March Books 9) Lost Lives

9) Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea

I haven’t finished this. I never will. It is too heart-rending. It lists 3697 victims of the Troubles, including not only those who died as a direct result of violent acts, but also others whose deaths, ostensibly due to natural causes, was obviously related to the violence.

The gut-wrenching thing is the sheer pointlessness of it all. The bloke who worked for the Queen as a royal coachman, out bird-watching one day, killed by the British army in crossfire in a battle with the IRA. The Unionist councillor, blown up in his car, on his way out of a meeting where he had asked fellow councillors to show a mark of respect to a Catholic victim of Loyalists a few days before.

I found I had forgotten so much of this. I had certainly forgotten, if I had ever known, that a 61-year-old bank manager and his 19-year-old daughter were shot around the corner from our house in September 1976. She died on the spot; he lingered for five weeks. The perpetrators are believed to have got the impression that the father’s recent promotion to “Chief Inspector” meant that he was a senior policeman.

It’s all terrible, all difficult to read. The worst of all are the stories of children like the little girl killed in the Omagh bomb at the age of 20 months, as her mother was buying her shoes for her uncle’s wedding where she was to be a flower girl.

The child’s father was left with the task of telling his three other children, aged six, three and two, that their baby sister had died and that at the same time their mother was critically ill. He had gone to the hospital looking for them and was told that his wife was alive but was to be taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by helicopter. ‘Half an hour later,’ he said, ‘I was told a baby had been found and a priest led me to the ward. When I reached the ward they told me that this baby was dead and asked if I would look to see if it was ours. It was.’

Grim though it is, I am really glad that the authors went to the trouble of compiling all this information. Putting everyone in context, all in one book, sorted only by chronological order, is a reminder that whatever the grand historical rights and wrongs, death is death and all who died left loved ones behind them. I wish this kind of survey could be done for other conflicts.

In the meantime, it’s St Patrick’s Day today, folks; let’s make it a better 21st century if we can.

One thought on “March Books 9) Lost Lives

  1. Well, yeah, and I’m a huge supporter of electoral reform.

    Unfortunately, I’m also not residen in the UK any more.

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