23 May 1995
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Marie Smyth (Sociologist and psychotherapist, Magee College and Temple Group Project, L/Derry)
Ann Mc Mullen (Ardoyne Survivors of Trauma Group, Belfast)
Brendan Bradley (Ardoyne Survivors of Trauma Group, Belfast)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
John Clancy welcomed everyone to the talk and introduced the speakers: “Our first speaker tonight is Marie Smyth – she undertook one of the first seminal works on the impact of violence, in this case State violence relating to Bloody Sunday. She’s gone on from there to widen her palette, if I may use that word for her expertise – she’s working with the Disabled Police Officer’s Association, and is presently on a two year sabbatical from the University of Ulster, where she is doing study and research into sectarianism, a very important study and a very important area which must be addressed. She will be followed by Ann Mc Mullen and Brendan Bradley, both from North Belfast, where, within a circle of one mile radius from the centre of the Ardoyne, over one third of all the fatalities, murder and terrorism of all kinds took place. I think it’s very important to remember that. Ann Mc Mullen lost two of her family – she lost her brother in 1981 (shot by the IRA), and she lost her father in 1989 (shot by the UVF). Brendan lost three of his family – in 1975 he lost his brother, in 1992 his sister was shot, and in 1994 his nephew was shot. In Brendan’s case as well he lost his family through terrorism from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland. So tonight, each will talk about how the violence, the loss has affected them.
“Unfortunately, the WAVE group who had also been invited to speak, were unable to travel tonight.
1. Marie Smyth (Sociologist and psychotherapist, Magee College and Temple Group Project, L/Derry)
“Thank you. I’d like to start by reflecting on something that was mentioned and kind of glossed over in the introduction and that is that there are different sources to the violence that has happened in the North over the last 25 years, and each of these sources has its own set of meanings and set of experiences.
One of the things I have been interested in doing is exploring violence that hasn’t been explored up until now. So my first piece of research was conducted on a kind of violence that had not been research before. No academic, no person had gone and talked to these people before, and those were people who had experience of “State violence“, people who had been killed by the security forces. So the first piece of research I would like to talk about is that, and I’m assuming that the other speakers won’t necessarily be talking about that. The second group that I would like to talk about, very briefly, as my work is at an early stage, is in fact the State forces themselves, because the next piece of work that I have done is actually talking to them and beginning to uncover their experience of the Troubles as well.
So that puts me in a kind of peculiar position, because I talk to all sorts of groups. WAVE who were going to be here this evening – I talk to them, I talk to the Disabled Police Officers, I’ve talked to people who’ve lost family members in Bloody Sunday, who subsequently joined the IRA and served prison sentences, so I’m moving between a whole range of groups in the North, and there’s major problems on language and I want to talk a wee bit about that for a moment.
‘Victim’: “The term ‘victim’, is a problem; its a problem for all sorts of reasons. I recently gave a talk in Stormont, and I used the term ‘victim ‘, in relation to the families of Bloody Sunday, and I talked about the “Victims of Bloody Sunday” – I got a very angry response from some of the disabled police officers who were there; they said “these people were not victims, they are terrorists”. So the word ‘Victim’ is a problem.
‘Survivor’: “I have a problem about using the term ‘Survivor’, because when I interviewed people in the first study that I’ve done, and in the second study that I did, I discovered people who may be alive, but I would argue that they have not survived the violence at all, they are severely affected and continue to be over a long period of time, and the word ‘Survivor’, therefore does not attach itself easily to these people. As a result of which I talk – and I use the term quite deliberately – of ‘People Affected’ – not victims, not survivors but ‘People Affected By’, and that’s the term that I’ve learned to use and it’s the only term that I can actually use with all the different groups that I’m working with, and I’m happy with that…..
‘Violence’: “So what do you call the violence?. The first term I used was Political Violence, and you can imagine this is the talk I was giving in Stormont, and we had different disabled police officers this time saying, “excuse me, this isn’t political violence, these people are terrorists – these are criminals, there’s no such thing as political violence in the North of Ireland, they’re all criminals etc.” So you can’t use that term – that’s out.
‘Murder’ is a term that is used by all groups but other people commit murder, they do not commit murder, so that’s a problem as well. You can’t use that. The “war” is a term that tends to be used more or less within Republican circles, it’s not used by Loyalists. So I’ve ended up using euphemism, which I’m not terribly happy about, but it’s the only term that I can find that everybody shares, that is “The Troubles“. So I talk about “People who are affected by the Troubles“.
For all kinds of reasons which I don’t need to go into now I don’t use the word ‘Psychological’, because that carries a whole other weight of meaning to it as well. If you say to people “You’re psychologically affected”, there’s a kind of implication that these people are a bit ‘loopy’. And I argue very strongly that the people I’m talking to, even though they have symptoms that you would associate with mental illness, are in fact perfectly normal people having perfectly normal reactions to very abnormal circumstances. So that’s really why I am refusing the term ‘psychological’, and I prefer to use the term ’emotional’- “The Emotional Effects of the Troubles“.
The issue that I referred to earlier, about the term ‘victim‘, is really an issue about the legitimacy of people’s suffering. In order to be a victim, in order to qualify as a victim, this is terrible to say this, but I think it’s very important that you understand this, in order to qualify as a victim, you must be innocent; and there are huge problems about defining people’s innocence within a very conflicted society, where people are at loggerheads with each other and they have competing political interests.
