I was doing some recent research for a book on the early Troubles and I studied the record of a key event.
In September 1971, a month after the introduction of internment, the British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, met the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, at Chequers and both were joined by the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner. They had as their joint concern the ending of the violence.
Faulkner wanted to preserve internment and claim it as a success. Heath wanted a security-based response to the trouble, but with political reform, and Lynch wanted to drum it into the heads of the other two that the key problem was partition.
A few things come out of a reading like that which startle the modern mind with its reasonably well informed grasp of our history.
One is the way in which the Catholic/nationalist/republican community is routinely referred to as "the minority". At this stage, no coherent political position is attributed to "the minority".
Faulkner wants to make space for some of "the minority" in Stormont, so long as they are unionists. Lynch wants to argue that all of "the minority" want a united Ireland. He carries a message from the SDLP that "the minority" can be separated from the IRA so long as political reform is granted.
Lynch had wanted to bring in internment himself. In fact, at Chequers, when Lynch got uppity about internment, Heath reminded him that he had had a seat in De Valera's cabinet that interned the IRA in 1957 and that, only a year before, he had wanted to intern republicans.
Lynch had come up against the argument that internment would be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The British disagreed.
Both wanted the trouble over by Christmas, so that they would not carry the dispute between them into the EC.
Lynch then brought up the violence of the British Army in the handling of internees. What is interesting from our perspective today is that he made no mention of the killings in Ballymurphy, now remembered as the Ballymurphy Massacre, or the other killings of Catholics and Protestants by the Army around Belfast in that week.
I have also seen the briefing paper from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to equip Lynch (right) with arguments against Faulkner and Heath. This does not mention the Army killings, either, apart from those of Desmond Beattie and Seamus Cusack in Derry, which had prompted the SDLP withdrawal from Stormont.
It's amazing how, when you look at how events were considered at the time, they were given a whole different balance of importance than they are now.
We live in a phase of the "conflict". And that word was never used to describe the Troubles until the 1990s, when John Hume found a way of describing the turmoil that allowed for negotiation out of it.
This phase is the contest over history. So, Bobby Storey dies and republicans race to social media to assert that "to know him was to love him", as Michelle O'Neill said.
It is not strictly true that everyone who knew Bobby Storey loved him. I didn't love him. I feared him. I was not alone in that. The contest over our history is engaged in by republicans, who want to argue that the Irish were oppressed by the British and that the bombing and killing of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s was part of a legitimate endeavour to cast off that yoke.
There are other angles into the story. For instance, one could ask why so many young republicans in the early years blew themselves up, or got shot in training accidents. There was much talk of the Provos as a seriously competent fighting machine. Even some in the Army said as much.
When half of all IRA casualties at that time were self-inflicted, you have to wonder if they were inept, or if they were using children who were not mature enough to handle the weapons they carried. And there were children armed on all sides. The Army decided, after early losses, not to put soldiers younger than 18 on the streets, but they had done at the start.
One loyalist, who was active at 15 and later served time for murder, told me that he had believed that the machine-gun fire from the Falls in August 1969 was the IRA shooting at the Shankill.
He was only put right on that when he was in Long Kesh and talked to republicans.
So, you have to ask not only how we have misremembered our past, but how contemporaneous misunderstandings dictated behaviour. I have also been reading security assessments written in the early 1970s and I am amazed at how poorly the Army understood what it was dealing with. They genuinely believed, by November 1971, that they had killed 36 IRA gunmen in active combat.
The only way you can get that number from the records is if you count all killings by the Army and treat every one of them as an IRA gunman.
The Army also believed that the IRA was secretly burying some of its dead and sent patrols into Milltown cemetery to look for recently disturbed graves.
But if the IRA had been interested in hiding its own dead, it would surely have given priority to the accidental dead, the kids, like 15-year-old Michael Sloan (below), who got shot in a house in New Barnsley while being shown how to use a gun. At 15! The others in the house panicked and ran away, leaving the guns behind.
That is part of our history. The truth is that people from the top of politics to the children on the street were blundering into something awful and finding their way. Worse, they did not even know the context in which they were operating.
People will recall that, at 17, Bobby Storey was an IRA man. He himself looked back on those years with pride and was active in generating the myth of a revolutionary army that took on the Empire. It's baloney.
They were kids scrambling against an army and a government that had little better grasp of events than they had.
So, here's a suggestion. Name a street after Michael Sloan, the boy soldier who was found in a house with a bullet wound in his chest and a clatter of guns.
And remember that there is no one story of the Troubles that honours one group, or one side, and that those who dramatise the past as heroic have already forgotten it.
Malachi O'Doherty is the author of Fifty Years On: The Troubles and the Struggle for Change in Northern Ireland (Atlantic Books)