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'strong about it all...' Rural and urban women's experiences of the security forces in Northern Ireland, edited by Helen Harris and Eileen Healy (2001)



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Text: Helen Harris and Eileen Healy ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
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The following chapter has been contributed by Helen Harris and Eileen Healy. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
This chapter is taken from the book:

'strong about it all...'
Rural and urban women's experiences
of the security forces in Northern Ireland

edited by Helen Harris and Eileen Healy (2001)
ISBN 0-9540264-0-3 (softback) 135pp £9.00 sterling

Orders to local Bookshops, or:

North West Women's / Human Rights Project Publications
1 West End Park
Bogside
DERRY
BT48 9JF
Email: nww_hrp@hotmail.com

(Front cover photograph: Mrs Bradley)

This chapter is copyright (© 2001) of Helen Harris and Eileen Healy and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the authors (/publishers). You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the authors. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.


‘strong about it all...’

Rural and urban women’s experiences
of the security forces in Northern Ireland

 

Edited by Helen Harris and Eileen Healy
North West Women’s / Human Rights Project

 

Mrs McLaughlin

 


Published in February 2001 by North West Women’s / Human Rights Project Publications
1 West End Park, Bogside, Derry BT 48 9JF

ISBN 0-9540264-0-3

Copyright of arrangement, introduction and afterword Helen Harris and Eileen Healy, 2001.
The copyright of each of the interviews remains with the individual interviewees.

All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio or television interviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage of retrieval systems without prior permission of the publishers.

North West Women’s / Human Rights Project is funded by the European Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, administered through the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Design: Mark Willett Design Associates. Photography including front cover Eileen Healy © 2001
Printing: Universities Press Belfast.


 

For all women living under military occupation &
Monty Bradley (née Sharkey) & Gretta Cassidy

 

 

"So-called ordinary people do extraordinary things and think extraordinary thoughts. And they can speak those extraordinary thoughts in their own poetry."

Studs Terkel

 

Thanks to

All the women in Castlederg and Derry who welcomed us into their homes and told their stories. Beth from Canada, CoIm Barton, Pat Black, Bloody Sunday Trust, Bogside & Brandywell Initiative, Clionagh Boyle, Pauline Collins, Cunamh Tony Doherty, Steven Donnelly, Geraldine Emsley, Marian Farrell, Martin Finucane, Alva Fitzgerald, Caitlin Gallagher, Stephen Gargan, Tony Gillespie, Sara Greavu, ha Harris, Mary Harris, Ann and Michael Healy, George Holbrook, Bernadette McAliskey Martha McClelland, Tina McGarvey, Louise McIntyre, Maeve McLaughlin, Robbie McVeigh, Shane O’Curry, Deirdre O’Hara, Pat Finucane Centre, Ann Rossiter, Maureen Shiels, Christine Taylor, Ellen Weaver and Mark Willett. Thanks to the Funders; the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Trust, and the Peace and Reconciliation Fund through NIVT.


From the backcover:

www.bloodysundaytrust.org

Women in the North of Ireland are often represented as unthinking, passive victims of a male war, an ‘armed patriarchy’. The truth is not as simple as that.

‘Strong about it all...’ takes a unique approach to documenting nationalist women’s experiences of conflict and the security forces in the North of Ireland. It is pioneering in valuing rural women’s experiences and the everyday domestic violations of women’s human rights, as well as highlighting the many ways women resist these violations.

Presented here is a wealth of detail about the daily experience of living within a conflict situation in Derry city and the border area of West Tyrone, Castlederg. It shows how that experience has differed for women depending on their age, rural or urban location, class, and whether or not they have children. It validates all these experiences, including ones that are often seen as minor within their own communities. It raises questions about how well the republican / nationalist community has supported individuals and families, particularly women in rural areas, experiencing ongoing harassment.

The experiences documented here will have resonance for women all around the world who live in militarised societies and police states.

"I think it (a raid) affects women more than men because most women here, the woman is the person who runs the house. It's your sort of, domain, it's your territory. I don‘t think men feel the same about it."

