False Memories of Belfast?bypeaceandtruth©
I came across this story some time ago. I was searching Literotica for stories set in Belfast, since it is my home town. I was somewhat shocked by it. It is a non erotic story, and supposedly (from the claim at the start) "mostly true". To me it seemed mostly false, and damagingly so. It portrays Belfast and The Troubles in a light that is so far removed from reality, and so close to the sort of mythos that fuels murder and terrorism, that I found it disturbing to read on this site.
It may seem trivial to some -- a silly story in an obscure part of the site, read by only a few hundred people -- but to me it is deeply insulting, a trivialisation of a real life and death struggle, real suffering, real pain. A trivialisation that offers succour to some of those who created that pain, justifies their unjust war, and lays the seed for new murder and mayhem.
I support free speech, but not falsehoods. I hold myself to be an Irishman, but not a terrorist sympathiser. I believe in democracy, and tolerance, not the bullet in the back of the neck or the cowardly carbomb. Moreover I lived through The Troubles, had friends and family injured and killed, watched others profit from the death and mayhem they fomented, and heard the lies they spread to justify their greed and power hungry manipulation of the young and ignorant people they twisted to their ends.
This story is an insult to the truth, to those who died, to those who where injured, to those who endured, on all sides and none in the sad conflict that blighted our little part of the world.
A conflict that was funded largely by Americans who believed the sort of nonsense this story presents.
It is sad to say that there are still some, particularly in America, who are prepared to fund terrorism in Ireland, to pursue a dream that is shared by no-one who lives here and sees what peace has brought us. Extremist, unrealistic, romantic and foolish die hard (kill hard) Republicans are raising money now to start their campaign of bombing shopping malls and shooting taxi drivers, torturing people who fall in love with members of the community they say is the enemy, and driving forward their (let us be honest here) unrealistic Marxist derived view of a free socialist republic. It is a view they keep hidden from their American backers much of the time, just as they hid the fact that they dealt with Libiya, supported the Palestinians, the Cubans, the Sandanistas, ran heroin into Dublin and New York, and still run prostitution and protection rackets throughout Ireland.
The happy truth is that now that the IRA have stopped their murder campaign all the civil rights and the benefits of being a modern democracy in Europe that we wanted in the 1960's are in place. Indeed they were in place in the early 70's and the terrorist campaign has achieved nothing that democratic and peaceful protest could not have gained decades before.
There is no support now for a return to those dark days, and while genuine grief and pain and resentment lingers, it is tempered by hope and forgiveness -- we do not need this false fear and pain and lies and bitterness -- we do not need the hatred and outrage that this story tries to raise through ignorance and misplaced romantic idealism. Thefacts were bad enough, without these lies, and we are strong enough to move on, and need no-one to spout this old rubbish that plays only into the hands of the power hungry and the unscrupulous who seek to overthrow democracy and impose their will by force of arms.
But that aside, let us look at this supposedly "mostly true" story and see just how much can be questioned. My notes are delimited thus **(this is a note)** I fully acknowledge the copyright of the original author. quotations from the text are for academic study and fall into the category of 'fair use' for literary criticism.
Memories of My Return to Belfast
Occasionally, a story has to be written. This one is mostly true. The incidents really happened much as portrayed. For my loyal readers, this story has been in my head for a number of years waiting for its time. Its time is now. Hopefully you will understand it and the bitter memories I have carried most of my life.
"Have you heard from Sean? He was arrested in '79."
**(From the start it is suggested that Sean, a name few Protestants in Northern Ireland would use, is from a Catholic and republican background, and that Jenny shares that background.)**
Jenny shook her head. That was all she could do. So many dead or arrested. Arrested was the same as dead back in those days. That meant Long Kesh Prison or, if you were lucky, transferred to London's Newgate. But that seldom happened. Long Kesh was for "terrorists," as the British thought of them, while Newgate housed common criminals. The Irish thought of the inmates at Long Kesh as political prisoners or maybe even freedom fighters. It all depended on your point of view.
