took testimonies of people who had been through the Troubles. He took testimonies from witnesses and from victims/survivors who had been through various traumatic events. Those people came from Northern Ireland and they came over from England and they came from the Republic as well so a new programme was born.
“My boss at the time – Ian White – looked at these people coming and said ‘we cannot turn our backs, we cannot just leave it at this, these people who are coming don’t have a voice, we need to set up a programme for the voices of the victims to be heard.’ Politicians’ voices were being heard, individual voices were being heard on all sides from paramilitary groups and there was a lot of voices being heard but the voices of the victims were the one voices that weren’t being heard. And the L.I.V.E. programme was born at that time – the letters stand for Lets Involve the Victims’ Experience – and that programme has being going for over five and a half years. …. I took over as coordinator about five years ago.
“….The programme involved bringing victims survivors from all parts of these islands and this is what made the programme unique – the idea being that we brought victim survivors from England, Scotland, Wales, from Northern Ireland and from the Republic together to dialogue. And this is what the Lord Mayor has been saying just now about the value of talking and about the value of dialoguing.
Dialogue: “And we’ve brought together people to dialogue amongst the victims survivors on the one hand – that was the first aim of the program – but the second aim was to have dialogue with the former combatants. Now that’s a term that raises a lot of hackles and it raises a lot of discussion. But the victims survivors themselves in the early days had asked that they could confront and talk with those former paramilitaries who have been involved in some of the events that the Lord Mayor was saying – that they could talk with them, could ask them questions, difficult questions: ‘why did you do it? What was in it for you? What were you thinking at the time?’ and all the horrible questions that go round in somebody’s head, something’s happened over which they have no control.
“And that was the second aim of the program – to get that dialogue going and it did happen. Our first meeting had 3 people at the meeting and we looked at one another and we were saying ‘this isn’t going to go anywhere’ and the next meeting there were 8 people and we still said ‘are we on the right track at all?’ Because people had asked for it but they weren’t turning up and then we said ‘well we’ll bear with it because we’ve been asked to do it, let’s bear with it and let’s keep it going’. And lo and behold we kept it going and now we have approximately a couple of hundred people on our books, but at any one of our events we could have maybe 25 people turning up at a weekend event and these would be victims survivors from all over these Islands. It has been extremely successful from the point of view of dialoguing but some of the exciting things that have happened have been the events where people have come – people who wouldn’t have normally met each other – and they come and they talk together and they have very tough conversations. And that happens not alone in the difficult conversations with the former combatants but that happens within the difficult conversations between the victims survivors themselves coming from different cultures…
“Now at this stage, 5 years down the road, we’re saying: ‘Right, where is this getting us? We have dialogued, we have talked, where’s it going to go?’ So we always turn at this point and we ask the participants: ‘where would you think it should go?’ We always use the dialogue frame of reference to link with the participants and always ask them. They will lead us, so I’ll give you a little story of where it’s going to go, linked to what the Lord Mayor was saying. …
“One of our participants is a lady who herself was injured in the Birmingham bomb and has been coming to us for over 5 years now and her one dream is that the people who she sees coming to the programme would be able to come over and meet some of the people who were in Birmingham who were also injured and are survivors of the different bombings, but particularly of the bomb that she was in herself. And that’s a dream that we have and hopefully we’ll keep dreaming but its coming to fruition and with the great help of the Lord Mayor here it looks like it’s going to happen eventually. We’re certainly pushing for it and this is part of the magic of the dialogue that happens when you bring people together that you can get the dialogue happening not alone within the room but across communities and then across actual countries. So I will leave it there for the moment … because our next speaker links in to some of what I’ve been saying and he will take it up from there. Thank you.”
Michael Reade: “Thank you. Our final speaker is Gareth Porter of the H.U.R.T. group …”
3. Gareth Porter (H.U.R.T. Group, Lurgan):
“Thank you very much for the invitation down this evening. They were talking about 1974 briefly here and I was just trying to think where I was and what I was doing in 1974, and I thought in relation to the Troubles I was in Lurgan College, and I think Lurgan has been mentioned already this evening and certainly I remember at that time the Troubles had been for several years in a very very serious state. On a positive note, I remember we were involved in setting up a prayer group in our own Lurgan College – there had been an intensive spate of killings … in the Fermanagh area and South Armagh and I remember being involved in setting up a prayer group which led me certainly to a very deep value of the power of prayer in that point in time.
“So 1974 was a very difficult time for so many people, it was a time when our communities were changing and we were all being torn in so many different ways. Where we are today is obviously a different world to where we all were in 1974.
“But for many people who have lost family members from that period and since, it is very very difficult and very hard to cope with the suffering that you take to the grave through bereavement.
Victims and their families: “I was thinking of the unique needs of victims of the troubles and Jacinta will know where I’m coming from when she talks about combatants and there’s the whole language, the politics of language. But many of the people that I would represent – and there’s been 224 people killed in the Lurgan-Portadown-Banbridge area over the course of the ‘Troubles’ plus the number of people injured. We’ve estimated it impacts on around 6,000 to 7,000 people as direct family members – that’s assuming that the number of people that have been injured might have around 6 or 7 family members, including parents, children, siblings and the like, and it’s a conservative estimate.
H.U.R.T. group: “H.U.R.T [Homes United against Ruthless Terror] was formed in 1998 by the widows and by several parents of people who had lost family members over the course of the ‘Troubles’. We now represent 98 families that have been impacted through bereavement. We’re very proud of the work that we’ve done. We’ve accessed a lot of families and we make no difference between them. Although 90% of the people [we represent] are coming from a mainly Protestant/Unionist background, we have some very active members of the Roman Catholic community involved also.
“When we set up the group initially we had a committee consisting of police widows, UDR widows and civilian widows, and that was done deliberately so it would be inclusive of all the community. For that reason some of the Roman Catholics in the local area who are associated with us and because of security forces also being involved with the group, they feel a lot of the time it’s better to keep obviously their identity and the services that we provide to them on a more confidential basis.