"You'd be surprised the number of Catholics in this area that would have no sympathy whatsoever. Stopped at a checkpoint, they wouldn’t wave at you. Wouldn’t want to associate themselves with you in their wildest dreams like."

An afterword gives an update on the women’s views and their visions of the way forward for policing in Northern Ireland.

"We need to have faith in them in order for them to be able to work for us."

 

Included are photographs of the hands of women who were interviewed. Some women chose to hold items of personal significance.
(Front cover photograph: Mrs Bradley).

All proceeds go to the North West Women’s / Human Rights Project
Price: £ 9.00 Sterling ISBN 0-9540264-0-3


Contents  
BIOGRAPHIES  
INTRODUCTION  
RURAL WOMEN
"I wouldn’t feel safe, wouldn’t feel safe at all."

11

RAIDS 1
"Once the security forces enter your home, any rights you have go out the window."

19

ARRESTS 1
"Mental torture, definitely mental torture."

27

STRIP-SEARCHING
"I'm almost in tears, just thinking about it."

36

WAINS & YOUNGSTERS
"You’d think you weren’t a mother... They were taken off us."

41

RAIDS 2
"It affects women more than men because most women here, the woman is the person who runs the house. It's your sort of domain, it's your territory."

51

ARRESTS 2
"It’s harder for a woman."

58

EVERYDAY RESISTANCE
"It's keepin’ your dignity more than anything else."

66

POWER GAMES
"Ahh that’s right. We can do whatever we like."

74

ARMED SEXISM
"Threatening you in a sexual manner, I think that’s always there."

84

PARTNERS
"I wasn‘t the one arresting him. It wasn‘t my fault."

92

COMPLAINTS
"I think I could paper my house with letters that say
‘There is no case to answer'."

97

SUPPORT
"No, it wasn‘t enough but people were afraid."

104

ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE RUC, BRITISH ARMY AND UDR
"There’s no trust there at all."

116

AFTERWORD
"We need to have faith in them in order for them to be able to work for us."

126

GLOSSARY

135


 

Castlederg is a town in Co. Tyrone with a population of 2,000, which is half nationalist / republican, half unionist / loyalist. It is proportionately the most bombed town in the 6 Counties. The rural area west of Castlederg is isolated from the rest of Tyrone. At the time of interviewing, most of the roads from West Tyrone to Donegal were sealed and impassable, isolating the area further. Now all the roads are reopened, making a huge improvement on quality of life in the area. Derry City has a population of 120,000 and is divided by the River Foyle. The Cityside is almost exclusively nationalist while the Waterside is two thirds unionist. It is just three miles from the border. Donegal, particularly the Inishowen peninsula, is in many ways the city’s natural hinterland.

Throughout this publication the following symbols are used to distinguish interviewees from rural and urban areas.

Denotes those living in rural areas

Denotes those from urban areas

 


Biographies

Castlederg
and the surrounding area

Karen is in her 40s and lives in the town on a nationalist housing estate. She is a grandmother. She describes herself as a republican and works as a housewife.

Mrs. O’Hagan is in her 70s. She lives very close to the border in a ‘very loyalist’ area. She used to work as a barmaid and is retired now. She has grown up children, some of whom still live in the area.

Mrs. Bradley lives in a rural area very near the Donegal border. She is in her 60s.

Marian is in her 40s and lives in the nationalist end of town. She is a housewife and has teenage children.

Eilis is in her early 30s and works full time with young people. She grew up outside Castlederg and now lives in Derry on a nationalist estate. She visits her family in Castlederg regularly but doesn’t see herself ever moving back.

Mrs. Sullivan is in her 70s and lives a few miles from the border in the country. Her family was split up by the conflict, with one son being killed and other children not being able to come home for fear of security force harassment and arrest. She works as a housewife.

Betty is in her 30s and has young children. She moved from Castlederg town and now lives in the country on a farm near the border.

Mary is in her mid 30s and lives in a mostly nationalist housing estate near Castlederg. She has young children.

Mrs. McLaughlin is in her 60s and lives on her own since her son Cormac was killed following a ten year campaign of harassment by the security forces. She lives in a rural, mostly Protestant area outside Castlederg where she has lived all her life.

