Belfast Telegraph

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Troubles tourism a rose-tinted vision horror that stalked Northern Ireland

Like the veterans who fought the Nazis, those caught up in our own conflict are rarely the ones telling its story. Instead, we get the dubious, sanitised version of those trying to cash in, writes Malachi O'Doherty

Published 01/09/2016

The devastation after an IRA bomb in Carrick in 1972
The devastation after an IRA bomb in Carrick in 1972
Belfast during the Blitz
Peace wall

When I was young there were a lot more people who remembered the Second World War. They included my mother, who nursed in London through the Blitz, and my father, who worked with the 'Yanks' in Derry. And practically every other adult I met.

Anyone who was 15 years older than me - which includes every teacher I had - would have been alive during the German bombing of Belfast and would have had memories of it.

Yet I recall no one talking about it.

I remember stories about rationing, about smuggling across the Irish border, about women drawing the semblance of a stocking seam on their legs with a pen. And I remember hearing tales about the GIs and their ciggies and chocolate and gum and how they got on with the girls. Unsurprisingly, people retain the memories of war that amuse them rather than afflict them.

And that is what is happening to our recollections and memorialising of the Troubles.

The whole sorry period is now dissolving into a soft focus.

That was the impression I got from the story about former IRA prisoners Gerard Hodgins and Richard O'Rawe revisiting the Crumlin Road Gaol to sample the food in the restaurant there.

Both prisoners spent five years on the dirty protest and have horrific stories of that time to tell.

Both were active, armed members of the IRA who had made it their business to kill or at least try to kill.

And neither, to be fair, hides that fact.

