Archive for the ‘Northern Ireland’ Category


It is 01:12, it is a pleasantly cool night here in the Pen. We have had just under a call a minute to our control. None for me though. I sit and type this drivel, and wonder whether I am more Poitier or Steiger.

Strange the things that occupy one when all that can be heard is the hum of the PC tower fan and the babble of the radio.

I watched an interesting, for me, documentary about the bomb disposal operatives from Northern Ireland in the 1970’s on the BBC, The Long Walk. I have watched those brave men (sorry there were no female operatives in my day) start the long walk toward possible obliteration. It was interesting for me as it centred around three operatives returning to the province. Each had particular stories to tell. None, so far as I recall, we’re known to me, but the type was thoroughly familiar. Brave quiet souls with a wish for a better deal for the people. A sense of humour that defies the odds, finding humour in black situations.

At the end of the piece, one of the men voiced what I am sure many old soldiers feel, that the Province is now peaceful and a hope, belief, that it may remain that way. The good people of Ulster deserve more than the ever present danger of the early 70’s. More than the fear of either Unionist or Republican or indeed Cromwells Huns.

I am saddened when I read, therefore, that the PSNI have deployed baton rounds at Carlisle Circus in North Belfast. I remember walking the streets of that troubled city, a baton gun slung on my back and a more lethal weapon in my hands. The sadness of a city battered and broken, infrastructure creaking under the pressure of attack and lack of real investment. People afraid to be seen talking to me and others happy to be seen spitting venom towards any kind of uniform.

It seems the Loyalists are revolting again. Petrol bombs, bricks stones and fireworks deployed by the mindless thugs against men and women whose sole desire is to see their city thrive and grow strong. Even in the darkest days of the 1970’s there was strong evidence that the ‘ordinary’ citizen was anything but ‘ordinary’. Mothers and children living day by day trying to live like human beings. Men struggling to work, to keep businesses alive against the tide of sectarianism.

The uniforms may be different, better designed to bear the brunt of a crowd’s rage than my open faced olive drab motorcycle helmet with holes drilled in to accept the hinge for a huge face guard. But the bodies of the officers are the same. Flesh and blood, tired but willing.

I expect that in 5 or 10 years time the current leaders of the extremists will be legitimised, as former PIRA commanders have been. They will pay lip service to the democracy so bitterly opposed. They will decry the very acts of savagery perpetrated in exactly the same manner they themselves employed and shed crocodile tears for the victims of senseless violence and indiscriminate killing. At the very same time that those ‘leaders’ are being so assimilated there will be another creature, pulling itself imperfectly formed from a bog or morass, clutching a weapon in one hand and a manifesto in the other to excuse the violence about to be visited upon the citizens for the benefit of the citizens.

Back in the Vietnam era someone voiced the phrase, fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity. As true then as it is now, why can we never learn?