 

Derry

Aine is in her 20s and works full time in Derry. She lives with her parents.

Theresa is in her 30s and is a mother of young children. She works as a housewife. She grew up in a middle-class area in Derry.

Rose is a mother in her 30s and is from a middle-class background. She works in the community sector in Derry.

Deirdre is in her early 30s and lives with her children and partner. She is active in community groups in her area.

Aileen is in her early 40s and is a youth and community worker. She has lived in Derry for nearly 10 years.

Martina is in her 30s and was raised in a republican / nationalist working-class community and now lives in a similar community. She has been active in community groups and campaigns. She now has a daughter and a new partner.

Kathleen is in her 30s and lives in a middle-class area of Derry. She has an eight year old son and works in the community sector.

Julie is in her 30s and lives with her partner and young children. She works full-time in the community sector.

Nell is in her 30s and is a mother. She lives on the Waterside, which she describes as ‘near enough’ a border area.

Sinéad is in her 30s and also lives on the Waterside. She works full-time in a profession and lives in a middle-class area with her partner and children.

Elaine is in her 30s and describes herself as republican. She lives in a housing estate with her husband and children and is a housewife.

Frances is in her early 50s and is active in her local community. She has six children.

Marie is in her 50s and is from a middle-class background. She is a mother. She is a member of Sinn Féin and works full-time.

Siobhán is in her 40s and active in her local community. She has children in their 20s.

Breda is in her 50s and is a housewife. The area she lives in now would be mostly republican and is near the border.

Margaret is in her 50s and active in her local residents group. She was raised in a predominantly unionist area in the country and has lived in Derry for nearly thirty years. She is a grandmother.

Eimear is in her 60s and has been active in her community for many years. She describes her area as republican and nationalist, "...a great community, the people have a great sense of community and caring."

Mrs. Doherty is in her 70s. She grew up on the Lonemoor Road in the Brandywell; "It was all a mixed area and I would say it was a good area." She was active in the Relatives Action Committee in the late ‘70s and worked in different jobs as well as raising her family.

Mrs. Heaney is in her 70s and is a housewife. She is originally from Donegal.

 


Everyday
Resistance

"It’s keepin’ your dignity more than anything else.

 

Resisting the security forces can be as simple as refusing to give more information than is legally required. Some women describe how it took time for them to develop the confidence to stand up to the security forces. Insisting on the proper procedures can mean longer delays for women if, for example, a female member of the security forces has to be sent for to carry out a body search. Women make judgements in each situation about the amount of time and energy they can invest. This often depends on whether they have children with them. Ways can always be found to resist on some level. Women tend to describe resistance in terms of keeping their dignity and self worth and ‘not letting them off’. This seems to be especially important during raids.

 

Nell

How do you feel when you are forced to get involved in an interaction with them?

You feel like hitting them a wallop up the face you mean?! Aye. (Laughter). I did many’s a time aye. I did it once or twice.

One time I jumped on a soldier’s back and I wouldn’t get off it. You know. There was an army foot patrol stopped us outside the house. But they wouldn’t let [me and the wain] into the house, they kept us for ages and ages in the rain and I just finally cracked up. I was wile frightened for the wain, you know. Danny was only about eight months old and would have been in and out of hospital with turns and croup and things like that, you know. John was carrying him. The soldier was pulling my husband John, one was pushing and one was pulling him you know and I just cracked up and jumped on the soldier’s back.

But it is like everything else, you’ll get pushed so far. Everybody will get pushed, they have a, you know you draw a line somewhere. You just don’t let somebody walk over the top of you. You know that sort of a way?

 

Raids

Women described ways in which they resisted the invasion of their homes.

Mrs. Heaney

Well, they were very rude, and to tell you the truth, I was afraid, the first time they raided. Actually, we did everything they asked us to do, into the one room an’ wouldn’t let us talk to each other, wouldn’t let us out to make a cup of tea, things like that. But then as time went on, that all changed, I made tea if! wanted to, an’ I talked if I wanted to.

