Northern Ireland

IRA mural in Belfast from BBC websiteIn the seventies, the word ‘terrorist’ was synonymous with the word ‘Irish’ in some brains, in the same way that the word ‘Muslim’ is now. Obviously not all Irish people were terrorists and many were victimised and abused due to the public perception that anyone with an Irish accent was potentially dangerous. It was, however, a very frightening time when people were bombed in their homes or down the pub. And the perpetrators when they were caught seemed like ordinary people like your next door neighbour. Sometimes the bombed people were specifically targeted because they had some political involvement in The Troubles, but often they were unfortunate bystanders who got caught by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Blame Britain headline from Irish newspaper 1969I didn’t understand the history behind the IRA until the early eighties when it was on our school curriculum. In my naiveté I’d believed all the crap in the newspapers about the Irish being BAD and the British being GOOD. Then I read all this history about how the British army had gone in and murdered a whole load of Irish people when they were only trying to live on their homeland. And then, I found out that this had happened again in my lifetime. It was one of those moments when I realised that you can’t take anything at face value, and especially that history is written by the winners.

Romanticised view of IRA on teeshirts at’s never good to blow people up. And even though the British Army had done enough murdering and shooting and blowing people up to be called terrorists themselves, according to the British, we were the ones in the right. It incensed a lot of British people to find out that the IRA were openly fundraising in America and were considered ‘freedom fighters’ rather than terrorists. Then again, it depends on what side you’re on as to what you call someone. And the whole romanticised image of the man in a balaclava with a machine gun was more disturbing then than it might be today when we’ve become desensitised to images like this.

The thing about Ireland was that it was so close. I’d read all sorts of things about how appalling the British Empire had behaved in India and Africa and everything, but Ireland was just next to us on the map. This was disturbing, not just with how nasty some of the British were being, but with how easily there could be a war. In fact there were people who thought we were at war. And there were a lot of Irish people living in the UK, without them much of the labouring and heavy work that was going on wouldn’t have been done. This seemed terribly unfair, even to my tiny growing brain.

U2 record cover Sunday Bloody SundayI think it might have been the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday that made me research the background. It’s amazing how as a child you only know what you’re told and you believe everything that you are told because of course adults and the newspapers wouldn’t lie to you. Some people grow out of this sheep attitude quicker than others.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


One Response

  1. in England they take you for seven long days, in Ireland they put you away in the maze…so farewell streets of sorrow, and farewell you streets of pain…and in the darkness of the streets of pain, I’ll not return to feel more sorrow…Long live Shane My mother is irish american. I dream about the green irish hills.God save Ireland!!!!!

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