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From Belfast - the legacy of the 'Troubles

category antrim | rights, freedoms and repression | opinion/analysis author Saturday September 15, 2007 11:26author by Davy Carlin Report this post to the editors

This is part three of four parts in this series

A Legacy

Seeking to deal with the legacy of the ‘troubles is an issue that is more and more coming to the fore in recent times. Indeed a recent report in regard to the Upper Springfield area {Murph, Turf, Whiterock and surrounding areas} spoke of the sheer extent of how citizens from those areas are suffering from mental ill health. This is a situation that is compounded, still, by socio-economic deprivation and poverty for many. A situation that can lead also to alcohol and drug addiction through to self-harm and suicide. Indeed this area and it’s surroundings including the Catholic and Protestant areas of the Falls and Shankill, are the most deprived areas in the North of Ireland and not long ago tabled as one of the most deprived areas in the whole of Western Europe

This is the area where many of my relatives and I grew up and live still - an area despite the hard work by those grassroots activists and volunteers on the ground that sees still many citizens lives become worse in the last decade.

For example, even in very recent times and on such local ‘activism, it has and is seeing oneself with others seeing through conservation, renewal, and revitalisation of the Falls Park, Black Mountain and Bog meadows - for generations to come. We have also seen resources secured for educational and community facilities and initiatives for the most in need, and more, this worked through many avenues, which will benefit many locally – for generations to come. And then there is the ‘Bigger issues where I have also played my part in bringing about ‘Fundamental change {to write about in my latter years} that has benefited many many more – again for generations to come.

It is on such ‘real and ‘continual deliverance and change that I base my activism, and not simply on the fact that I was at the forefront of several local and International mass Movements of the time.

Yet this is because I have moved on in recent years {since leaving my former party} to that of ‘real politics and playing my part in, standing with and moving through with others, real change in the community and surrounding area that I live. This while also mobilising local on international issues in which we have seen some limited change made to the benefit of the some of most vulnerable internationally.

And at all times seeing my politics through the basis of class, may it be presently sitting on the Friends of the Falls Park Committee through to the GCAP committee, or organising and mobilising locally against Water Charges through to building for the First ever Belfast Anarchist Bookfair

Indeed with the recent very first Belfast Anarchist Bookfair seeing over 150 citizens attend, and with such citizens participating at the Bookfair being at the fore front of Northern Campaigns, such as the We Won’t Pay Campaign {the forefront campaign against water charges} through to delivering key and real change at a local and community level – I believe Belfast and the North will indeed see real fight backs against neo – liberalist governance, and yet more such continual gains in the time ahead.

{Note – the closing meeting of the Bookfair was on the issue of Water Charges in which I and another ‘activist, who was involved in defeating the charges in the South spoke – I will do up a report of that meeting shortly and the points we raised}

Yet as this society sees many ‘move on with their lives and seeking to live out their dreams many others though live out a continual life of depression, isolation and poverty. An issue brought about not only by the decades of socio – economic deprivation and discrimination but also by the ‘troubles. This is not only reflected in the Upper Springfield area but in many working class communities and ‘across the divide.

What though did those ‘troubles entail that had such an effect on so many, as many are asking, well I give but some memories through the eyes of a child. It must be said though that this is but one child in one particular area at that time. There are many different areas, Catholic and Protestant, and then there where the young soldiers again from working class areas, many joining up as such areas afforded little other chance of getting out, and there were many more again who worked in many other fields of the state, and each would have there own particular story to tell of.

Imagine -

Imagine a child’s eyes, a ‘blacken face, an ‘unknown of the times –

From his earliest of years, the child remembers.

First there came the fear -

He remembers cradled in a mothers arms as the bomb blew through the windows, cradled in a mothers arms, as the bullets whiz around his home lodging in a wall just inches from the child’s head. Just the first of so many times so close to death, yet he survived a survivor in so many ways.

He remembers those whom he loved and knew with their faces bloodied and their bodies bruised. This was men, women and children alike, targeted by those ‘foreign men who rained out brutality, to both himself and to those that he cared for.

The child remembers the smashing up of the home, the smashing in of teeth, he remembers holding together flesh torn limbs with his tiny hands and remembering the cries for help and the howls of pain.

Then there was the smell of burning flesh, insides opened outside, falling onto the ground.

And then there was death.

Men, women and children he seen, some dead, others in their throes of death, and some again, just before they die, as the bombs or bullets rip through them.

The child remembers looking into coffins, and seeing the other coffins that could not be opened such was the brutality visited upon them. He remembers some names of those faces he looked upon in their death such as Bobby Sands, and then there where others that he did not know their names, as there were many. He remembers watching death on the ground, some cold, others still warm, but at rest.

It was a child who thought he was becoming immune to death, immune to slaughter, immune to brutality.

Yet it was not that that had walked the fear through his mind

The child’s remembers when his loved ones had not returned home at dark, he remembers first going cold with fear for their safety, and as the night goes on and they still do not return, he loses his breath, then the child falls from his bed, night after night gasping for air, through sheer fear and panic – and then came the fits and convulsions, quenched and soothed, he thought, in later life by drugs and alcohol.

