I’ve started recording a podcast about my experiences during the Northern Ireland Troubles. From all the positive feedback I hope to have ‘hit my stride’ with the third episode – The Dialogue of Shadows. As such, I’m already working on episode four which will follow the format set in three: using a narrative structure and multiple narrators (some who may be based on actual persons, some not) to convey a factual occurrence. Much of what I hope to relate rarely even made it onto the news at the time due to the frequency of attacks and incidents.
During the Troubles the squeeze of a trigger or flick of a switch could quickly turn the events of the day from mundane to inhumane. For the majority of the time the victims of shootings or bombings would have been vastly unaware of their fate. But sometimes not. How do you process the possibility of confronting someone who wants to murder you? The following occurrence in this episode actually unfolded in the manner recounted. I was present along with two of my colleagues. We were in uniform and on duty. It's a shorter episode that those which have gone before and I hope its brevity does not dilute the gravity of the situation. Thanks for listening.
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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