They knew every stick of furniture that I had in this house and everybody else that they raided. They went ‘round the house making maps, oh lots of times. They knew every part of your house, where you kept your television, where you kept your table. And if that was changed the next time that they would come back, they would -they wouldn’t say to me of course, but you knew what they were doing. They would nosey around to see, wonder why this was changed. And I made sure I changed them. (Laughter). I made sure it was changed. If nothing else, only changing a bed. You know, that sort of a way.

There was one night in particular [the army] came in, and there was this lady, a searcher with them. She was a lady and of course she wanted to search me. And I just told her, "You’re a younger woman than I am and I daresay you’ll do it, but I’m not going to stand here and let you do it, because I’ll die in the attempt." She never put her hands on me. A young girl of that age coming to search me, after getting me up out of my bed! There was no way would I let her search me, and I told her that.

They never got anything belonging to me because I kept my handbag and under no circumstance would I let them touch it. They did do that in lots of houses you know, but I think the people weren’t firm enough. If they hadda been firm enough, you know. People were frightened ye see. But then when you start to get it nearly every two weeks, you sort of get used to it, you know. Well, you never get used to it, but you just don’t let them off with it, like you did when they came in the beginning.

 

Theresa

After the first, my first house raid was very nerve-wracking and there was, it was a really terrible experience the first raid and after that then when they had taken the husband away, ahh, they came back then that night and lucky enough Mary (sister in law) was up with me. Ah, the cops had come back that night, y’know and knocked at the door and started slagging me "Oh we’ve got your husband" and all this here. And I moved out of the house that night and stayed out till he got out of Castlereagh.

So after that then I just thought, I need to sort of, I was too nervous with them and I think they realised during the search that I was nervous and that’s why they came back to me. So I thought ‘No, they’re not going to leave me a nervous wreck’. So I tried then to put on a brave face and I would say that’s why I would be aggressive with them now. It’s nerves, aye, but it’s my way of handling things.

 

Mrs. O’Hagan

He was the cheekiest boy there ever was, you know, and he was. "Oh, youse are not all the time in the house," he says, "Youse are not all the time in the house," you know, as cheeky as anything. I says, "How dare you say that, we’re in the house most of the time." He was really cheeky. He was RUC. Really ignorant. He gave me a dirty look as much as to say ‘How dare you contradict me’. Real cheeky boy.

She was in the first time [we were raided], the [RUC] woman, and I says, we were sitting in the sitting room and I went, "What is she doing here?" - just like that, as ignorant as anything - I says, "How did she get in here?" She wouldn’t even look at ye, you know, and she wouldn’t even look at me, and I said it to the boy - from London he was, we couldn’t understand a word he said - and he says, "In case you pass out. And to help you get dressed, if you want to get dressed.’ I says, "I’m well able to get dressed myself if! want to." Aye. I says, "I’m well able to dress myself (quietly). Sure I don’t want her" (more defiantly). Aye.

 

Mary

On every occasion [I was under house arrest] but I would have at the start - gullible - I would’ve give into it. But afterwards I wouldn’t. I would say "I have to go in to get this, I have to get that," where the children are concerned. They would have tried to prevent me, like there was one morning when I was up in the bedroom and I had to go down, the baby waked up for a feed, six o’clock. They said "Stay where you are." I said "It’s my child and I’ll feed him, he’s hungry."

Frances

The first thing they do when they come in is usually say "Do you have any arms, ammunition, explosives?" you know that sort of stuff in the house. The last time they came in here I says "You find something and then we’ll talk about responsibility for it."

I mean they’d tell you you weren’t under house arrest. I would say "Am I under house arrest?" and they would say "No." So I says "Right, I’m going to the shop for cigarettes." "Oh no you can’t." "So" I says "that means I’m under house arrest." "Oh no you’re not." I says "Then let me go across for a neighbour to go to the shop for me."

Breda

[When they raid] of couse I give it to them you know (laughs). (Sarcastically) "Youse come in here out of the cold" and all this here. They take out photographs and ask "Who’s this?" "I don’t know who it is. Could be me daughter or me husband."