Principles: “…. You’ve probably gathered from the kind of weird boundary crossing that I’m doing, that basically I work on two principles:
1) The first principle is humanitarianism – I don’t care where the person is from or what political views they have, or whatever, my job professionally as a psychotherapist, is to treat human suffering where I find it, and I have a kind of ethical commitment to doing that. So it doesn’t actually matter whether I’m dealing with a police officer – I’m from the Catholic community, that was a huge challenge for me to do that, because in my past I personally sued the RUC for wrongful arrest, so you can imagine the piece of work I had to do in the morning before I went to do that. I’ve worked with Loyalists – again I’ve had my life threatened by the UVF, that was a difficult thing for me to do, but nevertheless I think that it’s really important that we’re dealing with humanitarian issues here.
2) The second is the principle of inclusion – that anyone that’s been affected, and I don’t care whether they’ve been a member of a paramilitary organisation or not, whether they’ve been a member of the security forces or not, whether they’ve used violence or not … everybody must be included in the framework. There’s no grounds for putting anyone out or saying they don’t qualify, they’re not legitimate; human suffering is legitimate and that’s basically what my work is based on. … That’s the preaching over! Now down to business.
“The first theme I’d like to talk about is “The Emotional Effects of the Violence in the Troubles“, and I’d like to just spend a wee bit of time on the findings of the first study that I did, which were the bereaved families of Bloody Sunday – the people who were actually in that little group – the living group of the people who were killed. Then I’d like to just introduce you to some of the findings from the other piece of research and then I was going to make some conclusions. Somebody has asked me if I would talk a little bit about the proposal that I put to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, so I’ll finish by doing that.
I. Emotional Effects of the Violence – Bloody Sunday families:
Framework: “The first thing I’ll say, just to be a wee bit technical, is the kind of framework that normally this kind of research comes into. PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a term that’s used in psychiatry, to diagnose people who have a deep-seated and ongoing reaction to trauma. So its post-traumatic and its a disorder of some kind, where the symptoms survive longer than you normally expect them to do after a trauma e.g. if I’m in a road accident you would expect me to be a bit shook up for a period of time afterwards, but after a period of time you’d expect the symptoms to go away. And what we’re dealing with here is something more over and above that where the symptoms last for a long period of time or indeed one of the things which I find is where the people had no symptoms at all immediately afterwards, for maybe a period of up to ten years, and this is the thing that really is quite bothering; that after ten years for example somebody loses their job, and suddenly they have all the symptoms associated with their trauma. So that’s the framework; that’s the definition there.
Three groups of symptoms that we’ll talk about:
1. Intrusion – e.g. flashbacks. Something triggers the person into being back in that experience, it’s not like remembering it, it’s actually re-experiencing it, you see, you maybe even smell the smells that you smelled at the time of the trauma, and you actually go back into the experiences, it’s not like memory at all, it’s actually re-experiencing of some kind.
Intrusive thoughts. Most of us will normally have some kind of experience of intrusive thoughts e.g. if you have been bereaved, even if it’s not a traumatic bereavement, quite often for a period of time after, the person will come into your mind or you will remember something about the person, even though you are trying to concentrate on something else. Now for people who are traumatised by violence of the Troubles, these thoughts come into their minds all the time, uninvited, and they can’t get them out – some of the people anyway.
Dreams and nightmares: people will have dreams associated with the trauma; they will have nightmares to the point where they couldn’t sleep in bed with their partner anymore, because the nightmare would wake them up and they’re thrashing about in the bed, and so on. They would typically have the same nightmare over and over again. That’s the kind of symptoms we talk about when we talk about intrusions.
2. Hyperarousal: “you’re basically talking about your expectation of danger, so a typical thing if you’re in the North of Ireland and you do that – [loud bang on table] – the whole room goes OOH! That’s a very simple example of it, but literally you can see it in the general population. That is an exaggerated startled response and your autonomic nervous system, which is your nervous system that keeps you moving without you even thinking about it, is tuned up – it’s like a car engine that’s running too rich, if anybody here knows about these things. Your autonomic nervous system is very excited all the time, and that leads to a whole range of symptoms, but your expectation of danger, particularly, is very tuned up So for example, disabled police officers that I talk to will not sit where you’re sitting, they have to be near the door, they have to be near an exit. People who were on Bloody Sunday marches will not go into crowded streets, they need to be near where they can get away from the crowd, because of this kind of symptom.
3. Constriction; “ these are emotional symptoms and they’ve got to do with our emotional responses. What actually happens there is that people shut down their emotions, they don’t feel so they lose interest in things they were interested in beforehand, they will lose interest in their family, they’ll withdraw themselves emotionally from relationships, and so on and so forth; there’s a whole range of these symptoms we can talk about. They can become apathetic – they’ll say they don’t care and in this particular group of symptoms, in this particular response people will also induce this state in themselves by the use of drugs and alcohol, so if they can’t actually induce it through their own emotional responses they will achieve it through the use of drugs and alcohol as a kind of anaesthetic to the pain that they’re experiencing.
Method of research:
“I believe one of the things that’s dreadful about doing research is that we research a people; we go out and we ask them questions about themselves and we take them away and we make sense of them in a room, usually in an ivory tower of some kind, and then we publish it somewhere and the person that you’ve interviewed has no sense of what you’ve said about them; and secondly you cannot take part of the picture sometimes and you may not get it right. Academics are notorious for not getting it right, in my opinion anyway. The main reason that I was determined not to do that was because in many ways, that’s what has been happening to people in the North of Ireland, particularly people who have been bereaved. Bloody Sunday families and other people have had paths beaten to their door by the media – they have been, I would argue, quite exploited by that experience, where their emotions have been portrayed on television and all the rest of it, and really they have no control over that whatsoever. I would argue, as a psychotherapist that that actually re-traumatises people, it doesn’t help at all.