Services provided by the group: “If we look at where we are today and what we do as an organisation, I was just noting down as I was listening to the speakers just some of the many activities that a self-help group does in relation to conflict and the trauma of bereavement and serious injury:
(i) Befriending: “We do befriending – basically outreach work, visiting homes, visiting people in hospital, basically connecting people back into society in any way we can. We’re a very positive group – although it’s a bereavement group there’s times when one would never believe that that was the case because we have tried and endeavoured to get the positive out of the negative extremes of conflict. Events would vary from theatre visits to meals to social visits also to pantomime. And probably my proudest moment in the group was January this year when we had 129 people together on two buses people and about 30 in cars from all over the Banbridge/Lurgan/Portadown area coming to the Opera House in Belfast. It was a very up lifting evening for everyone concerned and the families there.
“I think our earliest murder victim is from 1971 and it goes right up to the last two policemen killed [in 1997], in fact beyond that because we’ve had feuds in the area now as well in the last number of years, so it covers a wide range over 32 years experience of trauma and death. So as a resource for understanding what the net effect of bereavement is right from the early ‘70s right through to the most recent we’re a very understanding group of the long-term impact of bereavement through terrorism.
(ii) Referrals: “We do referral work. In other words, if there’s people that come to us that have other special needs – for example housing issues or issues on welfare benefits – we can refer that on.
(iii) Trauma programme: “We have our own in-house trauma programme accredited to the Institute of Leadership and Management in England and I think we’re the only group that’s in a position to carry that programme across Northern Ireland. We have a training team that goes to Kilkeel, Newtownstewart, Dungannon, Dunmurry and different parts of the province, all dealing with people who have suffered directly at the hands of terrorism.
(iv) Youth and women’s programme: “We have a youth programme, but sadly, due to lack of resources, it’s probably our most under-resourced area of work. We also have a women’s programme…
(v) Eyewitness programme: “We have an eyewitness project – it’s small in numbers but its specifically for those that have been on the scenes of the murders of their loved ones. Many people were killed in their own homes, on their doorsteps or in the car.
Belfast Agreement and the impact on victims: “I left a girl this afternoon whose boyfriend had been shot 18 times in the car beside her. When she knew I was coming down she … said to send regards down to the people here but also to make sure that they realise the full impact of what the Belfast Agreement did in her life because in many ways it has denied her justice that she so urgently craves. She was actually mocked in the street by the guy that killed her boyfriend beside her. She served in the local supermarket. She had to give up her job because he used to come in and taunt her on what he had done.
Parochial nature of the conflict: “And I’m sure many things have happened from my community on Roman Catholics of a similar nature but that’s the net impact of how parochial our conflict is. Its not far-off, its not far away, it’s not the way it was in normal conflicts in war when people came home. The people that were committing the killings were the neighbours, were the work colleagues, were the people you meet in your shopping area of the time. So the eyewitness program is something we’re very very pleased about in that in small-group work we actually try to have people restore to themselves dignity and confidence to go out and deal with those everyday problems.
(vi) Cross-border work – Breaking the Barriers: “We have our cross-border work, which is work that I have been involved in and it’s called ‘Breaking the Barriers’.
Belfast Agreement: “And I have to say at times the Belfast Agreement has a very major benefit… life is not as cheap today as it was when it was signed. I have no doubt about that. I think the McCartney case in Belfast proves that that is the case, there is outcry when murder takes place of that type and foul deeds.
Victims became an embarrassment: “But I can also say that the victim sector – through no fault of their own – became a political hot potato and it meant we were stigmatised from the start because widows and families tired to help each other to get off their knees and restore credibility and decency in their lives and we were probably viewed as an embarrassment to the government because sadly what we were doing by lobbying was highlighting the failures of government in 30 years and what they had done for the victims.
Help from Department of Foreign Affairs: “We had to look for a period of time elsewhere and in many ways it was a godsend, and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin really was excellent. I couldn’t commend them highly enough for the work that they did in that period of time. We got funding as an organisation for about a 12 month period which allowed us to engage directly with Jacinta and organisations in the Republic of Ireland and with victims in the Republic of Ireland and along the border, and certainly it was a very eye-opening period for myself.
Extradition failures: “I would have a background of concern for many years that the failure of extradition from the Republic to Northern Ireland led to extra murders of innocent people I can name, cases I can think of, cases where a man who subsequently killed was released as a criminal escapee, released by a High Court judge in Dublin and that judge probably to this day will never realise the true impact of that release of a man who wanted to kill at that point in time. In those cases the people who were involved, who were active on the ground in terrorism, when they weren’t extradited didn’t retire from murder they went on and continued to do it.
Glencree experience: “So our ‘Breaking the Barriers’ programme has been an excellent one and a number of years ago the two ladies that I have down with me tonight and a number of other ladies came down and visited Glencree for the first time. Many of those women hadn’t been over the border in maybe over 20 years and it was a positive experience for all. Glencree for us, to be quiet frank, is a second home, we almost take it for granted now we can come any time and it’s been a very positive experience.
Tribute to Department of Foreign Affairs: “But the experience of dealing with the Department of Foreign Affairs was a very positive experience and I take my cap off to civil servants in that department. At a time when the mindset of some of our senior servants in Stormont was less then understanding, we found support and encouragement and dignity and we were treated with respect in Dublin and that’s something that will stick with us as an organisation for a long long time. “
(vii) Other work: “Other work that we do involves counselling. Suicide-counselling is not a big amount of our work – I think in the last 6 years we’ve only had 4 serious cases but I can say they come from different directions. In two of the cases I know one of the ladies on my left here was involved with talking one lady through the night and probably saved her life, and that woman, just in the last fortnight, was over seeing the Queen because she had lost a family member who was an RUC member. So that type of work is never seen and never spoken of.
Quiet things: “Other types of work that we never probably will get credit for and we don’t want credit for is – we had one lad who had lost a father, a grandfather and an uncle who was just hell bent on revenge. His mother identified the problem quite clearly – he would not go to statutory services, he had already been to statutory services, and the anger was not being released in any positive fashion or in any positive way. I can only guess that in my opinion he was a young men who would have gone on and killed. He has not done so and I’m proud of that, but I have no doubt that his mindset at that point of time two years ago was he would have had the capability certainly to have done…. certainly it’s a case whereby it was a success. He now admits two years on he didn’t know where his head was – his head was away as he put it. His mother knows and has thanked us on numerous occasions for restoring the balance in his life. Those are the quiet things that we take great pride in…..