**("So many dead" it should be pointed out that terrorists killed ten times the number killed by the Army and police on active duty - this story suggests that the security forces were responsible for large numbers of deaths - in total it was fewer than three hundred over forty years. "Arrested was the same as dead" IS this figurative? It is certainly not true that those arrested were automatically killed -- indeed the number of deaths in custody was extremely small. "Long Kesh" was by 1979 HM Prison Maze, which was a fully integrated prison for all criminals, not just terrorists, although it had sizable populations of both Republican and Loyalist. Prisoners were never transferred to jails in England unless their crimes were committed in England, and they were tried there. Often prisoners tried in England were transferred back to Northern Ireland to serve sentences so that they could be closer to their families. The idea that it would be lucky to be transferred to Newgate, a cramped and overcrowed Victorian prison in London rather than the modern, spacious and well equipped Maze prison is laughable. Also many of the Irish thought that those in the Maze were terrorists, who had bombed bars and train stations and town centres and killed thousands of innocents. It was always a very small minority who thought of them as freedom fighters or political prisoners.)**
Staring toward the windows that fronted The Fountain Inn at the corner of Castle Lane and Fountain Street, Jenny thought back to those days. Belfast was much different then. Many of the corner pubs were burned out shells from the bombs. Occasionally, one could hear a car bomb explode or gunfire and wonder who had died, hoping it was a Brit and not a brother. British soldiers, heavily armed, stalked the streets continuously both in groups on foot and in armored vehicles. It was a frightening time.
**("back to those days" this is ambiguous -- by 1979 the IRA campaign of car bombing and bombing pubs had tapered off, as the leadership of the IRA realised that murdering civilians wasn't getting them anywhere. "many of the corner pubs..." How many? From my memory, living here, it wasn't many. Also they tended to be rebuilt very quickly, with the compensation money given by the British Government to all those who were affected by the terrorist attacks. "Occasionally one could hear a car bomb explode" Very rarely after 1974 -- IRA tactics changed, and gunfire was not a regular occurrence -- certainly if you were in the Fountain Tavern post 1972 you would never have heard a single shot. As for the British Soldiers heavily armed -- yes they carried rifles, and wore flack jackets, but the armoured vehicles were not tanks, nor did they mount machine guns or heavy weapons -- they were mostly reinforced Land Rovers, that would not compare to the sort of thing seen on the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the armoured cars used by US SWAT teams.)**
On the 23rd of May in the year 1976 Jenny had been shot in the abdomen by a British soldier while sitting with Sean in the Castle Pub. Tensions were high. Fear was ruler of Ulster in those days. After surgery and a three week hospital stay, the Jackson family decided to leave Belfast.
**(There is no Castle Pub in Belfast. No-one was shot sitting in a pub by a British Soldier in 1976. Or any other year. This sentence is gratuitously throwaway, as if this sort of thing was commonplace. Any shooting in such circumstances would have been followed by a full investigation -- why was the shot fired? Where charges brought against the shooter? Why not? And why would this prompt the family to leave Belfast?)**
Jenny looked up at Linny, knowing both her parents had been killed in a car bomb in '76. That same day, the government put her in an orphanage and changed her life so much. Jenny supposed she had been more fortunate. Her father had been arrested and hanged in Long Kesh as a terrorist. Unjustly so in her mind. But enough of this. Jenny's mind shifted back to Sean. They had been young then. They were in love and talked about a future together. But that was only another heartbreak in a long series it seemed.