Belfast IRA men on patrol with new drogue bomb in Northern Ireland 1987
Belfast IRA men on patrol with new drogue bomb in Northern Ireland 1987
Belfast IRA man on patrol in West Belfast 1987 - Pacemaker
IRA Bomb attack on the La Mon House Hotel
Customs officers check cars at the old Killen-Carrickarnon border post
MOURNERS CARRYING HURLING STICKS HEAD THE FUNERAL PROCESSION OF JOHN JOSEPH KAVANAGH, FOUND SHOT DEAD IN THE RIVER BLACKSTAFF. 27.01.1971.
John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.
John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.
La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Sandra Morris
La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Carol Mills
La Mon House Hotel Provisional IRA Bomb Victim, Christine Lockhart
RUC constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during street disturbances on the Shankill Road Belfast. He was the first RUC man killed in the troubles. October 1969
Mrs Arbuckle, wife of constable Victor Arbuckle who was shot during the Shankill Road riots receives the Union Jack which covered the coffin during the funeral service at Roselawn Cemetry
Miami Showband massacre... A Ford Escort which was one of the cars used by loyalist gunmen, is left abandoned near the murder scene. 31/7/1975
Miami Showband
Darkley (Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Hall). The scene where three elders were shot dead by the INLA. The terrorists broke in during a church service. 20/11/1983
The children who escaped death by inches at Darkley, from left, Graham Ritchie, Helen Wilson, Nigel Wilson, Andrew Reid (standing) and Keith Ritchie, photographed the day after the INLA attack.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley at Shaftesbury Square, Belfast. 9/10/1968.
Mr Austin Currie, MP, addressing the crowd.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
The first Civil Rights (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) from Coalisland to Dungannon, held on 24/8/1968. Pictured is a member of the official party leading the civil rights marchers, appealing to the crowd, and requesting that there should be no violence during the march in Dungannon.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley near Belfast City Hall. Pictured is Ciaran McKeown(with beard). 9/10/1968.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Civil rights marchers are confronted by a strong force of polive in Duke Street. October 1968
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Banned Derry Civil Rights march broken up by RUC batons in presence of Gerry Fitt MP, three British Labour MPs and television crew. Two nights of rioting ensued. 5/10/1968.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
People's Democracy group organised a four-day march from Belfast to Londonderry, starting on 1/1/69. The most serious incident was near Burntollet Bridge in County Londonderry, when marchers were ambushed by some 200 loyalists.
Sir John Hermon, the former Chief Constable of the RUC at the funeral of the RUC's 100th victim of the Troubles, Constable Neill Quinn. Newry 22/6/1081
Betty Williams, former leader of the NI Peace People, pictured with Mairead Corrigan.
UDA members being carried in a Land Rover along the Shankill Road. 22/05/72.
A soldier recieves first aid after being injured by debris after a car bomb exploded on the Crumlin Road. 29/05/72
Riots in Belfast.
UDR colleagues fire a volley of shots over the grave of Private Steven Smart, at Movilla Cemetary. Private Smart was killed along with three others after an IRA bomb blew up their Land Rover in Downpatrick. 13/04/90
Troops and UDA members on joint patrol at Clon Duff Drive in Castlereagh Road area of Belfast, 1972.
The funeral of RUC man William Russell, shot while investgating a burglary at the Avoca Shopping Centre, Andersontown, Belfast
Hunger striker Bobby Sands coffin, flanked by an IRA colour party, leaving his mother's home in Twinbrook.
Bobby Sands' son Robert Gerald holds his mother's hand at the funeral of his father Bobby in west Belfast flanked by Masked IRA men. Picture by Martin Wright
Army engineers take away the fallen statue of the famous Protestant minister The Rev 'Roaring Hugh Hanna' after an early morning IRA bomb blast at Carlisle Circus. 3/3/1970
Newly elected DUP MP Peter Robinson and his wife Iris. 4/5/1979
Peter Robinson about to invade the small village of Clontibret, Co Monaghan, in 1986.
Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes in Long Kesh
Martin McGuinness in Derry's Bogside at a press conference. 1971
Members of the UDA provide an escort at the funeral of 30 year old John Lunnen Brown, a UDA volunteer, of Blackmountain Park, Springmartin. 01/07/72.
Northern Ireland Troubles Gallery: Mrs Mary Meehan who was shot by the army in Cape Street, 23rd october 1971. Family photo.
Northern Ireland Troubles Gallery: Scots Guardsman, Paul Nicholls, from Caithness, killed by an IRA sniper on the Falls Road, Belfast. 1971
Scene of the IRA bomb and shooting attack at Loughall Police Station which resulted in 8 IRA and 1 Civilian being killed.
Supporters of the UDA preparing food to be used by UDA members in the Shankill Road area. 02/07/72
A UDA checkpoint barrier at Moat Road. 08/06/72
UDA on the streets of Londonderry. 30/09/72
Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney, who spent 53 days on IRA hunger strike.
Some of the 24 Ulsterbuses which were burnt out after an IRA attack on the depot in Armagh. 28/4/1982.
Mourners panicking at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, after a gun and bomb attack by Michael Stone which left three people dead and four seriously injured during the funerals of three IRA membes shot dead in Gibraltar. 1988
