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Shouting After Shadows

When I started to post poems on Twitter I was, of course at that time, restricted to one hundred and forty characters. As such, the poems were extremely brief and I had to get to the anger, by which they were driven, quickly. Anger was certainly their fuel. When you respond to an incident – or are the incident! – the terrorists have long prepared their killing grounds, as well as their escapes. You can’t stand in the middle of the road and shout after shadows when colleagues or civilians are lying in pools of blood. Likewise, when there is an exchange of rounds you cannot stand up and loudly declare your contentions with their ideologies. Understandably, the bulk of such poems were directed against Irish Republican terrorists and, that being the case, I feel I began to be seen as some cheerleader for Loyalism. For me, Terrorism in Ireland – of whatever ilk or creed – are merely branches extending from the same criminal tree. Making no mistake, terrorism in Ireland is little more than profit-driven organised crime wearing the fundraising badge of the assault rifle and hoods of the eternal victim.

I pay a lot of attention to reaction to my poems. The ones which directly attack Republican terrorism (especially where I accompany the poem with a photo of Republican terrorists, or the carnage they have left) receive the majority of likes and retweets. Sometimes I would post a non-related poem at the same time (usually nature related, but sometimes about suicide or self-harm) – these receive little or no response.

Recently I posted one which showed a RUC officer. I wrote ‘I am not your stereotype’ to accompany it. This is an aspect I feel incredible strong about. Because I served in the RUC there is an of unspoken assumption that I am card-carrying Unionist. That I loved the Christian god and Paisley with equal measure. For the majority of those who served in the RUC these were never the case. We were our own community, devoid of ideologies and their attendant pageantry. I have no interest in Loyalist or Republican parades, propaganda exercises, or verses of victimhood. Indeed, myself and my colleagues have long been lashed by tongues of hatred – be they Republican or Loyalist. With the latter; they were your supporters if the felt they were getting their way, once that perception changed they quickly resorted to violence and vitriol. Indeed I recall one Unionist (now an MP) telling me that I should burn my uniform (which reminded me of the mid-1980s when RUC officers and their families were threatened with being burnt out of their homes because we were enforcing a lawful (British!) order against Loyalist parades going through Nationalist areas). Nor do I have any interest in Christianity, beyond its archaeology. I am a libertarian. As for the British government? Well, the less said the better.

However, history being what it is, myself and my colleagues more often found ourselves bearing the brunt of Republican terrorist acts. As I said above, the terrorists were usually long gone by the time we arrived, or soon fled if they were engaged. So my early poems reflected my fury. I hold terrorists in utter contempt. Many just enjoyed the opportunity to murder someone – anyone. Their is most definitely a bloodlust present. For others, terrorist acts masked their other crimes: extortion, fraud, robberies, etc. Murderers decked in finery and riches (especially from Irish America who remain enthrall of Irish Republican terrorism).

The following three poems are good examples of my anger against Republican terrorists. I think it is also fueled by how terrorists are now racing to rewrite contemporary history in their favour. You see, despite arguments to the contrary, an outright victor never emerged from the Troubles. And wasn’t it Göring who said at Nuremburg, “Der Sieger wird immer der Richter und der Besiegte stets der Angeklagte sein” (The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused). So now there is a race on between the two rival ideologies to rewrite history as its judge.

Untitled I

It’s a sobering sight

how blood

captures the light

after Ireland’s sick brood

slip death’s cowardly bite

under a father’s feet

scattering metal teeth

into screaming innocents

just to blood

a plough and its stars

the Irish Republican


then dresses as victim again.

Untitled II

I have colluded with truth

just leave me to grieve;

the gun was yours

not mine

the death of those youths

was by your bomb

not mine

the families who grieve

are victims of your cause

not mine

your smile mocks the dead

not mine

yet you claim truth resides on your lips

not mine.

Untitled III

There’s only a thump in my ears

and that little girl over there

alone with her tears

dust spins slowly, without a care

no noise, just the loudness of air

and the slowness of death

pressing my face to earth

suffocated under a rubble of bombs

laid by cowards

heroes only in song.

Thank you. In my next post I will look more at the unburdening of trauma through the unwrapping of verse.

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

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