They have called me a lot of names. I can’t remember [which ones] because I be shouting right back at them.

 

Stops & searches

 

Frances

Have you ever been stopped and/or searched?

Yes. When it was at its worst it could have been every day, at least a few times a week. You were stopped and told at times to open your coat. ‘Take your coat off. Take your shoes off. Take your child out of the pram’. If you didn’t do it they sent for what they called a military policewoman, if it was the army. And if it was the RUC they sent for a policewoman and if you still refused to do it you were taken to the RUC barracks.

Did you ever refuse?

Well, I wouldn’t open me coat or take me coat off for a group of soldiers or RUC men. And even when a woman came along I didn’t feel like taking my coat off in the middle of the street and I would never have lifted the children out of the pram in the street. So.

Were you often taken down to the barracks?

Quite a few times, aye.

What kind of names has [the army] called you?

‘Irish whore’ and you know. ‘Slut. Fenian’. Just the usual. I had a few smart things to say back to them (laughs) which weren’t very nice.

 

Margaret

There used to be security gates in the middle of the town [in the '70s] and when you went to do your shopping you had your handbag searched. And I remember even, whenever my youngest boy was in the pram, having to lift him out of the pram to let the army search underneath the baby’s bedclothes. But it’s something that, I think we got used to it but we shouldn’t have got used to it. We accepted it and we shouldn’t have accepted it at the time. We were being intimidated then and we didn’t really realise what was happening. But if it was now there’s no way that any one of them would lift my baby out of the pram. I wouldn’t allow it. I was young then, and I wouldn’t do it now. I wouldn’t let them intimidate me now.

 

Mrs. Heaney

Of course they had the number of the car and the minute you went there [to the border], you were taken into the search bay, out of the car, the car searched and whoever was driving was asked ‘Where are you coming from’ and ‘Where are you going’? And I resented that very much too. You had to answer them that, but apart from that, that’s all they got. I was coming from Derry and I was going to Buncrana or Bridgend (in Donegal), they never got the precise place.

 

Marian

I remember I was going down to the post office one day of course it was twenty past, twenty five past five, and when asked where I was going I said ‘post office’ instead of saying ‘the town’, so the police kept me for ages, wanting to know my occupation, and he couldn’t give me a reason for wanting my occupation, so I told him I wasn’t going to give it to him.

So it went on, and he discovered that I had a bald tyre, and took me out and showed me the bald tyre and all the rest, and I agreed, ‘Yes’, that would have to be seen to. He said "I’ll not take you (book you) for that bald tyre, give me your occupation, I’ll not take you for it." So I says "Well have you suddenly come up with a reason for needing to know it?" And he says "No, I haven’t." "Well," I says, "I’ll not give it to you."

Alright I shouldn’t have had a bald tyre, but if they were doing their job properly they’d have been more interested in my bald tyre than my occupation.

It’s keepin’ your dignity more than anything else. Alright they’re there, they have to know where you’re going to, comin’ from. Other things I just ignore.

 

Mrs. O’Hagan

You sound like you’re well able for them.

Indeed I am, I’ll not let them off with anything if they come near me.

[Once] there was a checkpoint down there (points out the window) and the boy says to Patrick (husband) - and he gave me a right dirty look too, he’s always giving a dirty look, I’ve seen him several times - he says "Have you any means of identification?" he says to Patrick. I says, "Did you ever hear anything like that, ‘means of identification’, and us on the doorstep at home!"

[That boy] knows right well who we are, he knows.

It’s usually when you’re going to Mass or something. I’ll always be ready to say something. I feel angry, I do feel angry, surely. It’s not so often they do it at the minute. Just I feel, I feel that it shouldn’t be when you’re going to Mass. (Pause). And the helicopters are always over the Church too, when we’re at Mass and that shouldn’t be either.

 

Aileen

I generally comply, if they tell me to go to the search bay, I’ll go to the search bay. But on one occasion they asked me if I’d like to go to the search bay so I said "No, I wouldn’t" (laughs). Sometimes they use assertive language and sometimes they don’t and if they don’t I pounce on it.