Then he is tormented at night by the dreams, of those with no faces, no limbs, and their cries for help and their screams of agony, in which he cannot help – and he feels so helpless - so alone.

And while he awakes from his nightmares he then at times relives them for real, in the daytime.

Indeed the child fears for those he cares for, so he faces the war alone, brutal armies against that of the child.

Indeed a war in which the child had fought many many battles.

Then came his defiance –

As the child grows older, so many beatings by so many, at times so brutal that he thought he would die. Indeed at times he thought - would it not be better.

Those self inflicted hidden scars on the outside to attempt to shelter the child from the deeper scars on the inside, the scars of a child who lived the life of a wronged and brutalised man.

Now he looked into the eyes of a primary school child, a child no longer remembered, a child with a bottle and liquid inside – a bomb in hand.

Indeed looking at that ‘unknown child, such was his eyes, though he carried no gun, I believe had he been given a gun he would very well have used it – Yes I believe that child had taken enough, indeed everything that could have been, had been thrown against him.

His anger moved to hatred, intensified with every act seen or heard against a neighbour or loved one.

Name after name of those the child knew through the years got longer and longer, of those who had left or had been brutally removed from this world.

And so it went on, and on, and on.

And -

Two decades later, that child now the man was still being attacked and beaten but by now knives, hammers or bats, they did not stand in his way, indeed he would not leave this world without a fight – and he would fight back brutally .

The child now the man two decades later, heard again the howls of agony and seen yet more insides on the outsides, in the very streets that he had been driven into picking up his first bricks and bottles.

Two decades later the child now the man remembers running away from his place of work and a bomb going of. He remembers as the mother had cradled her child two decades prior against such a bomb, now he cradles a teenager in his arms.

The teenager’s eyes spoke of that that he had once known, that of fear, and as the child now the man looked back, he did so through his, now, eyes of nothingness.

Imagine such times, and more, much more, and the effects they can still have today if not addressed.

Throw into that the poverty, socio and economic deprivation, breakdown of communities, break up of families, and the lack of hope – then real problems arise.

Today we have peace, yet in such working class estates many still live in fear, and that new fear walks our streets. Indeed as I write this it has been reported that a pensioner has been murdered close to where I live – he was attacked and stabbed in the head - with a screwdriver – by teenagers – girls and boys involved

And so I hear people say that it is worse now than in the troubles and for many who live in fear and poverty that is true. The criminality and anti social behaviour in such working class areas in now causing havoc to many of the most vulnerable. We are seeing a situation that can lead to a growing underclass in the time ahead; this cannot be allowed to happen.

This issue of the ‘troubles must be addressed not only for those seeking closure into the deaths of loved ones – but for those simply seeking closure. The effects of what was witnessed and of the times can have serious long term effects on those involved. Many can turn to drink, drugs etc, in an attempt to numb the pain, while others will develop more acute mental illness.

Therefore real resources need to be directed to those communities as a priority to deal with this issue, and all associated, and grassroots activists will continue to battle visible and otherwise to achieve that.

Yet to deal with such past trauma strong communities as well as ‘understanding and supportive communities is also beneficial as is such support from families. Yet for the individual if there is a sense of hope, of a future, of something to battle through an addiction or some illnesses for, then in many cases citizens can battle through such with such support.

Indeed that hope must be given, so this and future generations need not live through what that child and many more had lived through.

Yet what we are seeing is a slow but continually visible breakdown of some communities, due to the social and economic situation of such areas, the effect of the Troubles {and all that entails with families and throughout the community} and the increase in ‘minor anti social behaviour and criminality that in many cases is leading to more serious issues, and thus the New fear, that many feel.

Over the years I have worked with many who while not in full agreement with my politics nevertheless have worked to attempt to effect change. And while solidarity is needed to bring hope to others in far of lands, such hope for many is still needed here.

As we move forward we need to move forward with an outreached armed to bring those in need with us.

Yet if there is just a few arms then they will eventually ache and tire - if there are many arms then we can all work to ensure that all in need are cared for, whether Catholic Protestant or Dissenter.

Those born into such poverty, born into such brutal times, many are attempting to work through such trauma and effect such change, not only for themselves but also for their families and for those generations to come, so such a situation need not arise again.

Therefore additional barriers should not be put in their way and all support and facilities need to be forthcoming to end the ‘New Fear and bring real hope and change to such communities, who have already suffered so much.

And on that note, many will continue to organise and mobilise visible and otherwise to seek such change – yet the many arms of grassroots and civic society are better than that of the few arms, especially on these issues that need to be urgently addressed.

author by Davy Carlinpublication date Sat Sep 15, 2007 11:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Attached is Part one and two - Part four will go up on Indymedia Dec 27th 2007

This article had been quite difficult to write - so I leave it as I have written it and will not be coming back for debate on this one.

It is something I feel important to write at this time and I publish it first on Indymedia as I will do part four

Signing off - D

Related Link:
author by Davy Carlinpublication date Wed Sep 30, 2009 15:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I link here my blog that has today been updated with more points added to the article

'Dance to the sound of the underground.

It is linked here as some ties into above article

Link -

As Always

In Solidarity


author by Davy Carlinpublication date Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Updated blog linked to this thread.

link -


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