Attaching meaning to the event: “We try to attach meaning to the event that has taken place – from the time Cain killed Abel, there’s nothing new about murder in Ireland, any scholar knows there’s nothing new about mass murder, serial killing and everything that goes with conflict no matter how you try package it up. If we even look at the Boyne Valley – as I came down tonight I thought of the first Republican in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell, and I think there’s nothing new about murder even in the Boyne Valley, not to mention that glorious and immortal battle a number of years later that was inflicted on the people of Drogheda and the people of the Boyne battlefield!
Peer support: “But on a more serious note, I think a lot of our work is about trying to explain to people that they are not alone. I think one of the strengths of the victims’ group is that they can share with people who understand because they’re all in the same position. It’s peer support of the most raw but the most beautiful kind in that there’s a real understanding of where they’ve all been and also where they’re going, because, as many widows and many the families tell me, they’ll take it to the grave, they have to live with it, they’ve learnt to live with it. And that even in itself is a very very positive statement.
“Nothing’s going to restore what’s been taken away, nothing can”.
Saying ‘sorry’: “And again, as the Mayor was saying, sometimes the word ‘sorry’ would go a long way to helping alleviate a lot of the pain and suffering and the closure that’s required. I understand why terrorists don’t say sorry. Terrorists don’t say ‘sorry’ because to say ‘sorry’ would admit that they were actually wrong on what they did. To cope with the atrocities that they committed they have to believe for their own sanity that somehow what they did was part of a war, it was a conflict. That may well be their mindset. I have to say the people I work with will say this and say it very clearly – they had no choice if their husband going to work of a morning was blown up. I was with a man this afternoon who lost his 11-year old brother in the Banbridge bomb. That man is a very strong man a man of good Christian character who actually stood for a council election today for the first time in his life. He actually got elected in the first count – not because his brother was killed in the Troubles because he never made reference to that at all in his election campaign – but because of his Christian values and his Christian virtue and his desire to work for all the people in the area of Banbridge that he met in the last two years ….
Connecting with people: “Behind what we do is to address isolation. That means connecting with people: if we attach meaning to events we have to connect with people. Self-help groups are excellent at connecting with people. When we go away on bus trips, when we go away to the theatre, we connect with people, we get the people out of their homes. If we never do anything else, just by doing that it’s a success, it’s a bonus, because the amount of people we work with who hadn’t gone out for long periods of time … I was just thinking: I’m currently involved in further academic work at the University of Ulster, I am on a … panel at Queen’s University, but really I’ve learned nothing in comparison to what I’ve learnt in the last 20 years and in the last 8 years in particular when we’ve commuted our career and our future to helping victims of the Troubles from all communities and from all backgrounds.”
Helping people to gain control: “When we talk about helping, we’re trying to help people gain control, control of their emotions, control of their lives, control of where they’re going and where they’ve been.
“And the three areas we look at when we’re trying to help people is faith, family and friends because, no matter how you twist it, and no matter how you bend it, or no matter what way you look at it, those are the three things that get people through trauma of any kind in life and particularly trauma related to the Troubles.
Faith and prayer: “And we don’t criticise people, or judge people on what faith they have – I’m proud to be a Methodist, a son of John Wesley, that evangelist Christian man from a number of hundred years ago – but I have to say it’s faith and it’s prayer. And I think of the 94-year old man who died just a few weeks ago. He was our oldest member who lost his only son.
“He was a policeman and he told me when I asked him. We used to deliver to him every week the meals on wheels service, and I remember asking him one time: ‘how did you get through your trauma?’ and he said ‘Gareth, only for the Lord I would have never got through.’ And that man died knowing and he used to quote from John 13. It is in the hereafter we know why the burden has been placed on the people that we work with.
War criminals: “I believe in calling a spade a spade. I think murder is murder. I think if some of the people were combatants – and I know Jacinta will not mind me saying this – if some of the people were combatants, that they thought they were fighting a war, I believe they’re war criminals. I think to tie people into diggers and to drive them into … blocks and to go into men’s homes watching TV and shoot them in front of their wives and children. And it doesn’t matter which community was doing it and I don’t care if it was the British army or the police were doing it – if it was done with the intent to kill it’s murder.”
Respect: “And I believe quite sincerely that respect is what’s its all about. I respect my Roman Catholic neighbours and I respect the people in England and I have great respect for the people in the Republic. I’ve always thought of politics – perhaps if I hadn’t lived in Northern Ireland I would have lived in a normal society with a normal political system. Sadly in Northern Ireland it’s not a normal society in that sense – we have a legacy of tribal politics, conflict and religion, but we’ve all got to live with that. And I believe that respect helps to overcome a lot of those barriers. Our Breaking the Barriers project has opened a lot of people’s eyes to what people down in the Republic of Ireland really believe. And I think we’re all united in many ways and that is to try and help each other get through the problems of life – health, education, employment, dealing with old age – these are all basic subjects and apply to us all.
Divisions and barriers: “And I thinkit’s important to look at what unites us instead of what divides us. I believe that every murder committed in Northern Ireland in the last 30 years … has built the barriers of the border higher and higher. I listen to the words the Lord Mayor said. It is about respect, and I know in Lurgan it’s sectarian, it’s a bitterly divided town, but yet all of us have friends in both communities. I would love to think that in years to come our children will not have to go through what my generation went through. … Perhaps we’re just caught in a trap and there’s nothing we can do about it, but I think we can all try and do something small no matter how small to try and help. Our humanity is what counts – it’s not our religion which we’re born into … it’s respect and our humanity that we should look to…
Ethos of H.U.R.T: “The ethos in our group is to help in any way possible those who’ve suffered in the Troubles and we have a little saying that ‘helping others helps ourselves’ and I do believe that and I believe that everybody in our organisation is a volunteer, everybody can lift the phone and phone other people and help other people and they do it all the time and that is the true rationale behind a self-help group.
“Now I’ve probably rambled on too long but all I can say is I’m delighted to be here. It was a very serious address but we are a very very positive group and we welcome some craic later on. Thank yon all very very much.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only)
Chair (Michael Reade): Re search for truth and justice: “While you were speaking I couldn’t help but imagine if things were different in the morning, if Ian Paisley was to sit down and shake hands and start governing the North of Ireland with Martin McGuinness in the morning and all the paramilitaries and arms were gone ….. The search for truth and justice: I wonder what would happen should we ever reach that day or what should happen? Should we call in the South African model of a Truth Commission – something along those lines?”
