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Renaming Old Wounds

Northern Ireland: contested name, contested soil, contested blood. The land Irish Republicanism sought to reduce to ash and bone. The land Unionism sought to stamp its dominance upon the throat of the Fenian and the usurper.

Arise, the infant dead, the garroted, the bomb-blasted, the cripple, the widow, the orphan. Arise, arise into the lights of glory, of the lark uncaged, of freedom’s surly grip around the noose we all wear. High Explosive mixes churned into High Finance. Blood begets money begets power – this is the true expression of freedom, not the weathered murals slanting flags and guns towards a dull sky. Money and power is the song of the lark.

And in naming a thing ye will, evermore, have power over such. Tear down the mundane and give breath to the proud children of Ireland:

In recognition of High Explosive:

Blast Lung Parade

Abdominal Haemorrhage Grove

Concussion Gardens

In recognition of flying debris and bomb fragments:

Blunt Injury Avenue

Penetrating Ballistic Park

Eye Penetration Close

In recognition of bodies being thrown by explosive force:

Traumatic Amputation Avenue

Closed Brain Injury Drive

Open Brain Injury Gardens

In recognition of explosion-related injuries, illnesses or diseases:

Flash Burn View

Crush Injury Heights

Hyperglycaemia Court

Sepsis Street

Mesenteric Ischaemia Mews

Air Embolism-Induced Injury Lane

How proud would we stand amidst our new signage, showing clearly the fruits of our freedom and our loyalty? Put aside the dullness of street names like James Connolly or James Craig. The terms used to define particular wounds caused by explosive and ballistic materials define us better. They are our gift to our children along with bitterness, hatred, intolerance and – most notably – greed.


How quickly our walls are ground

down to mist

limestone, granite, brick

powdered cliffs ascend


air folding into air

shudders to despair.


nothing to do but wait

for shadow slipping

over garden gate

inking pavement

with darkness’ weight

like bold little marionettes

dropping from each gable-end

Semtex-eyed and heart

of Armalite


blood delights

each bullet’s flight

each one a sun

to take a son

lay him upon

this deadland won.

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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