Joan Travers and her daughter Ann at the funeral of her other daughter, Mary, shot dead by IRA gunmen in Windsor Avenue, Belfast. while walking home from Mass with her father Judge Tom Travers. 1984
Ian Paisley at the scene of the IRA motar attack on Newry Police Station. which killed 9 officers. 28/2/1985.
President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Patrick Kelly . 1987
Martin Meehan (centre) with Gerry Adams at a funeral in Belfast in 1971 of a Belfast IRA commander.
UDA men line up for inspection at Bloomfield before the march. 30/09/72
Reverend Martin Smyth and Billy Hull with UDA leaders. 1972
The Shankill Road member. 1972
A man is frisked by masked members of the UDA at a barricade on the Lisburn Road end of Sandy Row. 1972
Belfast, Bloody Friday, 21 July, 1972, the IRA set off 26 explosions in Belfast, which killed 11 people and injured 130. 7 people were killed in Oxford Street bus station and 4 at a shopping centre on the Cavehill Road.
Riots in Belfast, 1969
A man talks to soldiers over the barricade, in Divis Street, Belfast. 16/8/1969
Respects are paid to the victims of Bloody Friday, Oxford Street, Belfast
Rioting in Belfast, 1962
A family flee their home during rioting in Belfast 1969
Belfast 1969
British soldiers patrol Belfast in 1969
Belfast City Hall bombed. 23/5/1994.
O'Tooles Bar (The Heights), in the quiet Co Down village of Loughinisland where UVF gunmen burst in opened fire, during a World Cup match on June 18, 1994.
O'Tooles Bar (The Heights) in the Co. Down village of Loughinisland. Six men were shot dead by two UVF gunmen, while they were watching the 1994 World Cup on television.
The ruins of McGurks Bar. Dec 1971
UDA barricades off Ainsworth Avenue. 04/07/72
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono raise their fists as they join a protest in this Feb. 5, 1972, file photo in front of British Overseas Airways Corp. offices in New York on Fifth Avenue. The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.
Martin McGuinness handcuffed to a policeman after being remanded at Special Criminal Court in Dublin, January 1973.
SDLP press conference with John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Austin Currie and Paddy Devlin. 11/09/75
Behind the barbed wire of long kesh internment camp are SDLP MPs(from left)Paddy Devlin, Austin Currie, John Hume and Ivan Cooper. They were visiting internees. 21/09/71
Billy Wright ,loyalist fanatic who was shot dead in the Maze Prison, was leader of the renegade Loyalist Volunteer Force
Ulster Vanguard Movement: Ulster Vanguard Association Rally at Stormont. 29/03/72
William Craig:Leader of the Vanguard Unionist Progressive party.
Ulster Vanguard Movement: A section of the crowd at the Vanguard Association Rally at Ormeau Park. 18/03/72
Ulster Defence Association/U.D.A: 1972. Delegates at the talks between Vanguard, Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Association of Workers.
Ulster Vanguard Movement:September 1972.
As the Queen was visiting Belfast city centre in 1977, soldiers came under attack a few hundred yards away in the republican Falls Road area. An army captain was seperated from his unit and was being heavily stoned and kicked when a 'snatch squad' of his troops rushed the crowd to rescue him from the mob.
RUC: Police officers at the 12th parades at Portadown 1985.
The body of catholic man lies in an entry off the Shankill Road in West Belfast after being murdered by members of the Shankill butchers. 25/10/82. Pacemaker Press
Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy
William Moore aka Shankill Butcher gang member. Pacemaker Press
Con Neeson who was killed by the Shankill butchers in the late 70's. Pacemaker Press
Shankill Butcher Edward McIlwaine. Pacemaker Press
Robert "Basher" Bates: Shankill butcher
A man with slashed wrists after an attack by the Shankill Butchers. Pacemaker Press
Some of the knives used by the Shankill Butchers in their attacks. Pacemaker Press
THE TROUBLES GALLERY - Drumcree
Orangemen On The Garvaghy Road, July 2000
Portadown March at Drumcree bridge July 2002 Portadown District Orangemen parade down to the barrier at Drumcree before trouble flared
Drumcree, Northern Ireland. A makeshift road block on main road into Portadown town centre
An injured woman is led away, Drumcree July 1997
A petrol bomber on the Garvaghy Road
Orangemen go no further as they reach the barrier at Drumcreee preventing them from marching on the Garvaghy Rd.
Tempers flare as Orangemen are blocked from walking the Garvaghy Rd, Drumcree, July 2000
Orangemen at Drumcree
Drumcree July 2000
Drumcree - July 6th 2002. Soldiers erect a security fence at Drumcree Church in Portadown.
PSNI riot team firing plastic bullets
Drumcree Orange Parade At Portadown July 1998. Portadown Grand Master Harold Gracey gives a speech to the crowds outside Drumcree Church of Ireland.
Orange Order: Drumcree, Portadown
GARVAGHY RD JULY 1996. POLICE OFFICERS REMOVE PROTESTING NATIONALISTS FROM GARVAGHY RD.
GARVAGHY RD JULY 1996. POLICE OFFICERS REMOVE PROTESTING NATIONALISTS FROM GARVAGHY RD.
DAVID TRIMBLE MAKES HIS WAY TO GREET THE PORTADOWN ORANGEMEN AFTER THEY MARCHED DOWN GARVAGHY RD 1996.
4/7/03 Garvaghy road residents spokesman Brendan MacCoinnaith pictured in Portadown.
Drumcree Orange Order Demonstration Scarfs drapped around the Road Sign of Drumcree near Portadown
Nationalist protesters walk to Garvaghy Road July 1997. Residents Coalition in Drumcree Portadown to voice their anger at Loyalist Parades through their area
Nationalist Protest March At Garvaghy Road March 1998. Brid Rodgers and Brendan McKenna in attendance at Garvaghy Road demonstration, Portadown
Northern Ireland Troubles gallery.....Nationalist Protest March At Garvaghy Road March 1998. Security Forces kept a Loyalist counter demonstration at a safe distance from Nationalist marchers near Oben Street, Portadown