So when I was going to do the research I was determined I was going to try not to do that, so I worked with a group of families and they collaborated with me in the research – the people who did the tape transcriptions were family members; the people who arranged the interviews were family members. I transcribed each interview and gave it back to the person I had interviewed so that they could read what they said, correct it and give it back to me and when I finished the research and put my findings together, the first group of people that I presented it to were a group of the families and they criticised it and offered me suggestions and so on. So basically that’s also an important point, because I think very often in the past it hasn’t been done that way – someone has come out with a questionnaire and they’ve asked you questions and they’ve ticked it off and then put it in a computer somewhere and then people have no access to that. I think people really have had enough of that in the North, and indeed elsewhere.
I interviewed 15 people, the interviews ranged between an hour and a half to, in one case, three and a half hours. With the exception of one person, all of the fifteen people interviewed told me that I was the first person to ever ask them how the felt about Bloody Sunday; they meant that I was the first person to ask them about their emotional reaction as opposed to how they were related to the person that was killed, what did they think about the Widgery Tribunal, what did they think about the British Government and nobody had actually sat with them and explored their emotional reality and their emotional responses, which I find a totally horrifying revelation and it really made me distressed personally. The second remark I’m going to make is that it was the most distressing piece of research I’ve ever done. Bloody Sunday happened 23 years ago now, and I went into houses and really I was opening up things that really were as fractious now as the day they happened. That was an extremely taxing experience for me as researcher; normally I am an old hand – I can do 4 or 5 interviews in a day. But then I could only do two interviews in a day- one in the morning, a break at lunch time for a cry, and another again in the afternoon. So it’s very demanding and very difficult research to do.
Themes that came out of the interviews:
1) Justice: “The first theme that came up again and again and again was the need for justice. I now know from other research that I’ve done that that’s something that happens to other groups as well. For example, the disabled police officers that I talk to will say “we haven’t been fairly treated”, and they will either equate that with the Police Federation or the Government or with the compensation they got- they feel unjustly treated. And obviously the Bloody Sunday families feel unjustly treated and almost every single person I talked to, and certainly in the questionnaires that we distributed, it came up again and again – the need for acknowledgement that these people were killed unjustly. People couldn’t put it away, they couldn’t let go of it, and say “right, it’s over and done with”. Because in their mind it’s not over and done with and in fact some of the families are pursuing a case at the European Court even as we speak. So that was something that was keeping it going, keeping it fresh.
2) Grief: “Allied to that was the whole issue of grief, and that being reactivated or re-stimulated by for example seeing coverage – there’s constantly documentaries in Northern Ireland, which use footage from Bloody Sunday. So if you are a family member, you can turn on the TV, thinking that you are going to watch something and suddenly, there it is, back in front of you again. Bloody Sunday is public property, so you never know when you are going to come back into it again, and again it’s your family member that’s been lost, you’re restimulated and the grief just comes back every time this happens.
It also happens for people who’ve witnessed other kinds of violence in the Troubles. For example, a woman told me, if you remember there was a helicopter going from Northern Ireland to Scotland, that crashed and there were a number of people killed. If you remember the TV coverage – there was a row of coffins at one point, and for one moment that row of coffins took her straight back into Bloody Sunday, because again, on Bloody Sunday there was a row of coffins. So there’s all sorts of visual things that trigger people and take them back into this experience.
3) Lost trust: “The third theme that came up in the interviews was the theme of lost trust. That idea – that up until the trauma happened, you might have known that the world was a kind of unsafe place in patches, that there were things that were risky and other things that were less risky – but for the people that I talked to, what actually happened at the point when they were traumatised on Bloody Sunday, was that they lost trust completely; the world was not a safe place any more; the world was universally dangerous, and it was risky to do all sorts of things that, before the trauma, appeared to be quite safe. And there were all sorts of issues about trusting people that previously they had trusted.
4. Feelings of vulnerability: “again that is something that came up in all of the interviews, the feeling that it could happen again. And particularly allied to this here, the first one, the need for justice, the idea that this kind of thing could happen, that it hadn’t been addressed, and therefore this could happen to any of us at any time. Indeed when I looked at what these families told their children, one of the things that children were told all the time was “you better be in by seven o’ clock or eight o’ clock”, or whatever. “Remember what happened to your Uncle Mickie” or “remember what happened to your father” or “remember …” and it was constantly there as a kind of threat out there, and a feeling of vulnerability as a result. It happened once so it can happen again.
5) Intrusions: “I have already mentioned the whole issue of intrusions; the whole idea that it comes back into the arena of the family; that it’s discussed without it being invited, that its not been decided that we’re going to talk about it, but it’s there, uninvited all the time.
So these are the kind of themes that we found.
Conclusions from Bloody Sunday research:
1) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn’t make any sense in Northern Ireland at all. We weren’t dealing with post anything, we were dealing with something that was ongoing. …People were being re-traumatised by new episodes of violence. Now I don’t know about post-ceasefire, because I haven’t actually done the research since the ceasefire. But basically the kind of traditional psychiatric framework for looking at this, I’m throwing it out the window, I’m not happy with it.”
2) Abuse of trust: “The second thing is a really shocking thing to say, and it was something I was really nervous about saying to the families of the Bloody Sunday victims, because it was in their research that I found it. There’s a lot of concern about the emotional aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, but I was seeing, in the interviews that I was doing with people who were traumatised by Bloody Sunday, virtually identical symptoms to what one would expect to find in somebody who was traumatised by childhood sexual abuse- the same profile of symptoms and all the rest of it. The parallels it seems to me are that the person who is in the position of great trust, and who has great power over you, abuses that trust in a very fundamental way. In the case of childhood sexual abuse that’s a parent, in the case of Bloody Sunday, it was the State, That there was no recourse, there was no higher authority that you could go to. As a child there’s no higher authority than your parent, and as a citizen there’s no higher authority than the State. So what I was seeing was very much like the kind of psychological and emotional effects of childhood sexual abuse.
