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Six Northern Ireland Troubles survivors tell their stories for art project


Participants Paul Gallagher, Alex Bunting, Mark Kelly, Peter Eastwood, Margaret Yeaman and Jennifer McNern

Participants Paul Gallagher, Alex Bunting, Mark Kelly, Peter Eastwood, Margaret Yeaman and Jennifer McNern

Participants Paul Gallagher, Alex Bunting, Mark Kelly, Peter Eastwood, Margaret Yeaman and Jennifer McNern

A man who suffered horrific injuries as a teenager in a no-warning bomb said it is important to keep sharing his story as a way to deal with the past and create an understanding of what brought Northern Ireland to where it is today.

Mark Kelly was an 18-year-old passionate about playing Gaelic football and Irish dancing, and had an offer to study mechanical engineering in Strathclyde on August 28, 1972 - the day the UVF bombed the Glen Bar in Glengormley.

From that moment on Mr Kelly has spent his life in a wheelchair after the blast robbed him of his legs. Similarly, it was a no-warning bomb that robbed Margaret Yeaman of her eyesight when the IRA triggered a device that ripped through the estate agent's where she worked in Banbridge in March 1982.

Mrs Yeaman never imagined that when she left her four young children off at their schools that morning it would be the last time she would see their faces, and 38 years later she has been denied seeing the faces of her six grandchildren.

These are two of the six powerful stories told as part of an art installation, Questions of Legacy, which will open in Londonderry next week before going on tour to a number of venues here.

Mrs Yeaman said it is important today's generation learn about the Troubles from people who experienced the worst of it first-hand.

She said: "I don't think the younger generations grasp what it was really like.

"But they really do need to know, because so often people ask me if I was born blind, but when I tell them I was injured in a bomb they are shocked, because I am often the first person they have ever met who was.

"Young people think that the Troubles is something that happened way, way back in ancient history.

"But I am living with this every single day."

Mrs Yeaman added: "Some people say those who died in the Troubles were the lucky ones compared to those who were left seriously injured like me, and I agree with that." Mr Kelly is also concerned about how legacy issues are viewed by today's society.

He said: "I know people want to draw a line in the sand but you must address the issues that brought us here in the first place.

"Society must be allowed to heal and reflect upon what went on but the legacy of the past must be dealt with in an appropriate way because not every model is going to suit everybody.

"That is really what we are doing by taking part in this project, because it is by hearing stories about the conflict that (people will be urged) to work to make peace happen."

The artist behind the Questions of Legacy creation, Pamela Brown, said using podcasts to tell the stories of the six survivors is a modern-day way of connecting with our past.

She said: "Podcasts are listened to by millions of people, they are very much part of modern life, but I also remember the listening booths that the old record shops had that allowed just one person at a time to listen to a particular record.

"This was such a personal experience and in the same way, the listening booths in Questions of Legacy have the same level of intimacy because of their conversational nature."

The Questions of Legacy installation is available at the Holywell Trust building, Bishop Street, Derry, from February 20 until February 25.

Belfast Telegraph