**(So many things to comment on here. Firstly, no couple were killed in a car bomb in 1976. Secondly, who would have planted this bomb? The carbomb was the weapon of choice for the IRA, and on a few occasions, Loyalist terrorists, but not after 1974. So Linny's parents are supposedly killed by terrorists -- we should remember that. But why was Linny put in an orphanage? Had she no relatives at all? Policy in the UK has been to place children with family if at all possible, or foster care. But now we get to the first massive untruth -- Jenny's father was Hanged in Long Kesh. No-one was ever hanged in Long Kesh. No-one was judicially executed in Northern Ireland. The death Penalty was removed in 1974, and no terrorist or murderer had been executed since the 1960's. If the Jenny in the story is supposedly the Jenny writing the story, and this story is "mostly true" then we should point out that this is one of those bits that is absolutely not true.)**
Thinking back she could hear her grandfather and mother coaxing her. "Hurry up. We have to go."
"Go where? This is our home."
"Not any more. The provos and the soldiers..."
"To hell with them. We haven't done anything."
"Neither had your father but look what happened. They don't care about your guilt or innocence. Just that you're Irish."
"I'm not going. I have friends here," Jenny said defiantly.
"Friends like Sean. He's with the Ulsters. They'll hang him."
**(there is great ambiguity about the phrase "the provos and the soldiers." the implication is that the family is under threat from both the provos -- the Provisional IRA, a republican anti british mostly catholic marxist terroist group -- and the soldiers -- presumably the British Army. This is possible, but unexplained why both groups should be a threat. "just that you're Irish"... well, the provos would probably approve of you identifying as Irish, and the British would not much care -- after all they didn't actually hang anyone for being Irish, and given that about half a million people in Northern Ireland would identify themselves as Irish that makes sense. And here we come to another massively confused and misleading part - "Friends like Sean. He's with the Ulsters. They'll hang him." As was already noted, Sean is most likely Catholic. While there was never a group or organisation that I know of who were referred to as "the Ulsters" it is notable that "Ulster" tended to be used by Loyalist -- ie, protestant, not republican- groups. So why would Sean be with a Loyalist terrorist group? Also, who will hang him -- again, there is no death penalty in the UK. This strongly suggests that the author is ignorant about the legal system, and the political divides in Northern Ireland.)**
Reluctantly, she went. First a long train ride to Dublin, then a car at night to Wexfprd where money changed hands and we boarded a fishing boat for England. Ultimately we got to Liverpoole and boarded a ship bound for New York. Grandpa had some money in his pockets, but we had little else.
**(This is one of my favourite bits of nonsense in this story -- why take a fishing boat to England? There is a ferry from Dublin to Liverpool. What possible reason could there be to pay a fisherman to sail for probably 20 hours across the Irish Sea to smuggle you into England? And why travel to America by ship? There are no ferries that do that trip -- cruise liners possibly, and cargo ships, yes, but again, why are they being smuggled into the US? Why didn't they just go to Shannon Airport and get a direct flight? Or fly to Heathrow from Belfast and then to NY? What is this the Scarlett Pimpernel? Utter nonsense.)**
The Jackson family stayed in a boarding house in the Harlem slums for a few days. Every day, grandpa went to the Western Union office to send telegrams to our relatives in Washington State asking for money. Eventually an uncle sent us train fare.
Those were the horrible days of Jenny's life. Those were the days of adjustment and loss. The days passed slowly and the memory of them would burn into her mind forever.
Jenny was certain her mother had been right. Sean had been hanged along with so many others inside the walls of Long Kesh. What happened during those turbulent times was a crime against, not just the Irish,, but humanity itself.
**(Do I have to say it again -- no one was hanged in Long Kesh. Not a single person. The crimes against the Irish and Humanity line is pure nonsense. I am Irish, I lived throughout this period in Belfast, not a single menmer of my family or anyone I knew was hanged -- it just didn't happen.)**
Eventually she did adjust and push those memories to the back of her mind and lock them away in a dark, private place. In time even her brogue began to fade - but not entirely. Idiom would still sneak in. Things like "me" instead of "my" as in, "I saw me mother at the store." Even now that sounded right to her ears, even though she knew it was not correct English.