Nationalist Protest March At Garvaghy Road March 1998. A young Loyalist waves the Union Jack at Royal Ulster Constabulary police in riot gear, from the Loyalist side of the town of Portadown, Northern Ireland, as a nationalist-republican protest march, passed by peacefully down the Nationalist Garvaghy road.
STAND-OFF BETWEEN PSNI AND ORANGEMEN.
Disturbances On Garvaghy Road Portadown May 1998. Rioters hurl stones at RUC riot police on the Garvaghy Road, Portadown, Northern Ireland, during disturbances following an Orange parade in the area.
An RUC officer fires plastic bullets at rioting nationalists on the Garvaghy Road
Garvaghy Road Residents Meet With David Trimble May 99. Brendan McKenna arrives at Craigavon Civic Centre to meet the First Minister David Trimble in an effort to solve the Drumcree stand off.
RIR Support The Orangemen At Drumcree January 2000. Members of the Royal Irish Regiment with a flag supporting Orangemen in Drumcree.
Army Prepare For Drumcree July 2001
Kathleen Feeney, 14, who was shot dead by an IRA gunman in Londonderry in a failed ambush on British troops. November 1973
Funeral courtege of Kathleen Feeney, 14, who was shot dead by an IRA gunman in Londonderry in a failed ambush on British troops. November 1973
Police and rioters clash in Londonderry after an Apprentice Boys march, 1969.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, pictured leaving court in Belfast after charges against him involving IRA membership were dropped 1976.
Royal Highland Fusilier, Robert Thompson from Hamilton, Scotland who was killed in Northern Ireland. July 27 1980
In March 1988 two corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, were stripped, beaten and shot dead, after driving into the path of a republican funeral in Belfast.
In March 1988 two corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, were stripped, beaten and shot dead, after driving into the path of a republican funeral in Belfast.
In March 1988 two corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, were stripped, beaten and shot dead, after driving into the path of a republican funeral in Belfast.
In March 1988 two corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, were stripped, beaten and shot dead, after driving into the path of a republican funeral in Belfast.
In March 1988 two corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, were stripped, beaten and shot dead, after driving into the path of a republican funeral in Belfast.
Images from the Belfast Telegraph Troubles Gallery IRA checkpoint, the early 1970's
Remains of the van in which 7 workmen were killed in an IRA landmine explosion in Teebane, Co.Tyrone. Pacemaker Press
Remains of the van in which 7 workmen were killed in an IRA landmine explosion in Teebane, Co.Tyrone. 18/01/92. Pacemaker Press
William Bleakes, one of the 7 workmen killed in the IRA 600lb bomb blast on the Omagh to Cookstown road at the Teebane crossing. Pacemaker Press
Cecil James Caldwell, one of the 7 workmen killed in the IRA 600lb bomb blast on the Omagh to Cookstown road at the Teebane crossing. Pacemaker Press
David Harkness, one of the 7 workmen killed in the IRA 600lb bomb blast on the Omagh to Cookstown road at the Teebane crossing. Pacemaker Press
Nigel McKee, one of the 7 workmen killed in the IRA 600lb bomb blast on the Omagh to Cookstown road at the Teebane crossing. Pacemaker Press
Robert Irons, one of the 7 workmen killed in the IRA 600lb bomb blast on the Omagh to Cookstown road at the Teebane crossing. Pacemaker Press
Catholic school children and their parents make their way to Holy Cross school under a heavy police and British Army presence in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
School children and parents with RUC officers who had to escort them to the Holy Cross Primary School Ardoyne today. Photo by: Niall Marshall
Paulette Donnelly with her parents arriving at Holy Cross Girls primary School after walking through "Corridor of Hate" on Friday (7/9/01).
Holy Cross School, November 2001. Children laugh and sing as they make there way up the Ardoyne Road this morning after loyalist protests were suspended and things start to get back to normal for the first time since school term started in September of this year
Ardoyne residents try to overturn an army landrover in Ardoyne avenue after trouble flared up again outside the nearby Holycross school. Picture: Pacemaker
Alice Lee Bunting in tears as she makes her way to Holy Cross Primary School
Fr Aidan Troy at the front gates of Holy Cross Girls School
Holy Cross Primary School.
Holy Cross Primary School.
Holy Cross Primary School.
Smoke spreads as a pipe bomb explodes after it was thrown at police and army lines by protesting loyalists this morning in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne, North Belfast, after Holy Cross Primary school children were marched through lines of Police and army on the second day back to school.
Holy Cross Primary School Protest September 2001. The postman was the only sign of normality this morning on the Ardoyne Rd as despite all that has been happening - the mail got through.
Holy Cross Primary School Protest September 2001. Riot police and army march Holy Cross school children and their parents past burnt out cars and protesting loyalists on their second day back to school in Ardoyne, North Belfast this morning.
An injured police officer is helped by two of his colleagues after a pipe bomb was thrown at them from protesting loyalists this morning in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne, North Belfast, after Holy Cross Primary school children were marched through lines of Police and army on the second day back to school.