 

Marie

I don’t like being body searched. I get very annoyed and that goes back to when I was pregnant with my eldest [in the '70s]. I was body searched when I was seven and a half months pregnant. To get into Waterloo Street you had to go through metal gates and I remember being asked for a body search there and I refused. They had a sort of space further aside so the policewoman pulled me in there and proceeded to search me and I hit her and knocked her out.

It really upset me. Very much so. And I don’t know why, because I wasn't political at all [then], I wasn’t.

Oh I refuse to let a man touch me. Occasionally men have attempted and I say "Don’t you lay a finger on me or I’ll do you for sexual assault." So I’ve never been touched by a man. I’ve always tried this one - it hasn’t worked recently but certainly in the ‘80s when I was getting stopped a lot I refused to let a man near any bags that I had. And it used to work then.

 

Mary

They would ask you to vacate the vehicle for the search. I would say ‘Under no circumstances are the children or myself getting out of this vehicle’. And they say ‘Well we’ll send for the RUC’. And I say ‘Send for whoever you like, I am not opposing the search’, you know. ‘You can search the driver’s side and I’ll move into the passenger’s side. If you want to search the back the children can come into the front’. But I just would not take the children out of the car.

Numerous times I have lied myself and said that I was pregnant (laughs). They kept saying ‘Why are you not going to get out of this vehicle’? I would have said ‘Well I am pregnant’. They would have said ‘Well are you not going to get out of the car when you go home’? I would say ‘Aye, but then I’ll want to get out. I’m not going to stand as a spectacle on the side of the road for other cars coming up’.

 

"They’re games about power"

 

Mrs. Doherty

I remember one time they took my books, there was one book in particular they took, ‘The Freedom Struggle’. It was written by Daithí O’Connell. That morning they piled all my books up that they were taking with them. I said "Before you do anything get a sheet of paper and itemise every book you are taking out of my house for I want them back."

So he did do that and says "As soon as we can when we’ve checked these over we’ll leave them back." I says "You better for them cost me money."

Sunday morning at eight o’clock the big, hard knock came at the front door. There was the parcel sitting on the front doorstep. They had the books all parcelled up and there was no sign of them about. I checked all the books and they were all there only ‘The Freedom Struggle’. So I got James (friend) to phone for me and the next thing they came up in a landrover and says "Major Neil wants you down in the barracks."

I says "Me! ‘What does he want me for?"

"He wants to discuss a book with you." I says "Does he?" I had to go to the barracks in the landrover, so I went in and this boy got up, with his hand out to shake hands with me [and I wouldn't shake hands with him]. I says "What d’you want me for?"

"It’s about this book," he says, "you know perfectly well you are not supposed to have this book."

This was the time that Solzhenitsyn, the Russian was put in, for writing a book. I says "Ach, you’re at that carry on now, the Russians are at. You’re not allowed to read books, are you not?"

"Well you’re not allowed to read that one," he says. I says "Did you read it?" "No."

"Well," I says "I would advise you to read it, you’ll get your eyes opened. But,’ says I, "you’ll not learn anything there, because d’you see you lot (the British army), Hitler was a bad pig, but anything he done you learned it to him."

He says "I could put you in Armagh prison for reading that book or having it in your possession." "I suppose you could, there’s nothing youse can’t do. But," says I "if you put me in I’ll be in good company for Bernadette Devlin is in." So she was (laughs).

He says to me "We’ll forget about it this time." So he let me go then but never gave me the book. I says 'Alright I’ll get another one’, and so I did.

Aye, I certainly did take him seriously (the prison threat) because I knew what they could do. My heart was thumping but thank God I got out. See a couple of women that I knew used to say to me, when we were stopped by the army, ‘You don’t look a bit scared’. But they didn’t know what sort of a stomach I had, it was going like a Lambeg drum. I could conceal that, you know.

 

Breda

I always gave the young fellas milk bottles to throw over the wall at them. It was just a bit of craic. There was no shooting then.

[One time] I was throwing the bottles over to the wains [to throw at the army]. Jesus, the plastic bullet just missed my leg. I ran into the house then. I mean he was a bad shot and I got in before he fired the next one. It scared the life out of me.