3. Gender differences: “I found big differences between men and women. I found men much more likely to self-medicate on alcohol, I found women much more likely to use what’s termed “street valium”. I found women much more likely to become depressed – I found two women who had been hospitalised for mental illness, and in my opinion, though I’m not allowed to diagnose in this country (unlike the United States), these two women were misdiagnosed. They were actually suffering from the effects of Bloody Sunday, but they were diagnosed in some other kind of way. One man has been diagnosed as a “paranoid schizophrenic” and he is not. Why he is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic is that he gets extremely drunk, and when he gets extremely drunk he thinks everybody is a paratrooper. So it seems to me quite clear, without knowing that that man had lost a son on Bloody Sunday, you might think that he was paranoid, but in fact, when you realise that he had lost his son on Bloody Sunday, you realise that something else is going on here. And so men and women tend to deal with it very differently.
Also, men in the families that I interviewed were much more likely to be treated differently – the families policed the boys very carefully, they watched them when they went out at night, they watched till they came in again, the fear was that they would get involved. That didn’t happen to the girls – the girls were considered to be safer on the streets and all the rest of it. There’s a whole difference between how men and women are affected and how boys and girls were affected. Girls very often are expected to take over parental roles – the parents of those who were killed were much worse off emotionally than siblings. So if your brother or sister was killed you had a much better chance of surviving emotionally than if it was your son or daughter. If you think about it, the role of the parent is to protect the child, so if the child is killed, that’s a huge huge trauma, whereas if it’s your brother or sister somehow you’ve still got a parent up there, so there’s all sorts of things that we could talk about all night, but we won’t.
4. Support and services: “The last thing I want to talk about is the lack of support and services to these families. Again we’re talking 23 years ago, and the only people that were available to provide support to these families were the GP’s, and what GP’s were doing, by and large, was doling out tranquillisers, and that was all. Also if you remember that this happened in Derry, where very often the GP was a member of the local community, and indeed may have been on the march himself or herself, that therefore there’s a whole community trauma that we’re not even talking about.
General conclusions from the research:
1) Numbers of people affected: “If you take it that there were 14 families involved who had lost somebody on Bloody Sunday, and if you multiply that by the average family size which is fairly large in the community concerned, you’re probably talking about roughly 200 people. And of the people we interviewed, we found that 50% of them had symptoms which were disabling or prevented them from going about what could be termed normal lives. So if you multiply Bloody Sunday by the number of incidents that there are in Northern Ireland, and you think about the hundreds of people who are affected by each incident, what I’m saying is that the emotional effects in the general population in Northern Ireland, I would estimate to be huge. I think there are huge numbers of people out there who are emotionally affected by all sorts of incidents throughout the troubles.
2). Untreated symptoms don’t necessarily go away. There’s this happy notion, which I think has been invented by civil servants and maybe academics as well, that you know you get over things – that something happens a year ago or two or three years ago, and three years down the line you’ve kind of put it away and you’re getting on with the rest of your life. That is not to be found at all.
“This research was done a year ago, it’s 23 years since Bloody Sunday. Almost 50% of the people we saw, after 23 years (22 years we looked at them, but I’m still in touch with them, so I know that they haven’t made miraculous recoveries as the result of my interviews or anything), almost 50% of them had trauma related symptoms 22 years later. And the untreated symptoms didn’t necessarily go away – people were still having panic attacks, they were still having difficulty going out of doors, they still panicked when they saw RUC patrols or foot patrols or people on the streets or whatever, and the other thing I mentioned earlier on was that just because people seemed to cope very well at the time, didn’t mean that they wouldn’t ever suffer from symptoms.
One person that I spoke to – he was actually one of the people that was shot on Bloody Sunday and survived, and I subsequently talked to him, and he was fine for I think it was 10 or 12 years, and he was made redundant after 10 or 12 years. Up until that point he had denied who he was, he didn’t disclose to people that he had been shot on Bloody Sunday at all. When he was made redundant he somehow lost something that was very important to him and which held him together, and he went into full, classical post traumatic stress disorder – he couldn’t go out of the house, he was having nightmares, night sweats, etc.etc, and he is the only person out of all those I talked to who was actually diagnosed psychiatrically as having post traumatic stress disorder. But it happened 10 or 12 years after the trauma – not at the time at all. So again I think that has implications for the long-term care of people who have been exposed to some of the traumas that have gone on. I said access to services is non-existent.
4. Need for non-medical support: “The other thing was that there was a fear on behalf of the people involved to look for help; because what they were scared of was that if they went to their doctor, the doctor would send them to a psychiatrist, and that the psychiatrist would tell them that they were crazy. So one of the conclusions I’ve reached is that it is actually very important to have non-medical self-help kind of support available to people; that actually there is no reason why a doctor or psychiatrist has to provide the type of help that people may require, but it’s very important to locate that outside of a kind of labelling system for people and that it’s normalised in some way.
The kind of things we saw were panic disorders – i.e. people would have panic attacks all the time without warning, so they were scared to go out shopping in case they would have a panic attack in the shop. One woman in particular, who actually did the transcription for the research, was very severely disabled by panic attacks – if I wanted to take her to a meeting, I’d have to call for her and take her in the car even if it was only in the next street; she’s very very scared about being out of doors. And sleep disturbance was virtually universal. It was very funny when I was presenting the research, because the other thing was that people didn’t talk to each other about this. So we’ve got this campaigning group of people working on the European Court case, and they don’t talk to each other about how they sleep at night; so I’m standing in front of them saying “well actually 50% of you have got sleep disturbance, and so they start looking at one another and saying “have you got sleep disturbance?”. There’s a kind of isolation – people were stuck with these issues and not necessarily talking to each other about how they were feeling about what was happening to them.