Terrified school children after a blast bomb was launched by protesting loyalists. The blast bomb injured one policeman and a police dog, this is the third morning trouble has flared as catholic parents and their children through a protestant area to the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne, North Belfast.
Terrified school children after a blast bomb was launched by protesting loyalists. The blast bomb injured one policeman and a police dog, this is the third morning trouble has flared as catholic parents and their children through a protestant area to the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne, North Belfast.
Terrified school children after a blast bomb was launched by protesting loyalists. The blast bomb injured one policeman and a police dog, this is the third morning trouble has flared as catholic parents and their children through a protestant area to the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne, North Belfast.
An injured police officer is helped into an ambulance by his colleagues after a blast bomb was thrown at them from protesting loyalists in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne, North Belfast, this morning, this is the third morning trouble has flared as catholic parents and their children through a protestant area to the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne, North Belfast.
Police officers carry an injured dog away to get medical help after a blast bomb was launched by protesting loyalists
Catholic Holy Cross Primary School children in tears as their parents march them through armed police and army lines who where holding back protesting protestant residents in Ardoyne, North Belfast, on their first day back to school this morning.
Catholic Holy Cross Primary School children in tears as their parents march them through armed police and army lines who where holding back protesting protestant residents in Ardoyne, North Belfast, on their first day back to school this morning.
Protestant school children who were separated from their parents, scream for their mothers who were held behind armed police and army lines, before the catholic Holy Cross school children were brought to school in Ardoyne this morning.
Catholic schoolchildren are shepherded past protestant protesters at Ardoyne Road.
Holy Cross Primary School Protest And Riots Sept 2001
Holy Cross Primary School Protest In Belfast
Catholic children walking to the Holy Cross Primary School.
A pupil from the Holy Cross school in North Belfast interferance where trouble has been erupting for several weeks.
Ardoyne Road parents and their children on their way to Holy Cross Girls Primary School in what is now the tenth week of the dispute and loyalist protest.
Army bomb disposal experts blow up a second device in a grate beside a protestants car parked near the entrance to the Holy Cross Catholic Shool after having dealt with a suspect bomb across the road in the Protestant Wheatfield Primary And Nursery school.
Security forces keep a watchful eye as a young girl and her father walk up the Ardoyne Road in North Belfast to Holy Cross school. Police stepped up their security outside North Belfast schools after recent threats and trouble as parents walked their children to school.
Father Aiden Troy - Chairman of Board of Governors of Holy Cross School - discusses the sitation with a senior police officer on Ardoyne road
A man receiving attention during the shooting incident in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday, January 31, 1972.
Scenes from 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Stewart Gardner, Argylls second lieutenant of Dollar shot dead at Crossmaglen, Co Armagh. September 22nd 1972.
Government of Northern Ireland: The Executive. December 1973.
The Belfast Telegraph Troubles Gallery
The explosion of a bomb in the crowded central Belfast restaurant, the Abercorn, on 4th March 1972, was one of the most horrific incidents of the Northern Ireland violence. Two women were killed - 130 people injured.
The explosion of a bomb in the crowded central Belfast restaurant, the Abercorn, on 4th March 1972, was one of the most horrific incidents of the Northern Ireland violence. Two women were killed - 130 people injured.
The explosion of a bomb in the crowded central Belfast restaurant, the Abercorn, on 4th March 1972, was one of the most horrific incidents of the Northern Ireland violence. Two women were killed - 130 people injured.
The explosion of a bomb in the crowded central Belfast restaurant, the Abercorn, on 4th March 1972, was one of the most horrific incidents of the Northern Ireland violence. Two women were killed - 130 people injured.
Pictured is Jimmy Stewart, who lost both legs in the Abercorn Restaurant explosion. The explosion of a bomb in the crowded central Belfast restaurant, the Abercorn, on 4th March 1972, was one of the most horrific incidents of the Northern Ireland violence. Two women were killed - 130 people injured.
A casualty of the riots in Northern Ireland in 1972
Northern Ireland murder victim Irene Andrews who was murdered by John White on the 26th June 1973.
Belfast Fire Brigade Station officer McCleery, being carried from a bomb explosion, Cromac Street, circa 1971.
Peter Robinson of the DUP pictured in the Israeli Border Area with AK47 rifles while on a fact finding mission to the Middle East. Pacemaker Press Intl. Dec. 1984
Armed soldiers behind a wall on Londonderry's Bogside.
Main Street Claudy in August 1972 when three Provisional IRA car bombs exploded without warning, killing 9 local people and injuring many others.
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono raise their fists as they join a protest in front of British Overseas Airways Corp. offices in New York on Fifth Avenue, Feb 5th 1972. The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.
Funeral of Walter Moore, who was shot while in a shop at the rear of Oldpark RUC base, Oldpark Road Belfast