A lorry passed on Castle Lane and turned north onto Fountain Street bring Jenny back to the present.
**(since Castle Lane and Fountain Street has been a pedestrian zone for years, ever since the centre of Belfast was closed to traffic to stop the IRA planting carbombs in it, I find that unlikely. Also Castle lane is very narrow, ad can only be entered by driving up over the wide pavement of Royal Avenue - why would a lorry go up it?)**
"Jenn? Are you all right?"
"Yes. Yes. I was just thinking."
"About those days. How it was, you know."
Linny reached out and touched Jenny's hand. "It was a long time ago, baby."
"I know." Jenny was silent for a moment. "Have you asked the McDermotts about Sean? They seem to know everything," knowing in her heart that Sean was lying in some unmarked grave east of the city along with the other terrorists killed back then.
**(Who killed and buried these terrorists? What are the names of the victims? Numbers? Are we talking tens or hundreds or thousands? Because there are no reports of any of that happening that I am aware of. No one I know of disappeared apart from a few that the IRA kidnapped and killed. There are no outstanding cases of anyone having disappeared after being arrested by the police or captured by the army, who would then hand them over to the police. This is again just pure nonsense.)**
"They haven't heard either," Linny said with a frown. "I asked them about a lot of people we knew. They showed me a list on the internet. I started to go through it but I couldn't. So many we knew are dead."
"Patty Murphy? Charlie?"
"Both. Patty in a pub bombing. Charlie murdered in an alley behind Lukey's pub."
"Yes. But I couldn't read much more. I started to cry."
Jenny reached out and picked up her glass from the table and took a long draught. The whiskey burned her throat but it was a welcome feeling. The burning quenched the tears that were beginning to well in her own eyes.
Jenny looked up into Linny's eyes. "And now Mattie."
Linniy shook her head. "Yes. Now her too."
"I remember her dancing. It was almost as if her feet flew. She was so light on her feet. And that smile. And her laugh. I can still hear her laughing. What was that? A month ago? Two? It seems like only yesterday."
"Two months," Linny said sadly. "When she went home she said she didn't feel well."
"I know. But...? That's not right. She was so..."
"Full of life," Linny finished the thought.
"Is it time? I want to get this over with soon. I'll be stinking drunk otherwise."
Linny smiled. "I'm not so sure Mattie wouldn't have appreciated that, Jenn."
Jenny sat upright, steeling herself. "Alright then. One more for the road." She waved her nearly empty glass at the barkeep.
"Alright, Jenn. Then we have to go."
Presently, another glass of heavy irish whiskey was delivered to the table. Jenny picked it up, raised it high in the air. "To Mattie McDermott. Best friend a girl ever had." Then Jenny tossed the whiskey down in a single gulp and stood.
Together the two women left the pub and began the walk down Fountain Street to the church. Just a block down the street they caught up with Mattie's daughter Sarah who was walking slowly ahead of them.
"Ah, Sarah, me darl'n," Linny said putting her arm around Sarah's shoulders. "Tis a sad day, indeed."
Sarah turned her head toward Linny. "She loved you well, Linda. And you too Jenny."
Jenny reached out and took Sarah's hand to squeeze. "And we loved her too, me girl."
At the corner, the three stopped to look at the church. "What will ye do now, Sarah?"
**(There is no church on Fountain Street)**
"I don't know," she said sadly. Then straightening her back, "Maybe I'll travel and see the world."
Jenny squeezing her hand said, "Come back to the States with us, love. We would love to have you."
Sarah smiled. "Maybe I will for a while. There is nothing to keep me here."
Linny leaned in and kissed Sarah's cheek. The three women crossed the street and climbed the thirteen steps to the door of the church, opened the door and disappeared into the gloomy darkness inside to say farewell to a life long friend.
**(there is no church in the centre of Belfast with thirteen steps up to it)**
Mostly true? I think not. Not a single word of it.