Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: A memorial for Troubles child victims would be apt

Joe Duffy and Freya McClements, the authors of Children of the Troubles — a book dedicated to children killed during the conflict — at the launch in the Titanic Hotel, Belfast last night
Joe Duffy and Freya McClements, the authors of Children of the Troubles — a book dedicated to children killed during the conflict — at the launch in the Titanic Hotel, Belfast last night

Editor's Viewpoint

If anyone needed a harrowing reminder of the senseless slaughter of the innocents, it is set out in a new book titled Children of the Troubles - The Untold Story of the Children Killed in the Northern Ireland Conflict.

The authors Joe Duffy and Freya McClements relate in stark terms the poignant details of children who died during those dreadful years of conflict - 186 under the age of 16.

This statistic is bad enough but the stories in the book underline the human dimension of death, suffering and loss to entire families.

The victims included baby Colin Nicholl, 17 months old, who died in an IRA bomb on the Shankill Road; Rory Gormley, aged 14, who was shot dead by UVF gunmen in the Shankill area and Alan McCrum, aged 11, who was killed by a no-warning IRA bomb in Banbridge.

These were young people who unfortunately happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is what makes such stories so haunting. It could have happened to any of us.

Mature people reading those stories today will reflect on the scale of the loss because of the tragic deaths of these young people. We think of what their lives might have been like - going to school and university, finding jobs, falling in love and getting married, having children and in due course producing grandchildren.

Yet all of this was not to be. The natural order of things across generations is for parents to bury their children but in the cauldron of violence during the Troubles the roles were reversed here for far too many.

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The stories also underline the unending grief of these children's parents, who are frozen in time. Some people claim that 'time heals', but the victims know that this is untrue. Time can only help them to cope as best they can.

This book, like the equally harrowing Lost Lives which is in the news on its 20th anniversary, is a monument to grief. While a monument to the thousands of people killed on all sides during the Troubles remains contentious, there might yet be a way to erect a permanent memorial to all the children killed so cruelly in the conflict.

This would bring some comfort to the bereaved families and also remind us individually and collectively of those young lives which were cut short so brutally and tragically.

The premature death of children is particularly poignant, and the provision of such a permanent memorial could be relatively straightforward, and not tainted by the painful arguments that have so sadly halted other proposals for monuments.

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