But the public visiting The Crum will have little real sense of the horror that men experienced there and will have no significant challenge to the question of whether they deserved what they went through, or to what extent they brought it on themselves.

Turning Crumlin Road Gaol into a relic of bad times allows for nostalgia and little else.

They would hardly sell many of their nice buns if the walls bore images of the misery of the prisoners, the faces of the murdered prison officers.

You can take a tour, of course, and hear that history and you can hear the ghost stories too in the paranormal tour.

All no doubt instructive yet primarily entertaining. I had a similar uneasiness about the Hole in the Wall archive-based programme on 1969 on the BBC on Tuesday night.

Here was a beautiful blend of archive footage and the popular music of the time, with deftly drawn connections between the two.

And you could see what a bleak city Belfast was then - the drab little houses of the lower Falls, the narrow streets, the greater poverty and ill health of the people, the snorting arrogance of Army officers and former Army officers in political life.

But a bad year had been turned into easy viewing and easy listening.

I was, like a lot of other viewers no doubt, trying to find myself in the footage.

It looked and felt like ancient history and it's as well that that is where it belongs, in a past so remote that it is almost impossible to recover the real feel of it. And who would want the real feel of it anyway?

After the Second World War, men sat in their armchairs and scowled at their children and refused to talk about what was really annoying them.

People who had been merely inconvenienced rather than tortured and aggrieved were left to tell the stories.

And somehow, when you thought about it, it didn't seem to have been that bad after all.

That is what is happening here now.

The Terror Tours are taking people round the murals and the peacelines.

One of the big attractions is the International Wall, which suggests that Northern Ireland was part of an almost global resistance movement when, in fact, its problem was that it was cut off and self centred.

But how else is the story to be told than by those who have an incentive to tell it and make a few bob out of it?

The tourist board wants nothing to do with the recent past.

We have a monument to the Titanic, all right. Eager to have a big story to tell, the State conscientiously avoided the one we had all just lived through.

Meanwhile the Troubles story has been inherited by those who can tell it and sell it, who can recall it without anger or tears. But what about the rest of us?

Maybe a lot of people don't want their story told, don't want to be reminded of the bombings and shootings.

It is hard enough for some people to walk up, say, the main street in Omagh, without them having to face a representative reminder of the horror that happened there.

Sufficient is the Obelisk, a response to ugliness and darkness with beauty and light.

And even there, the text in the memorial garden was sanitised.

More heart-rending still is the Omagh Bomb Archive in the town library. I know no more powerful and candid memorial to the Troubles anywhere.

It is like entering a chapel of rest. It gathers together the books of condolences from around the world, among other things.

But we have yet to find the balance between frank and open remembering and setting the past behind us, between softening the images that haunt us into attractions for tourists and saying plainly to ourselves and our visitors what it was all really like.

There are some here who still can't get those images out of their heads anyway. Do they really want the past reproduced or enacted in front of them? Do the rest of us have a right to impose it on them?

Do they want their children asking questions? Do they have answers yet themselves?

There is something to be said for letting the whole package of memory and pain drift further back into forgetting, at least for those who can forget.

For the others?

We are long overdue a proper memorial; not necessarily one that will tell the story, but one that will symbolise the grief and the political confusion that brought us to it.

Then, I think, for those who can bear it, we need a museum to the Troubles. One that will tell everything, from the bombs to Bloody Sunday and Bloody Friday, to the knee-cappings and the back-alley killings, the maggots in the filthy cells of Long Kesh, the work of the ambulance service and the police, gathering up the bits, everything.

Then there would always be a corrective available to those who provide just nostalgia, sentimentality and propaganda.

Belfast Telegraph

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