Hyper-alertness, I won’t bang the table again – you know what that is – and Somatic Disorders. In one family that I talked to, there were I think 10 children, one of whom had been killed on Bloody Sunday, and of the remaining nine, seven of them had duodenal ulcers. What I’m suggesting is that there may well be, now it’s not my field, but there may well be evidence that in the case of stress related things like ulcers, heart disease and so on, we may need to look at them in terms of the effects of trauma.
II. Disabled Police Officers.
“The second piece of research actually happened as a result of the Forum, believe it or not. There is some cynicism in the North about the effectiveness of the Forum, but this is an example of how it works. I went to the Forum and I talked about the research that I’d done, and one of the officers at the Forum said that he was very keen to involve people from the Protestant Community and also people from the Security Forces in the North, so I went back and he had given me the ‘phone number of the Disabled Police Officers Association, so I rang them up and went to talk to them. As a result of that I’ve done several interviews with them and I’ll be working with them trying to establish their experience which is very different to other groups and it’s certainly a huge insight to me, because I knew very little about it before.
The first thing that struck me was the isolation. If you can imagine being a member of the RUC in the North for the last twenty odd years and having to check under your car every day; not being able to trust people that you meet in the course of your life. That you go in to buy a newspaper, but you don’t know who’s there, who’s tracking you etc.. And there’s a kind of fantasy in the Catholic community that police officers are integrated into the Protestant community. From work elsewhere I know that that is not the case – there’s very much a little inner circle of people who are in the RUC who speak to each other, who trust each other, but almost anybody else outside of that experience is excluded. So it’s a very isolated and segregated community of it’s own.
That raises issues of identity, I call it Identity Management. I’ll tell you a story to illustrate it – one man that I interviewed has two bullets lodged at the base of his spine, and he’s on morphine continually. I was interviewing him and I said to him “well, how do you explain this when you go out for a drink or whatever?”, and he said ” well it’s very interesting, I used to go into the pub and people would say “What happened your leg?” (it looks as if it’s a bad leg, but actually it’s his spine), and I used to say I had polio”, and then I got caught out”. People would say to him “my sister has polio and there’s this new drug, Have you heard of it, you should go to your GP and get it”, and he would be drawn into conversations where he would be caught out basically, where it would be discovered that he didn’t have polio at all. So now he says to people, “Look mate, many years ago I got a skin full of drink, got into my car, I crashed the car, I did this injury to myself, I’m totally ashamed of it, I don’t want to talk about it, Okay”. So the man is unable to explain what actually happened to him in terms of disclosing who he is to people in the broader community. You can imagine the difficulty that sets up for the person emotionally, in terms of forming relationships and maintaining relationships, outside of that – all related to security issues and fear and all the rest of it. Huge anger at the authorities and the government, anger at the government particularly, about services. The perspective within the DPOA (Disabled Police Officers Association) would be: “we acquired these injuries through the serving of our country, look at the way we’re treated now, we’re shunted to one side and all the rest of it.”
There’s also associated a sense of injustice about compensation, about support, about access to disability benefits and all the rest of it. There’s huge anger at the attackers, and in some instances, that is generalised out into the Catholic community, as a whole, and I think that’s a feature of many of the groups that I talked to. There’s also a lack of services, and part of that is actually an awareness, as well, because one of the things that I discovered with this group is that they were actually asked, way back, if they wanted counselling, and the response that they made was, “what’s that?” So they actually didn’t know what to ask for, and therefore weren’t provided with it. They were very suspicious of me when I first went there, and they said ” are you a psychologist?”, and I said, “well sort of -yeah”, and they said “oh the last psychologist we met we didn’t like – they interviewed us for 15 minutes and told us we were all fine and sent us away”. They feel very strongly that they deserve a special continuing support, and they feel a loss of status, role and career….
“Generally within the RUC, it is the case that, if you declare yourself to be under stress, which you might well do if you imagine the kind of stress that people have lived in, you automatically lose any prospect of promotion. So there’s a huge disincentive for people to actually say “I’m under stress “. They must keep it to themselves and cope with it as best they can.
“Isolation from former colleagues is the other thing. If you can imagine the disabled police officer with the two bullets in his spine – to his colleagues he represents something, which is basically “this could happen to me next”. So quite often you’d find that able-bodied police officers have stepped back from disabled police officers, and they’re not actually integrated, they won’t visit them, they’re embarrassed, it’s too difficult, they’re fearful and so on and so forth. So there’s quite a lot of isolation from former colleagues within the ranks of the RUC. There’s also isolation from civilian organisations that are dealing with disability issues, for all sorts of reasons, security and all the rest of it. And there’s a lack of attention completely to the emotional needs of disabled police officers, including their own attention.
I mean they’ll talk to you quite happily about ramps and wheelchairs and pain-management and all the rest of it, but they are really tentative around issues of their own emotions and how they feel, beyond anger – they can be very angry quite easily – but beyond that there really isn’t any access to other kinds of feelings.
I locate that very clearly to the general attitude to stress within the RUC, very stoical – you must keep a stiff upper lip and get on with it, and it’s not a culture in which it’s okay to be stressed out, or to suffer from stress, and therefore when people are disabled there’s no repertoire of behaviour to deal with that at all
“I’ll just tell you the story of the proposal – basically what happened was I got a bee in my bonnet abut it after doing the first piece of research, and the bee in my bonnet was that although there were some existing services, really the group of people I’d talked to, the Bloody Sunday families that I had talked to, had been largely left without any kind of services at all, and I sit on the committee in Stormont, which is extremely boring, and they don’t do very much; so I thought this is an opportunity to kill two birds with the one stone – I can make the meetings more interesting and I might actually do something useful as well. So I took the research findings to this committee in Stormont, and said to the senior civil servants there, we need to do something in terms of delivery of services to people affected by the troubles. I was expecting to be thrown out but they listened very carefully and then they said “what do you think we should do?”, which I thought was quite a remarkable kind of question, but anyway, they didn’t seem to have any ideas of their own, so I went away off and told them what I thought they should do, and this is what I think they should do:
Independent Body: “The first thing which needs to be done is to establish an independent body responsible for the provision of support services to those affected. I said this earlier – it’s not political violence anymore, it’s the troubles.