Jacinta De Paor: “That is something that our group had looked at because I suppose in Glencree we try not to impose a point of view, we’re very careful about that, so we threw it out to the general populace and the answer came back loud and clear from the victim survivors: ‘No, no way, how would we know it was the truth we were dealing with? How would we know that it wasn’t someone ether being paid or else trying to get off a tougher sentence? What’s this business of amnesty?’… And we looked to South Africa and we said ‘well yes it worked but it was very very tough on the victims who had to give testimonies and there was an awful lot of resurgence of the trauma for those people who were giving the testimonies’ and they said ‘well really where’s it going to get us?’ I don’t know and a lot of people I’ve talked to said that the South African model would not necessarily work here. I don’t know what will work here but we’re trying to look and see what may come up. I haven’t got an answer as of yet but the first answer was to no to …a South African style Truth Commission.’
Gareth Porter [sound unclear in parts]: “There is a feeling that we wouldn’t get the truth – after all, the IRA is in denial about the Northern Bank robbery….. there is also the issue of traumatisation and what would be the benefit, and also the issue of an amnesty…”
Q.1: Rev. John Clarke (Rector of Navan). “This question is specifically for the Lord Mayor, Michael Nangle … It’s not really in relation to the bombings actually or in that context but perhaps in hindsight would you say that when a large number of people leave one shore to go to another that it is a healthy thing to remain in close community with one another? I think it’s the most obvious thing to do, the most natural to do where we find solidarity in like-minded people, but I think of those perhaps that come to Ireland from other parts of the world – parts of Africa for instance – they stay very much in close proximity to one another and perhaps don’t quite integrate to the same degree as the European immigrants… Do you feel in hindsight that it is wise that a community, an Irish community, should remain in such close proximity to each other? I’m not saying for a moment that you didn’t integrate or that you didn’t feel part of the wider community …”
Michael Nangle: “Well when you look at the history of the Irish that came over from Britain – a lot of them congregated around the Sparkhill area what was known as a large Irish community. Now this was a pretty down-market, area rent was cheap and it wasn’t the leafy suburbs of Birmingham where if you were looking to have digs you were going to have to pay a very high rent. As time went on and the first generation became economically well off they have now moved out and moved out all over the city. The highest part of the Irish community is out in Erlington which is I think about 4% of Birmingham.
Asian community: “What has happened since is that from the Irish moving out to other parts of Birmingham and becoming economically viable the Asian community now have moved in because it’s still down-market prices. You can get a property which is cheap and then you can maybe hope that you can get a grant to be able to get an inside toilet – which I have to do because I’m Chair of Urban Renewal which was then spending 25 million on mostly the inner city, doing the roofs and putting in new PVC windows.
“Now as the Asian community are becoming successful economically they are moving out into the leafy suburbs. And … I go into a club called the Beauford club – it’s a members club – and about a year ago there was a conversation going on within earshot of me that all these ‘Pakkis’ were coming in and buying the houses around Hodgehill. And there were about eight men there and it was all for my benefit as a local councillor. And one came over to me and asked me how was I getting on, pleasantries etc., so I said ‘take a message back to him who’s selling them the houses at inflated prices’, because as soon as they know that an Asian wants to buy the house they stick about £5,000 to £8,000 on the price. The Asian family that are economically viable now can afford to move out into the £200,000 and £250,000, and £300,000 houses.”
Economics: “And it’s all to do with economics again – people gather because of the economics of it all. Now how you break that up within Ireland and even within Dublin where you’re going to have cheap accommodation – people will look for cheap accommodation … so it’s all to do with economics. When I came back to Birmingham I lived in a number of houses and I lived in … Charles Road which is predominantly Asian and we bought a house. My wife is a nursery nurse and was running a playgroup in Bournville and she saw this little house down a lane and I bought it for £2,200. I sold it for £8,000 fifteen years ago!
“It is to do with economics – it’s nothing to do with people wanting to gather together to stay beside each other. They will do so to begin with but once they see the system and the system can tell them that they can become economically viable that they can have a four bedroom house they leap for it. …. It’s all to do with money and now the Irish community – most of them that are living in Birmingham – do not live within the inner city, they’re all economically well off. A small percentage of the first generation we have to look after – they didn’t pay any income tax, worked on the lump – they’re the ones that we have to look after in the welfare centre and build the flats to look after them so there is a small percentage still around. And the same with the Asian community, the same with any economic group that comes into any city will gather at the cheapest point.”
Chair (Michael Reade): “It would seem that when you ghettoise the communities you will have problems … whether it’s the Irish in Britain in the seventies or communities in the North today. You mentioned yourself earlier the necessity for people to sit round a table. Again you’re bringing people together from different sides of a very bitter conflict …. and it seems – although I’m going to be contradicting myself – that the solution is very very simple or the solution is very very complicated.”
Jacinta De Paor: “On the one hand I suppose it’s giving support to people to come together in circumstances like that in the first place so that they can at least see each other, get used to each other, see the humanity in each other but it’s also giving them the facility that they can keep their own identity which is hugely important as well and that is something that we have encountered and it’s certainly a fear amongst the unionist community at the moment.
“It was a fear amongst the nationalist community and it has extended into the unionist community, the Protestant community on the border areas in particular, that if they’re going to engage in this kind of work what’s going to happen? ‘Am I going to lose my identity?’
Dialogue and breaking barriers: “And that’s where we have an awful lot of our work to do, to reassure people that just because you engage in dialogue doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on your history, turn your back on who you are and where you came from, but it still means that you can listen to the other person, you can drop the barriers. We were talking about breaking the barriers. Look at and listen to the other person and see the humanity in the other persona and go away from it not necessarily agreeing with every thing they say. Often people when they hear the term ‘reconciliation centre’ will say ‘ah well that’s all very nice and lovely and people are going to walk in on into the sunset together.’ No it’s not about that at all its about understanding, just understanding each other, retaining your own identity and your own belief system, but the ultimate thing is seeing the humanity in the other side and I suppose that is the crux of our work, that’s what it is … and its always been – Gareth used the word ‘respect’ – about being respectful of each other.”
