Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New book is a tribute to courageous firefighters who served the entire community during our darkest times

Editor's Viewpoint

One of the most revealing accounts of the devastation caused during the Troubles is revealed in a newly-published book about the work of firefighters in those hazardous times.

Brian Allaway was a young fireman who served in Belfast during some of the worst years of our history.

He spent five years carrying out meticulous research about the work of his colleagues during this terrible time.

In one telling extract Brian notes: "In 20 years we will all be gone, and there will be nobody left to tell the story, which is something that cannot be forgotten."

How right he is. If the work of the firefighters had not been remembered and recorded in the way he has done, it would have been a shame.

His book - Firefighters of Belfast: The Fire Service During the Troubles 1960-1994 - underlines that at one time the IRA scurrilously declared firefighters to be "legitimate targets", even though all reasonable people knew they were dedicated to serving the entire community.

It should also be emphasised that while individual officers received bravery awards, and the Fire Service has a memorial to those who lost their lives, their individual and collective courage deserves much wider recognition.

At times this book makes for harrowing reading and there are gruesome details of human suffering. However, it also contains essential information for those from different generations who wish to understand fully what some people did to others. It all tells of how others responded bravely to help those in need.

Significantly, that is still the core response of the Fire Service today. Like other emergency services, they still have to attend scenes of injury and suffering without knowing what to expect.

They - and their families - do not know for sure if they will come back unscathed, or even alive.

Brian has done his former colleagues, the Fire Service, the Northern Ireland public in general, and the recording of our history, a great service in memorialising these brave officers who did their very best in the very worst of times.

Their service and sacrifice must never be forgotten.

Belfast Telegraph

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