I feel very strongly that there needs to be some kind of independent body. Independent from the State, because people who have been affected by State violence have a difficulty in using it. Independent from professional people like psychiatrists, because that puts a label on people that’s not useful, and it needs to be in the hands of people themselves, that they need to have a lot of control and access to it.
I don’t have any vested interest in this, I’m really putting the suggestion forward as a way of stimulating debate about what needs to happen, and I did that at the Forum, and I also lobbied at Europe, and in the Peace Dividend that was announced about a month ago there is an inclusion of monies to go to services to those affected by the troubles, and also in terms of pay management for those physically disabled by the troubles. There has been a kind of space created now for the creation of some kind of initiatives and that those initiatives are bottom-up, i.e.. they are created and controlled by the people themselves as opposed to people like me. So that’s basically it.”
2. Ann Mc Mullen (Ardoyne Survivors of Trauma Group):
“I haven’t been to university. I’m a mother, I’m a housewife, I’m a grandmother, I’ve four children, three grandchildren. My first recollection going back to the beginning of the troubles, is 1971. That was the worst part of it , when Paddy [ -] was shot dead in front of me, in our front garden. He was an IRA Volunteer, and he was out doing his bit for the people of Ardoyne, that’s what I thought then, and still do to a certain extent. We were evacuated as a family, I was the head of that family. Mammy and daddy and the older ones stayed and I was evacuated to Navan, down to this area. Going from that then through to 1981, was when my brother Anthony was shot dead by the IRA. He was 22 years old and married with three children. They classed him as an informer, which they still have no proof. About 6 to 8 weeks later, after Anthony was killed, what I believe was the real informer, was brought to the fore. During that time I suffered what I’ve called a nervous breakdown. I attended a psychiatrist twice a week. I got shock treatment twice a week. I was on all sorts of tranquillisers, and so was my mother at that stage. I am going through this in a very quick way, to get it out of the road or space without boring you to death. The next was 1989, when my father was shot dead. He was shot dead sitting saying the rosary with my Mummy, it was a Sunday night. It was the 19th of March and he had just made her a cup of tea. And after they had finished the tea they went out into the kitchen and were saying the rosary, when the UVF burst in and they shot him dead. He was shot nine times. Again the family sort of fell to pieces during the wake . There was a lot of good people came to that wake in the line of support and support for the family. I don’t think it was really necessary at that stage – it was really afterwards, when the funeral was over, for weeks after that, maybe four to six weeks after that, we could have been doing with some sort of help.
“My own feelings for the people that shot Anthony, which were the IRA, and the UVF that shot my daddy, are – I just feel so sorry for them. I’ve no hatred for them. I actually tried to meet the person that shot my daddy ….. He was sentenced to four years for his part in my daddy’s death. There was nobody else convicted. There was nobody ever got for my brother’s death, although we know who these people are, we’re in a sort of daily contact as you could say with Anthony’s killers.
“That’s it basically. That’s just it. That’s my story of how the troubles, as this lady calls them has affected me as a mother . And I hope this peace that we have, it’s very fragile peace, but I hope whatever it is that’s up there in the north, will continue. And people down here and England and America and everywhere else that’s involved within this peace process, to really work at it for the likes of me and my children that are coming up and the grandchildren, and not let it go back to what we have been living in for the past twenty-five years, which is mainly behind steel bars.
“I took my steel bars down when the cease-fire came about, and they’ve gone back up again from reading the “Sunday World ” front page, when the UDA or is it the Red Hand Commandos, some Protestant organisation are stockpiling. We wonder what they’re stockpiling for. So this is something else that we’re hoping doesn’t come about. If they want to stockpile for World War 3, let them go ahead, but leave Ardoyne alone, the rest of Northern Ireland- the ordinary people don’t want to be involved in it. That’s it.”
3. Brendan Bradley (Ardoyne Survivors of Trauma Group)
“ I’m from Ardoyne as well , from a large family, there was 15 of us, including my mother and father – 13 children. I can’t ever remember most of the family ever being employed, anytime they wanted to get employment they had to go, they had to move out of Ardoyne ….. there was never employment for them in Belfast. But a bit like Anne, I’ll talk about myself a wee bit first. I was the second youngest of my family – nine boys, the rest were girls – four girls. We were brought up by a mother and father, of course. Both of them were blind, registered blind people. The mother was very badly severely handicapped with blindness, the father had one eye – they met each other in the workshop for the blind on Ladbrooke or Ladybrooke, whatever it’s called. My mother was a Protestant, my father was a Catholic. I suppose they didn’t see eye to eye, it could be said! Both of them got married – they lived on the New Lodge Road, it’s an all-Catholic, ghetto-like area, in North Belfast. They moved up to the Ardoyne just before the Blitz. During the Blitz -1940-’45 World War 2 thing, they moved out of the house that they were in, into our house, bringing us right up 1969, when all the family had been born. The youngest brother of mine, Francis, and myself and a couple of other kids, were actually moved out……but we were moved out in ’69, but it wasn’t in fact until we’d seen what had actually happened – a place called Butler St., Hooker St., Herbert St., had been attacked by the B Specials, who led in Loyalist mobs who burned down the houses – that was my first experience. And then the shooting in the house of the B Specials, from a gun turret on top of an armoured personnel carrier and killing Lynch. That was my first experience of death but I was to learn more about death as the years went on. Ardoyne is a community of 6600 people.
