Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Hate mail for man behind Troubles website

IRA Bomb attack on the La Mon House Hotel. Images from the Belfast Telegraph Troubles Gallery

A Co Londonderry man who set up a website which features accounts of victims beside those of perpetrators of atrocities carried out during the Troubles has received hate mail.

Stephen Todd set up sharedtroubles.net earlier this year after his children quizzed him on the Troubles.

It has over 150 stories to date including Margaret Thatcher's account of the Brighton bomb and contributions from Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison.

Coleraine businessman Mr Todd, said: “Potentially we could have a bomber with their account of planting a device and how they felt when it exploded, alongside the story of someone injured or bereaved in that blast.

“Some people find that unacceptable and I've received hate mail. However most people are supportive. Apart from removing swear words or libellous material, people's stories appear unedited.

“The site is unique. It has no political slant or message.”

Mr Todd was shocked when his children asked

him ‘Daddy, what were the Troubles?'

The conversation came up one evening as he was driving past the Droppin' Well in Ballykelly, scene of an INLA bomb which killed 11 British soldiers and six women in 1982.

When he got home he searched the internet for information so he could help his children aged 10 and eight to understand the Troubles, but was unable to find anything he felt would be useful.

He decided to set up a website, designed to keep the memories alive of people from all backgrounds, who survived the Troubles.

www.sharedtroubles.net went live earlier this year and features stories from republicans, loyalists, members of the emergency services, civilians, members of the RUC, PSNI and British Army.

“The current websites were very biased one way or the other,” said Mr Todd.

“I was looking for a way of reading what had happened to real people during the Troubles so I took the initiative and decided to create a living historical archive of individuals' personal experiences.

“I come from a mixed marriage and was very fortunate to grow up in Coleraine which did not suffer the same level of sectarian strife that many other towns did.”

Mr Todd said he realised there was a large number of unheard stories just waiting to be told.

There is a wide range of personal accounts on the site.

One British soldier recalls passing IRA men in the street: “They gave you the look and you looked back at them, right into their eyes. It was like saying, 'We're here now, ready to play'. I have to say I miss it in some sick way. Miss the mates, miss what we had.”

Another story is from Patricia MacBride, a victims' commissioner, whose 27-year-old brother Anton, an IRA member, was shot dead by the SAS in 1984.

“I was so proud of my brothers — their dignity, their courage, their refusal to concede,” she recalled.

“The three saluting by the grave and the one beneath the clay.”

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