 

Eimear

One day they were shouting after my daughter on the street, being a ‘Blanket for the Provos’. She went up to slap the face of the soldier herself.

 

Siobhán

Do you ever respond to them calling you in the street?

Never. It’s hard sometimes to keep your mouth shut.

What would you like to tell them?

I would just like to tell them, I couldn’t actually say what I would like to tell them, but it begins with ‘F’.

 

Eimear

So what can you do about it? There’s not a terrible lot you can do about it because they have the guns, and they have the law and they have the power.

They’re always threatening to shoot you. "Stop or I’ll shoot!" "Shoot away!" I’m shouting back, "Shoot away!" (laughs). So anyway, I’m not being bravado or anything, you know. Some days I’m walking on and I’m thinking ‘One of these days you’ll be feeling a bullet in your backbone’. You do some of those foolhardy things at times and they are foolhardy things to a degree. But I don’t care what they know. I’m just, I’m not afraid of them anymore. So what, so they’ll shoot you or they’re going to arrest you. So they come search your house. They’ve done all them things on us you know?

I know my rights. I know that I am obliged because of legislation - British legislation - to give my name and address, where I have been and where I am going, not my date of birth, just that I am over twenty one. I am not obliged to answer any other questions, so I don’t. And I tell them that. Times I tell them ‘You can have my name and address but you’re not getting anything else’. And that starts a confrontation. Now if I wanted to make things very simple for myself I [could tell them], now it depends. And sometimes I do that. It depends on the degree of urgency about my life and what I am doing, where I need to be.

And you know that these people are playing games, and you know that they’re games about power. And they have it all, the legislation, the whole weight of the British military machine behind them. And here you are and what you have is your own sense of dignity and self worth. You don’t want to allow yourself to play these sorts of games. And you know if you say ‘No’, then you have to pay the price or take responsibility for whatever happens. So you play the game and I think we have learned to play the game ourselves.


 

Glossary

Black and Tans: British ex-servicemen recruited in 1920 to bolster the RIC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) during the Irish War of Independence.

British army: Arrived in the North in 1969 and are still present today.

B Specials: Established in 1920 by the new Stormont government following partition. Only Protestants joined this part-time force, which was abolished in 1969 and replaced by the UDR in 1970.

CAJ: Committee on the Administration of Justice. Belfast-based human rights group.

Devenney, Sammy, Finucane, Pat, Hamill, Robbie and Nelson, Rosemary: Unresolved killings of two nationalists and two solicitors, in all of which the security forces are implicated. Groups are campaigning for independent inquiries in each case.

Good Friday Agreement: International agreement negotiated and signed by all the main political parties in the North in April 1998.

IRA (PIRA): Provisional Irish Republican Army, also known as the Provos. Illegal republican military group. Born out of the Belfast pogrom of August 1969 and established after a split from the Official IRA later that year.

Patten Report: The Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland was established by the Good Friday Agreement and chaired by Chris Patten. The report made extensive recommendations.

NIACRO: Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. This nongovernmental organisation has provided support for ex-prisoners, ordinary and political and their families.

Ombudsman (sic): The Police Ombudsperson post was established in May 2001 and is currently processing complaints about the security forces. Her range of powers is unclear and many have questions about the independence of this role.

RUC: Royal Ulster Constabulary. Police force in the North of Ireland established in 1921.

SDLP: Social Democratic Labour Party. Established in 1970 with the aim of promoting a united Ireland by peaceful means. Currently the largest nationalist party in the North.

Sinn Féin: All-Ireland political party which aims for a socialist 32 county republic (an end to the partition of Ireland).

UDR: Formed following the disbandment of the B Specials, this is a British army regiment which exclusively recruits people from the North, overwhelmingly Protestant. In 1992 it was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR).

UYF: Ulster Volunteer Force. Illegal loyalist military group set up in the l960s. Began a sectarian campaign in 1966, 3 years before the start of the Troubles.

Women’s Aid: Non governmental organisation established in the 1970s providing support and refuge for women experiencing domestic violence.

 


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


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