Q. 2. Fintan (Pax Christi, Dublin). Re election system: “Question for the gentleman from Northern Ireland… I was just wondering: with the elections that we’ve just had and the local elections the results which are coming out at the moment would you feel that the non-transferable, the first past the post system that you have in general elections, does it gear people towards voting for the hard right or the hard left? If it had been transferable vote would there have been a better chance to get people of the middle ground? It was spoken of in one particular constituency that ‘that man in Derry’ [Mark Durkan SDLP] ‘would never have gotten that seat on his own. It was only the unionists that put him in’.
Now that is as far as I am concerned the exact opposite of what should be said and that is, that he was in a position to get support from both communities. Thereby he is popular in both communities of the middle ground. Whereas the hard left, hard right unionists who wouldn’t want to see any sort of diminution of their power automatically voted out to the hard right whereas if it had been a transferable vote, the chances are Trimble and a few others possibly would have slipped through because they would have got some transferable votes from the others. Now in the local elections we see the other side of the boat where my theory is correct but I’d like to see what your opinions are. Also in Birmingham would you feel that the transferable vote system would be a better idea there?
Gareth Porter: “I wouldn’t have the two elections in one day with two different systems of voting. I wouldn’t have thought that unionism in Londonderry would have been renowned for tactical voting…. I believe that Mark Durkan would have taken that seat in any case. A number of unionists did vote for him but that didn’t change the outcome…I think as far as the Westminster system goes I see no reason to change it … As far as PR goes and the council elections I believe that the PR system should help the middle ground. But I think what has been happening for a number of years and we published a wee booklet called “The Forgotten Victims” in 2001 and it was a number of interviews with around fifteen people associated with our group, none of whom are involved in politics or very view who would understand the intricacies of the political system. In that booklet it was said in 2001 that the spin off now from the Belfast Agreement was going to leave within a short space of time to the DUP and Sinn Fein working out what they would bargain for ….Now there was nobody in that arena fine-tuned into the political system but the truth on the ground was that the other parties – for different reasons – were seen not to deliver.
“We have a North-South Rural Voice Project because we are also a rural group. Some of the folk from Glencree and across Northern Ireland and in our council area came to talk on a Friday night and were then hosted by the Lord Mayor of Craigavon on the Saturday morning. I’m pretty sure and everybody at that meeting was very aware that David Simpson knew he was going to win the election…. He finally did. But certainly he was going to win because of his work on the ground. I think the PR is the best system for the middle ground but I also believe that if you were going to achieve a lasting deal in Northern Ireland, a political deal, you are going have to get a position where there is an end to parties having paramilitary terrorist wings as they sit in government.
Belfast Agreement flawed: ‘I personally believe the Belfast Agreement was totally flawed in several regards. It was flawed in the release of prisoners which was not linked to genuine, open, transparent decommissioning. To me, you had given up all your cards on the prisoner releases and had nothing left to play. The fact that we stumbled on for a number of years with the twin-track approach of the ballot box and the baseball bat and the revolver on one’s own community because … it would be a breach of the ceasefire to shoot someone of the other religion but it is not a breach of the ceasefire to stab, shoot, or any other method of killing, people from your own religion. That hypocrisy … doesn’t sit easy with Ulster Protestants, they are too darned straight. They just don’t see the world in that fashion. That is why they do call a spade a spade and they saw the process as a political sell-out and it was only a matter of time to get to where we are today.
PR: “But I do believe the PR system, to answer the question, is the best system for the middle ground but I honestly believe that the middle ground was eliminated…. The problem with Unionism – politics isn’t being seen as delivering and I suppose people want something new. And a friend of mine once said “All politics ends in failure”. …but I wouldn’t change the Westminster system – “first past the post”. A number of years ago on the Shankill Road, the Shankill people voted for one or other parties – Michael McGimpsey’s [UUP] against Gerry Adam’s [Sinn Fein], but it was never going to change the election. …..
Michael Nangle: “It’s difficult to get them to vote anything. When you get them out…
…..The only good thing that might have come out of PR in one place would have been maybe Una Keane against George Galloway. ….. I always say to certain councillors that are coming to stand: ‘one is enough, one is enough to get you there’…. You have to work harder because the one thing about it is, if you’re a councillor and you’re not doing your work in your ward the people know about it- they know about it, and whether it’s PR or any other system they’ll take them out so it is a councillor’s ability to be able to say: ‘I’ve been a good councillor for you and I want to be re-elected and then it’s up to them ….”
Chair (Michael Reade): …Has Tony Blair let us down in asking Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, to double job?
Michael Nangle: “Well I don’t know. … I know that Peter Hain worked hard in relation to South Africa and he stuck his neck out. … I don’t think its going to make a great lot of difference in Northern Ireland politics in all honesty ….. and I think that’s the hard choice that they have to make on both sides: it’s either that they’ll have peace for future generations or else we leave a legacy which everybody can point that we’ve left the place in a mess.
Q.3. Gerry Carolan (L.I.V.E. group): “Mr Mayor…. You mentioned the Birmingham Bombing …I know two of the victims concerned ….. The real miscarriage of justice was against the victims, but according to the media, the real miscarriage of justice was against the perpetrators. I trust you are aware that Chris Mullen in his book claims to know the bombers but won’t reveal it. There’s a miscarriage of justice……….. It’s the duty of care of Birmingham City Council to continue to look for and arrest the bombers. ….It’s great to see positive things being done in Birmingham, but you can’t afford to build the new city with that unsafe foundation. Also Gareth has used the term ‘volunteer’. That has been abused by the Provos. I don’t like it being used by them, I don’t mind it being used by Gareth! “
Mike Nangle: “With regard to Chris Mullen, I don’t believe a word he says! ….I don’t want to keep you here all night, but I know a lot more about the six who were arrested because …. And three weeks after it was all over we ended up in a house chatting, so I do know a little bit about it and I know the threat that … [a certain MP] came under and my phone was tapped for 15 years….….all that was said is clouded in mystery. There have been so many words written about it now, you don’t know what is the truth and what is not the truth in all honesty …. If Chris knows the people he should name them. Murder was committed and that’s the end of it. People like Maureen Mitchell suffered. That’s the legacy. If I knew I would tell.
