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Children of War

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Diaries of Northern Ireland
Excerpts from Children of “The Troubles” Our Lives in the Crossfire of Northern Ireland.
(Laurel Holliday. New York: Washington Square Press, 1997.)

Glyn Chambers - Belfast - 17 years old

Two Communities

We live in this street, they live in that street,
yet both communities live in Belfast.
We follow this religion, they follow that religion,
yet both communities believe in God.
We vote for these parties, they vote for those parties,
yet both communities recognize each other’s mandate.
We feel bound to one country, they feel bound to another country,
yet both communities are bound to Northern Ireland.
We think they are troublemakers, they think we are troublemakers,
yet both communities have contributed to the Troubles.
We claim they get too much, they claim we get too much,
yet both communities wish to create a prosperous, equal society with opportunities for all.
Two communities, but what are the differences?



Gemma McHenry - Ballycastle, County Antrim

“Being a child of the Troubles in Belfast was normal for me. I didn’t know anything else. Just like children in the slums of cities all over the world who know no better, we knew there was a big world out there but this was our world. The love and security we had at home made up for all the madness going on around us.”

“I was brought up in a mixed area (Protestant and Catholic) and I had mixed friends and thought nothing of it. We were all innocent children. I would be asked by my Protestant friends to say the Hail Mary. To me it was the only difference between us. Sometimes I needed to say it to prove I was a Catholic!”

“Those were happy days of innocence, but reality hit us with a bomb when a Protestant neighbour was shot by Republican paramilitaries for being a member of the Security Forces. And then a Catholic neighbour was shot for being a Catholic.”

“As a Catholic family it became too dangerous for us to continue living there.”

Jeffrey Glenn - Dromore, County Down

“That was the day (Bloody Friday, January 30, 1972) that brought home to me what ‘terrorism’ means because I felt terrorised. My mood was just total black despair. We seemed to be entering some sort of apocalyptic world where your worst nightmares ran for twenty-four hours a day. You couldn’t go on a bus or a train for wondering if either it or the station would be blown up. You couldn’t walk down a street where cars were parked for wondering if one of them contained a bomb. You couldn’t leave your car on to be fixed because when you went back to collect it the workshop was probably now a hole in the ground. Every day some landmark that you loved or a favourite store was bombed or burnt.”

“I remember coming into Belfast one afternoon and finding the giant Co-Op store blazing from end to end. That was the final straw. I put my head in my hands and found tears running down my cheeks.”

Natasha Ritchie - Belfast - 18 years old

Pain or Peace?

Lying in bed you hear a bomb in the distance
Close your eyes and forget, try to keep your innocence
Watching the news, there’s twelve more dead
Maybe a sigh or a shake of your head.
There’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can say
You can’t stop the pain, make the hurt go away.
So you go out to your friends and play your games
You’re only young, you can’t make it change
You learn to ignore, pretend it never happened
When you let it get to you that’s when childhood ends.

And now there’s a cease-fire, now we have peace
How long will it last? A few months? A few weeks?
You don’t know what to think, a whole new way of life
You’re just not sure, but the other way wasn’t right.
There’s always been trouble, since before you were born
People fighting, people killing, families forlorn
Now there’s a new way to live where nobody dies
But should we believe it, or is it all just more lies?
Will we have a new life where there’s no need to grieve
It’s going to take time before I can believe.

Colm O’Doherty - Derry, County Derry - 10 years old

Riots!

There’s riots! There’s riots!
Oh what a shame,
It’s children like us who get all the blame,
The banging of the bullets,
The bumping of horns,
Oh what a shame,
The riots are on.

The crying of children filled with gas,
The ticking of bombs which mostly come last.
The smell of petrol all over the ground
Oh my goodness!
My head’s going round.
The whizzing of stones flying through the air,
This is one thing I just can’t bear.

Laragh Cullen - Dungannon, County Tyrone - 11 years old

A Dream of Peace

Peace in our country.
A truce in our land,
Harmony in our world,
All war banned.

I live in Dungannon,
I’ve never known peace,
I’m tired of the choppers,
Soldiers and police.

I’m tired of the sirens
The town’s like a cage,
I wish there was peace,
I’m eleven years of age.

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