“Deliberate amnesia, that’s what that was about.”
It’s never easy talking about “The Troubles”.
Even writing those two words seems inadequate. Vaguely insulting, as though I’m reducing more than two decades of carnage to the level of lumbago or a persistent acid reflux.
Any words – particularly in a limited blog like this – are going to be less than satisfactory. How do you talk about that level of hate and grief? About the constant fear, the endless loss? About a civil war* on British territory?
However, talk about it we must because the price of forgetting is too high to pay. The ghosts of those events – and the families that survive them – deserve better than the cultural amnesia which Margaret Urwin – and not just her – sense has taken place on both sides of the sea.
It is not just about memorialising the dead. The story of Northern Ireland and its place in the UK (or otherwise) remains unfinished. Brexit and its subsequent Northern Ireland protocols are in direct conflict with the demands of the Good Friday Agreement. Square pegs, round holes.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech this year, threatens to obscure and give pardon to events and actions in the province that would otherwise be deemed illegal.
There are still dues. Plenty of dues.
And until those debts are paid, or at the very least acknowledged, it will remain hard to talk or write about “The Troubles” from my corner of the south coast. But nor can I ignore them. They are too much a part of the Diaspora story in this country, too much part of the history across the water.
I wasn’t sure what reception I’d get when talking to Margaret Urwin. By my accent and manners, I’m a Brit, no matter what my heritage. The overt and covert actions of the British military services lie at the heart of all those atrocities that Justice For The Forgotten is seeking to uncover. At one level – thanks to the ministrations of Jack Byrne – I’m an ally. At another, I’m the oppressor.
So I didn’t know what to expect.
What I found was grace, patience, charm and poetry. Alongside steely determination and hope.
I hope you do, too. Because these are things that we can talk about.
*Another bizarre pairing of words.
BOOK: “A State In Denial” by Margaret Urwin
BOOK: “Fermanagh: From Plantation To Peace Process” by Margaret Urwin
WEBSITE: Justice For the Forgotten
VIDEO: First Tuesday – Hidden Hand
BOOK: “Lethal Allies” by Anne Cadwallader