Apology needed: “We still want an apology – we won’t stop asking for it – for all the atrocities, all the paramilitaries have committed atrocities and that has got to stop. We’re going to leave a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Abstention from Westminster: “Our children need something better and that is the world people should be working towards… Somebody that is going to be made an MP and sit in the House of Commons to take their salary and be a backbencher and not contribute to peace – that is fraudulent. I don’t know what it is about. I get £40,000 a year to be a councillor. If I sat back at home I’d be out on my ear…… People want people to represent them. There is no point in getting £40,000 or £50,000 a year salary and not contributing to your society. They will hold an advice bureau and that is it. That is what any MP in Northern Ireland can do, hold an advice bureau and send the problems into the constituency for somebody else to resolve it. They are not contributing anything to the peace. All they’ll do is turn up at No. 10 Downing Street and have a chat with the Prime Minister and then walk out again and make a big announcement and within 48 hours it is all forgotten. …. They are taking money under false pretences, because they are not working for peace in Northern Ireland and that is all sides. Except for one or two, but the majority won’t sit down with one another unless the IRA surrender their arms……
Q. 4. Fintan: “Do you also feel Paisley wants peace?”
Mike Nangle: “Paisley is looking better now than for years! I don’t know. He’s a good MP. People hold it in their hands to give peace and tranquillity
Fintan: “I nominated Ian Paisley for President in 1990! But I feel he has an agenda that would be difficult to reconcile with the nationalist side”
Mike Reade: “Is it possible to get justice if you don’t have truth? To get closure?
Jacinta: “You have to give the people something where they can continue their lives
What are the people to do? Wait for people to say sorry. I say, by all means hope for an apology but you owe it to yourself to live your life to its fullest. Don’t let them win.
Gareth: “The justice issue is a very difficult one. In my area over 90% of IRA murders are unsolved and only 33% of loyalist murders were solved. There is a justice element to our group. … it is fair to say that our people have suffered the humiliation of knowing there would be no long-term imprisonment for a lot of these people. But they had reconciled – through going to me and from government ministers and the like – that if someone is caught, it will be two years in jail and out on licence. Now that in any society is unreasonable …. and there was a suspicion that the whole truth commission issue is about even extending those barriers. It is no surprise that for the two widows who are with me here tonight – again both cases in the 70’s and 80’s – the murders are unsolved. The situation is so bad that the local police are telling folks like ourselves, that even when we are giving evidence they don’t have the manpower to deal with it. Now we are looking at different aspects of that. But I think it is fair to say that as far as closure or assistance or dealing with the trauma is concerned, I think the fact that there is no justice adds yet another hurdle onto all the other hurdles and I think it is something that needs to be addressed. What happens is you extinguish hope and if you extinguish hope you leave people in a very difficult….dangerous situation for the generations coming down.
Third generation: “My fear is for the third generation and I’ve said this for some time but I think the grandchildren …. are probably the most vulnerable in our community and in our society. I believe if the governments addressed the whole sector of those lost loved ones, it could alleviate future trouble because who else has the right to claim under the hat of ‘victims’?
Cycle of violence: “So many of the killings that took place in Northern Ireland were tit-for-tat. They were a cycle of violence. We like to believe we can try to break the cycle of trauma but the bigger picture is we have to break the cycle of violence. … So often people went out and shot people because so and so had been killed. We have a case now – a lady in our group, her husband was killed. Three months later a young taxi-man, a Roman Catholic was killed and it was claimed in his name. I’m proud to say that the person in our group regularly talks to the mother of that young man from a Roman Catholic background on her own.
“I do believe resources in education etc should be pumped into the sector, but no one seems to be really interested except those directly impacted. I do believe it is right to continue to seek for justice. I can see the difficulties though.
Inquiries: “I said this openly to some people in the case of Bloody Sunday…a few of the police details…I think they have never got past “go” in a lot of the cases. The multimillions spent on tribunals has led to two difficulties: one is the hierarchy of victims – why were those 13 in Derry treated differently? £150 million could have done massive reconciliation work not only in Northern Ireland but on the island as a whole and on the mainland where there is a lot of grief. I think the government needs to look at that.
“But what happens in our own area? We now have six more inquiries. We have the Rosemary Nelson inquiry – she deserves justice as well. We have the Raymond Hamill inquiry from Portadown ….. And then we have the Wright case – all from Lurgan/Portadown areas. We don’t know the cost ….While widows on the ground try to prevent suicide and murder. We work on a shoestring. We have to try to achieve an outcome on justice. We have to demand at least the 2 years in prison
Mike Reade: “Is there a lot going on we don’t know about? Knock-on effect of the Troubles, eg a higher proportion of cancer among victims of the Troubles, and alcoholism and drug dependency, suicide feelings. The system gives them sleeping tablets etc
Gareth Porter: “There is a higher incidence of alcoholism and all of the above as Mike suggests. ….
Jacinta de Paor: “…. Yes, there is this secondary trauma and things that we’re seeing again – alcohol use like I’ve never seen alcohol being drunk, almost like in a desperation. I’ve never seen the level of drink that has happened around trauma. And we notice – and we always remark on it in the centre – the level of smoking. Ok we talk about prescription drugs but I mean people are seeking solace from all sorts of areas. The knock-on effect is huge and we’re not going to see it now until down the road, until things start to come out in behaviour problems with children. We’re seeing a little bit in crime figures going up and that, but until we really see – not alone the suicide numbers but the attempted suicides, and the real figures for the level of depression – I think we’re going to get an awful shock.
Inquiries – Bloody Sunday Tribunal: “I wanted to go back just quickly to when we were talking there about the Bloody Sunday inquiry, and having had some of the victims from that inquiry down with our group as well, there’s a further trauma – because people now point the finger at them and say ‘but you all got so much money, look you’re rolling in it, look at the millions you got.’ And there’s another trauma because they got none of that, they didn’t get a penny – it was the lawyers got it, and that’s what’s happening in every tribunal, and if we go ahead, if we seek justice in that fashion it’s not going to be going to the victim survivors, it’s going to be going to the lawyers and the solicitors and barristers. I just wanted to make that point strongly because we’re talking about traumatisation and further trauma and how it happens.”
