Troubled Over The Irish Troubles

source: public domain

On my way into republican Newry from the border town of Dundalk, it was dark by 6pm. I’m 12 years old and I’m wearing a scary mask in the back of my sisters car. We come across a checkpoint and flagged down by a soldier. He shines his flashlight into the back of the car, smiling and comments on how scary my mask is. A shy 12 year old I laughed and felt very comfortable in his presence. In my eyes he was there for my well being. I failed to see him as others normally do. To the republicans he was an unwelcome presence in Ireland.

The next night on February 13th 1997, I switch the news on only to see he had been murdered by a sniper. The bullet went through his lower back, up his spine and was so powerful it came out and damaged his gun. He subsequently died from his injuries. I remember a great sense of sadness overcame me, and I could never forget his face. In fact, I would not see this news piece nor his face again until yesterday when perusing videos on the troubles via YouTube. I wish I had left the subject alone. It brought to the surface childhood memories of playing up North. They were memories I’d tied to an anchor thrown into the depth of my subconscious never to be seen again.

The shockwaves from bombs in the distance, screaming from riots at night and waking up to my sisters car being damaged by rubber bullets fired by the RUC (now the PSNI). I’d watched on YouTube footage from 1988 I’d never seen before of two off duty British soldiers who were dragged from their car, beaten, thrown in the back of a taxi, shot several times and dumped on the falls road of Belfast. They were heading back to HQ only they had taken the wrong turn that would cost them their lives.

They came upon a funeral cortege of a member of the IRA. When challenged by the stewards about their identity, they tried to speed away. In their panic one soldier (the driver) got out of his window brandishing a 9mm pistol and was rushed upon by the mob. He fired a bullet into the air not wishing to harm anyone in hopes of dispersing the crowd and saving his life. While the crowd dispersed for a moment, they rushed back in determined to make a kill.

Yes, Loyalists would kill innocent Catholics, and republicans did the same. Soldiers caught in between and the RUC often colluded with the Loyalists but it would be unfair to say all of them did. Lots of dirty tricks were employed by soldiers to stop all this terrorism and they went to desperate and even criminal measures to do it. For the most part, soldiers were there to do a duty to stop terrorism from both sides of the divide.

After seeing the footage of the soldiers being pulled from the vehicle last night I was angry. I did not see them as enemies. I did not view them through patriotic or cultural eyes because God and his law of love is above these passing things we hold dear. I saw two men who were once loved by their mothers brutally and unfairly murdered.

Shortly after watching the YouTube Video, my head was buried in my hands with anger and grief when my son came through the door reminding me we had to go pick up his new BMX. I was on the brink of a panic attack at the violence I had just witnessed coupled with memories. Putting on a brave face I got my car keys and we went down to collect his bike. When we get home, I watched him riding around the street on his new BMX bike with his friends. Suddenly, I got an image of the two soldiers doing the same with their friends at his age.

They set out to join the army to do good and bring peace to the world. These men did not wake up one morning and think, “Gee…Can’t wait to join the army so I can go and terrorize Irish people”. They wanted to make a difference to the community of Northern Ireland on both divides. I think it’s true to say many soldiers and RUC had a hatred for the Irish, there’s no denying that. I have been on the receiving end of ex soldiers aggression to towards me in Scotland usually a result of PTSD.

The truth is you will have elements of bias in any organization or country whether you have to search hard for it or not. But many were there to stop innocent people being killed and put an end to the terror.

I never agreed with the violence of the troubles. Even though the aggression of British soldiers who shot dead innocent civil rights marchers set it off, I always felt having them held accountable and seeking other more peaceful means would have been a better option.

Irish people in the North couldn’t get jobs because of their Catholic faith and were not allowed into government. Add to this the killing of innocent civilians protesting such a breach of civil rights and you’ve got a rebellion on your hands. The British government made this mistake in the south and ultimately paid the price of being kicked out for it and losing the lives of many British civilians.

When any government behaves badly whether they be from foreign or home soil, a rebellion will always be on the horizon. I think the British have learned from their grave mistakes in many respects, but the response from the IRA to kill innocent protestants on their way home from work on a regular basis was extremely heinous. Regardless of this, I felt that the good Friday peace agreement that arrived on the 10th of April in 1998 came too late. This could have been achieved in the first few years of the bloodshed and saved a lot of lives.

My family did a lot to shield me from the troubles, but I knew and experienced more than I would have liked first hand, on the street and via the media. When I look at a British soldier, PSNI, Loyalist or republican, I don’t see them through the national, patriotic or cultural lens they are accustomed to viewing each other. I see them through the eyes of Christ in whose Kingdom all are one and the same. Therefore my heart swells like a balloon with compassion for men of all nations and religious faiths.

You see, although culture and nationality can be viewed as a gift by God, nevertheless God is above them and they are simply a passing shadow on this earth. I’ll give you an example I like to use in order to demonstrate how when when loyalists and republicans are angry at one another, it’s their brainwashing that makes them do it.

A loyalist is on his way from Dublin airport one day to the North when he is set upon by republicans. They bundle him into the back of a van with a desire to execute him on Irish soil. Just as they approach the border they ask the hooded man if he had any dying wishes. He said he’d love to touch the British soil one more time before he died.

The men agreed to his plea and so they drove to the border and stopped the van. Upon opening the side door the Loyalist rushed out and clasping the damp soil with his hands wept bitterly. “Oh, my lovely British homeland, my Northern Ireland I will miss you dearly.” One of the republicans shouted, “whoops, our mistake, we are still in the republic and shy of the Northern Irish border by a 100 meters or so.”

What did the loyalist see? Did he see his homeland? NO! he was reacting to the programming and conditioning in his head. Borders, nationalities are nothing but a mere illusion drawn up humans who become conditioned to cry over and die for them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my Irish flag, pint of Guinness and bit of Irish culture as much as the next man does, but I’m not conditioned enough to die for it. There’s no pat on the back in heaven for anyone who dies for his country only those who lose their lives for the Gospel and by doing so saving it.

We are all children of God and in heaven you can bet your life on it that we will see each other through the eyes of Christ himself. The hatred will be gone and one day Christ will return and our hatred will be gone forever. Republicans, loyalists, British or Irish nationals means nothing to the King of Kings who alone is the victor and ruler of all nations; who one day he is coming again to claim what rightfully belongs to him for an eternity.

Until that coming, let us stay awake and not be lulled into an ignorant sleep by the pied piper of the demons to view each other with hatred. For as long as we remain brainwashed by nationalism, we will forever be snoring until one day we are rudely awakened and met with the fires of hell. We must spend that heaven together here and now if we want to continue being together for an eternity. As a community lets rise above the peasantry of sectarian hatred and behave like the princes and nobles we truly are. For in Gods eyes we are seen as nobility by him so you can imagine his disgust when he sees us all act as anything that would speak otherwise.

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