“Out of them 6600 people over the last 25 years, there has been 180 people, friends, relatives and neighbours, killed. It affected me. I think the only way I can describe it is, I heard a lady talk about a mental block you put up . It affected me – I mean every street corner tells a story – you have to walk by it, and you remember the person that died there. It affected me as if I was an ambulance man or a fire brigade man – death is a thing that comes natural, this is a thing that you see all the time. I mean people with no heads and stuff like that, it just came normal.
“1975 came along – what happened then? Well there was a lot of police activity in our area, a lot of people were being pulled in for one reason or another. I was involved in what is termed “cross-community” work from 1973 to 1975. This cross-community work was sort of on the peace line; it was a wee hut where everybody , sort of “weighed in” – Protestants and Catholics. The police took great notice, great attention to what I was doing, not because of cross-community work, but because I knew everybody who lived in the wee village, within the Ardoyne. I knew everyone and everyone knew me – a big family, a big extended family. So what they were interested in me was – would I work for them? Would I come out and work as a spy on my neighbours, to find out who was up to no good? And when I refused this, they kept on harassing – every week you were being arrested, every week, for one thing or another. They used to do you for ‘ impeding a policeman in his duty’, “riotous behaviour”, “throwing petrol bombs at the police”.
“I remember being arrested at the same time that Anthony was killed, and they were trying to get me to work for them at the same time, and when I refused they brought up this charge – whatever – I think it was robbery they called it.
“Whilst being in prison, my brother actually died – he was killed in an explosion which was planted by the Protestant Action Force in a garage outside of Ardoyne, in the middle of town actually, in Belfast city centre. And what happened was – I wasn’t there, I’m only relaying what I heard happened – the brother went to see a picture in the picture-house, it was in town. By the way in Ardoyne there’s no facilities at all – there’s no picture-houses, no playgrounds, no nothing. The Belfast City Council will sit and tell you the most deserving place in North Belfast would be Ardoyne, but we don’t want to spend any money on it. Last year in [?] an area that joins our area, which again is a nationalist area, they spent £5 to fix a lock, that was the whole expenditure award – £5 from the City Council. But lucky enough we have other things set up there, I’ll explain them to you later.
“When the brother died, I was in gaol – I was in Long Kesh in the ‘huts’. I was on remand. And what happened was about 8 or 9 o clock in the evening, the doors opened and in come the prison wardens and the guy who was in charge, the warden or whatever you call him. And he comes up and he said, ” Have you a brother outside?”. I said, “I’ve got a load of brothers outside “. And he said “Have you one called Francis?”. I said ” I have “. He said ” Well he’s dead”. And he just walked away. This was this man’s compassion to me, telling me that my brother was dead.
“Francis was the youngest one of the whole family, and if he heard a sound like the lady made [bang], he would run, he would run. I mean he didn’t build up any immunity to the sound, he wouldn’t duck, he would just run, that’s about he way he was. And when he told me I couldn’t believe that he’d get caught up in such a thing, until afterwards I realised what had happened. He went to get a spare tyre that he had left in the garage, to be fixed, and he went back to the garage and his petrol gauge wasn’t working in the car. He was 17. And he asked the gent that was working behind the counter, ” Have you any spare petrol cans? ” Your man said ” there’s a load of them over there in that corner – go way over and get one”. So he went over and lifted a petrol can that was booby- trapped. A petrol can in all these petrol cans, that blew him, that blew his stomach and his hand and leg away. I mean it could have been anybody, but it happened to little Francie – fate I suppose. But the Protestant Action Force says that they were trying to kill somebody in the garage ……
“The next death happened in 1992 in the middle of a festival, the Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil, in August, just after the festival actually …..
“It was the 21st August – a sister of mine had come over from England to give my other sister a respite from looking after the mother who was senile at the time. She was on her way home – it was her last day. She was actually leaving at 7 o’clock that night. She was walking from my home to another sister’s home, and somebody decided that they wanted to fire at the soldiers or the police who were coming down the road. And they fired three shots. And they killed my sister and they wounded another civilian – not very successful in their shooting at the people who they were trying to kill. But the end result was there was somebody who died, and it happened to be my sister. I couldn’t really say that I really grieved for my sister.
“When I went over to see, my brother was hanging over her; and she was face down on the ground, like a couple of yards from where I live. I said to him “Who is it?” And he says to me ” It’s Isobel “. And Isobel was so like trying to get up, to sort of look round her, but Isobel was beat out, I mean Isobel was going to die – I knew that. I just shook my head and says “I feel so helpless, I mean I can’t do nothing for Isobel, I mean Isobel’s gone or she’s going”.
“When I looked round at all the stunned people who were aghast that this here had happened – you know it happened in a busy street where there were loads of people going about their business to a shopping complex. I looked at them all in amazement – they were all standing there, you know the expression, or maybe you don’t know the expression of people standing aghast at what happened. And then as being part of a small community group I looked at Isobel and I looked at the people and I says ” I can do nothing for Isobel but I will try to do something for the rest of these people, through community work. What I’ll try to do is make them aware of how they are living and what way they are living in the area. So I got involved more – I buried my head deeper in the community work.