Q. 5. Ray (Dublin): Re Prince Charles’ visit to Glencree: “This one is to Jacinta … I like you talking about Glencree because I know it very well. As a younger man I used to go up every Sunday and cut turf in Castlekelly … so I knew the place very well. The other reason I know it well is that the German War Museum is next door – a lot of people probably wouldn’t be aware of the fact that there was a very big young population of German children, mainly from the old east, and I was in class with four Germans and the father of one of them was a seaman and he was buried there. … I don’t know were you there when Prince Charles visited Glencree – is there any truth in the rumour that when he was being welcomed he said it was very nice to be in ‘Drumcree’ – did he say that?”
Jacinta de Paor: “To my recollection I think he may have done, but you’ve given me the opportunity to come back with an even more remarkable story that people may not realise from that time. … On that morning, I had the privilege to sit in a room roughly this size with him, and with victim survivors from the Troubles, and with people from all our programmes. And we were very taken first of all with the fact that he came on the morning of Princess Margaret’s funeral – that was happening that afternoon. But what was even more remarkable – a spine-chilling event that took place was that one of our participants was a former paratrooper and he started to tell the story of how his mother had been killed in Aldershot in retaliation for Bloody Sunday, and Prince Charles, as people know, is head of the Paratroop Regiment. And Prince Charles then started to talk …. and this is how our dialogues happen, maybe one person would start to tell their story and somebody else would start and match it back, and this time it happened to be Prince Charles who matched it back and talked about the time of Lord Mountbatten’s killing. Before he started his minders were telling him that it was time for him to go… and he said ‘no I need to stay here for another moment’ and then he started to talk about Lord Mountbatten’s killing and he said: ‘I was so angry when that happened, I was consumed with anger.’
“And then he talked a lot about what his feelings were like and then he said the words: ‘and I came eventually to a place of forgiveness’. And that was the chilling moment…. that was said in the room and … that was such an incredible healing moment. We’re talking about closure and we’re talking about healing…..”
Ray: “…At one stage Glencree was a reformatory, and the period I am talking about was what we called the Emergency and we cut turf during that period as there was no coal And the Christian Brothers ran that reformatory, and that particular reformatory was for young boys and deprivation there was outrageous, and I know as we used to call in there. … It was the way things were at that time. So when you say it’s now a place of peace I would immediately think of all the kids that went through there, mainly Dublin kids. It was a harsh regime. So thank you very much.”
Jacinta: “Thank you.”
Q.6. John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): Sharing in the closure: “Good evening. Just to bring it back to the last question – the point about healing moments and places of healing and all of that. One of the points about victims is that we have to realise that their feeling is part of our feeling. We must realise that – we must share in that. I haven’t heard tonight how that can happen … I’ve said this on other occasions … that, having seen the people that fought the war against the oppressor as they saw it, we’re not hearing with the same loudness or the same clarity the victims of that war …
“I’m not going to go down the road of right or wrong but they have to hear that story and I haven’t heard yet tonight how that story can be heard so that balance can be brought in so doing to this total catastrophe of the last whatever number of years we care to mention – 900 years, or 700 years or 30 years or whatever. We do need to do that as a nation. How are we going to do that? Maybe we could ask how we collectively share in the closure of the hurt of the victims.”
Gareth Porter: “That, I certainly believe, is a very difficult question – one of the key things is recognition and acknowledgment of what has taken place … and if this was shared and widened it would be a key part of the healing process. And you know we had perceptions in the North that the Republic was a safe haven for the IRA. We would still have problems maybe doing this type of healing in certain parts just on and around the border on security grounds or whatever. But that comfort and support was given to us as an organisation – and H.U.R.T. was the first group that would be perceived as a unionist or Protestant group in our sector to approach the Dublin Government for funding, and I know that we have no problem, and Jacinta will verify this because …. she’s been with us at various events, and I believe now there are something like six major groups in Northern Ireland that have been down to Dublin and have received funding and have received an open welcome and open support. So at that level I think it is important. I have to say, sadly, President Mary McAleese – while attempts were made to secure a meeting with her, while she had actually wined and dined the Ulster Defence Association, they did get a meeting, we didn’t. But I also do appreciate the good work that she and her husband are doing addressing social exclusion in that particular category. I have to say that maybe if we had been more militant we would have got the interview with her…..
Victims feel they’ve ‘become a burden’. “Sadly, so many of the people that we represent feel they’ve just become a burden, they’re an embarrassment, their pain and suffering is an embarrassment. And some people say ‘with the Belfast Agreement we want to move on, why can’t they move on?’
Building confidence and trust: “Most of the work we do is about building confidence, building self esteem, it is about building trust, and I know that the people from our organisation who have been down in the Republic and have met people and made friends, have that confidence. I could have brought 50, 60, 80 people down tonight to this meeting on a bus and their thinking would be no different to my views on the good people in the Republic of Ireland… and in Birmingham. And in one way it’s a slow process, we have to address both internally and externally those difficulties, but I think a more general recognition and understanding … I’m sad in some ways that in this period of our organisation – we’ve been established as an organisation for seven years – we’ve really only been funded for three and a half of those seven years. At a time that should have been a golden period for helping victims, for self-help groups, it wasn’t the case. And the sad thing was that it fell on individuals and funding bodies and individual senior civil servants in the North who actually took a view … as they knew best, about groups who were somehow political or could be deemed to have been influenced by political roots, yet there’s never been politics discussed in our organisation, never, and never will be. We very rarely issue statements….
“John, I hope that answers your question. It’s not an easy one. A lot of the work we do in our trauma programme – there are five key areas in trauma work: trust, self-worth, intimacy, control, security, and in those areas we tend to hope that we are overcoming the internal problems. As for external problems… I think it’s about recognition and support, and I think that has got to come at Prime Minister level and at Cabinet level and at high government level….
Churches: “I’ve been at sessions discussing why somehow the Churches failed to address the needs of trauma victims. And I understand, like many others, that fear of offending, of walking on eggs. You’re afraid to offend, you’re afraid to touch the raw nerve, but the challenges are there and have to be met at all levels.”
Michael Reade: “Unfortunately the time has got the better of us so Jacinta, although it’s a huge question, I would ask you to be as brief as possible in your response.”
Jacinta de Paor: “Ok very very quickly – I think we run the risk of concentrating around the conflict on the victim survivors and on the combatants or perpetrators, or whatever name you want to put on it, and that’s a very convenient thing because we let ourselves off the hook, and I’m speaking as somebody from the Republic here. What we have done in Glencree may be a start I don’t know, but it’s an idea of bringing in all parties to the conflict and its not just the victim survivors and the ex combatants but it includes the wider civil society and the churches and we have some initiatives happening where big business are asked to send people to our programmes to, I suppose, give an account of themselves in a way – that’s what we’re hoping will happen: where were you while the Troubles were going on? So it’s back to ‘what did you do in the war daddy?’ It’s ‘where was the Republic while all of this was going on? Where were we?’ And I’ve stood up in the North and said this and I get a very good response, but I think really now that we have this peace time we need to be asking these questions. I’ve probably given you the topic for another discussion but I think when you have the Minister for Justice here I think it might be a very good time to say well right that’s all very well but where were we and where were you as well when this was going on?
Chair (Michael Reade): “Well we’re close to the end now. Truly it has been a thought- provoking evening and appropriately we’ll ask John Clarke to take the stage for now…”
Rev. John Clarke: “May I, on behalf of the Meath Peace Group, extend our very sincere thank you to the panel here this evening and to all who asked questions and to you, Michael, for chairing the meeting so wonderfully well again. Grateful thanks goes to the panel members and the Mayor for travelling here this evening and for sharing with us. A very sincere thank you on behalf of all of us and thank you all for coming along…. And may I also thank the Columban Fathers for facilitating us here tonight.
Presentation: “There will be a presentation now for the Mayor and for the groups who have come here tonight, and that will be followed by a minute’s silence for those who died in the Birmingham bombs and all who lost their lives in the conflict.”
[On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Mrs Philomena Boylan-Stewart presented books on Meath and it’s heritage to the Mayor of Birmingham, and to the representatives of the H.U.R.T., Glencree and L.I.V.E groups.]
Rev. John Clarke: “We remember all who suffered and died in conflict and trouble in Northern Ireland, here and elsewhere. We think too of the bereaved, the survivors, the families and friends of the deceased. We remember too in these moments of silence all who died as a result of the Birmingham bombings.”
[Minute’s silence observed]
Meath Peace Group report. Taped by Judith Hamill and Jim Kealy
Transcribed by Elizabeth Clancy, Judith Hamill and Julitta Clancy
Edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
Appendix: Birmingham and other bombings in 1974
[Extract from handout distributed before the talk]
Birmingham bombs: On 21 November 1974, 21 people were killed when IRA bombs exploded in the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in the Town pubs in Birmingham city centre. More than 160 people were injured, many of them very seriously, and many of the dead and injured were from the Irish community. [names of those killed listed below]
The following account is taken from Lost Lives (David McKittrick et al, 1999):
“The first bomb exploded at 8.17pm, six minutes after a warning was telephoned to the Birmingham Post and Mail by a man with an Irish accent. The telephone warnings said the codeword was ‘Double X’ and went on: ‘There is a bomb planted in the Rotunda and there is a bomb in New Street at the tax office’. …The Mulberry Bush was situated on two lower storeys built into the Rotunda, a large office block dominating central Birmingham. A policeman who was driving towards the scene said: ‘We were about 300 yards away, just cresting the hill, when there was the loudest thunderclap and rumbling and ground shock. Debris was coming down all over the road. It was like a volcano had erupted, people running and screaming. The Mulberry Bush had sort of exploded out onto the pavement – rubble, half a staircase, glass, carpets, bartops and furniture blown to bits, and injured people staggering out….
“Further along New Street, at the Tavern in the Town, customers heard the explosion at the Mulberry Bush. The pub, which was situated below street level, was crowded with over a hundred young people when the bomb went off minutes later. One of the barmen said: ‘There was an almighty blast and there were screams and shouts from everywhere. The ceiling fell in and the bar blew back at me. It was just a screaming mass of people. I saw one man with the side of his head blown off.’ A police inspector described going down into the basement bar at the Tavern on the Town: ‘I could hear the sound of crying from people who were still in there. We could feel people reaching out to us as we stood there, but we couldn’t see them.’ A woman customer described the scene after the blast: ‘The lights went out and there was screaming and moaning everywhere. I flicked on my lighter and saw my friend next to me had lost her foot. I thought I was dead and that my spirit was just carrying on.’ Another device left at bank offices in the Ladywood area of Birmingham failed to explode.…
“There were harrowing scenes at the coroner’s court when, over the space of two hours, the families of the victims were led in turn to the adjoining mortuary to identify their loved ones for the second time. Many of the grieving family members were close to collapse during the ordeal.”
“The bombs triggered a wave of attacks on Irish community centres, bars and businesses. Thirty Midlands factories were hit by strikes held to protest against the bombings. Attacks on Irish workers were reported at some factories. At Manchester and Liverpool airports workers refused to handle flights bound for Belfast or Dublin. …
Within days the House of Commons passed into law the Prevention of Terrorism Act proposed by Home Secretary Roy Jenkins… That Act allowed suspects to be held for up to seven days without charge and allowed the Home Secretary to issue orders deporting people from Britain to either Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic.”
[Lost Lives, David McKittrick et al, 1999]
Birmingham Six: Six Irishmen, most of whom had been living in England for some years, were charged with the murders. The six were Richard McIlhenny, Johnny Walker, Paddy Joe Hill, Gerry Hunter, Hugh Callaghan and Billy Power. After a lengthy campaign their convictions were overturned at a second appeal hearing. The Birmingham Six were eventually freed at the Old Bailey in March 1991.
Appendix to MPG report 56 (May 2005)
Taped by Jim Kealy and Judith Hamill
Report transcribed by Elizabeth Clancy, Judith Hamill and Julitta Clancy.
Edited by Julitta Clancy
© Meath Peace Group
Acknowledgments: Meath Peace Group would like to thank all who have assisted in the planning, organisation, publicity and recording of the talk, and those who prepared refreshments. Special thanks as always to the Columban Fathers for permitting us the use of the facilities at Dalgan Park, to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund for assistance towards the running costs of the talks, and to all who have supported our work in any way.