“On a workshop trip out – we do work in every street, we don’t have a club or a hall, or anything like that, we do work out on the street, because in a recent report it says that 75% of all children in North and West Belfast do not use youth facilities. There’s three thousand youths live in Ardoyne, so 75% of them is running about the street and nobody looking after them – nobody trying to help them. So what we did was we had this programme – we go out into the streets – we load the bus up with parents and children and we take them wherever they want to go. I mean if we have to bus them to a park ‘cos there’s no playing facilities, or an indoor play area or the zoo or wherever they want to go. And on one of these trips to a place called ‘Jungle Jim’s’, an indoor play area, I was sitting with the children, just last May (1994), and the guy who was driving the bus came over and he says , “I’ve a bit of bad news for you” . I says ” What is it ?” He says ” Big Martin was shot “. I says “was he shot in the bookies, was he shot in the bookmakers?”, ‘cos that here I expected him to be. But he says “No, he was shot in Patricia’s house”. I had to go away and find out what had happened. Well Patricia’s house was the house that my other sister was going to when she was shot, and she was going with Patricia’s daughter who was 11, called Joeline, and Joeline was standing beside Martin when he got shot. She was beside my sister when she got shot, at 11, and now she was standing beside my nephew when he got shot. She’s 12, 13 now.
“And having all these deaths in our area, 180, we see people again, I mean nobody has a monopoly on grief. Grief attacks all of us one way or another”.
“But Martin’s death really got to me, ‘cos Martin was a big simple fella, who had no animosity against anybody. It was actually the first thing he would have done when he came into my house or into anybody’s house, if there was a small child, he would have lifted it and put it on his shoulders and walked about. He was a big fella, but he wasn’t very brainy, he wasn’t very bright.
“So when these people came in to kill Martin, he was standing with a child on his shoulders, and my sister cooking chips, and the niece standing beside the sister. And this guy came in and he says “hi boy” and shot him four times in the head. We had to go in and identify Martin on the kitchen floor to the police. They says they wanted to get it over and done with – they didn’t want us to go to all the bother of getting a way out to the mortuary, so they let us do it there, which when we went in it was a bit of a mess.
Who really cares about us? “So as I’m saying, all these things – when Martin was being buried, that’s when it hit home to me “who really cares about us, really?” I mean the only people that care about us is us. And the only people that’s going to help us is us. Everybody else can talk about us, but they don’t talk to us.
Peace Dividend: “I went to the same things that the lady went to for the European money, for peace. In Balmoral when we had John Hume, Jim Nicholson and Ian Paisley, the three MEP’s for Northern Ireland – and there was people there from banks, that were looking for this money – saying “could we have this money, because we could make it much easier for the people to borrow from us”. There were people there with big farms saying anybody with money shouldn’t be excluded from the Peace Dividend. There were people there from Queen’s University who were looking for the money. Everybody was looking for this money, but it’s supposed to be for the damaged communities – the communities who have borne the brunt of the troubles, the so-called ‘troubles’.
Unemployment: “I had that gentleman, he was one of the European Commissioners – he came up to my house for tea, all he got was tea jam and butter, it was the only thing that was there, you know what I mean. I’ve been unemployed for seventeen years – I haven’t had a job. Any job I’ve been offered was £80 a week … £80 a week isn’t going to feed me – I have four children and I’m going to be a grandfather, hopefully. I mean the work that’s there – it’s non-existent. And the only work that can be created is the ‘feel-good factor’; if people feel good about themselves, if they can get someone in to create work like that there, for to make people feel good about themselves, that’s the only work we ever see coming to the Ardoyne.
Because there isn’t going to be any big Sony factories or big Ford factories, where they’d create hundreds of thousands of jobs – it’s never going to happen. So what do you do with all the unemployed? Me as an unemployed person, I mean as I’m saying, all these people were talking about me – they were all talking about the damaged community – I just looked at my family and said “we’ve got a microcosm of everything that’s happened in Northern Ireland – the family is a microcosm of everything that’s happened in Northern Ireland.
So what we thought was – I mean a couple of us got together and created a situation in Ardoyne – we’re building up an infrastructure, where people are trying to make their own way without, because government people come and they say to you “have you got your qualifications?” We don’t have no qualifications. The only qualification we have is ‘life’. We live there. We know exactly what’s wrong with it. You see all these people generalise about us – us, who live in a wee small community like Ardoyne, ” you know they’re all this and they’re all that..”, but we aren’t. “We’re 6600 different personalities in there who all want to shout – who all want to talk about their experiences, but nobody gives them a platform. The only ones they’ll talk to are the people who, if you don’t mind me saying it, are real educated. I mean we do a wee bit of research ourselves – to be successful in anything, 25% of anything to do with success is your aptitude, your brainpower and your talent, and the other 75% is commitment. And the people of Ardoyne, through thick and thin, through all these murders and everything that’s gone on, have the commitment – the commitment to live there, the commitment for a stable community, and the commitment to carry on to do whatever they want to do.
And, as Ann says, hopefully this peace will last, and that nobody else has to die – God, I hope that nobody else has to die. But unless they sort out the problem, they’re dealing with the symptoms, and the problem is a big problem, that they’re going to have to tackle – and that is the Irishness and the Britishness of the people who live in North of Ireland. Unless they sort that out, I mean 10 years on, who’s going to start burying our own children? Thank you.”
Chair: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group John Clancy thanked the speakers for coming. Before taking questions he mentioned an interesting statistic – “it was described earlier that over 200 people were affected by the 14 deaths of Bloody Sunday – if you equate that with the three and a half thousand that have lost their lives over the last 25 years, then somewhere between a quarter of a million and half a million have been scarred by that violence – I think that’s a salutary lesson to us all. I think it’s just interesting when all the rhetoric is done, and the posturing of the various groups, this is the hurt and wound that is left in the society that constitutes Northern Ireland”.
Editor’s note: there were many questions from the audience but these were not recorded
Meath Peace Group Report. 1995
Compiled by Marian Kerrigan from audio tapes recorded by Anne Nolan; edited by Julitta Clancy
Meath Peace Group contact names 1995: Anne Nolan, Slane, Co. Meath; John and Julitta Clancy, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan