Children of the Troubles: a troubling picture of young lives cut short

Joe Duffy and Freya McClements masterfully evoke everyday lives in dark times. Victims' memoirs form a mosaic: the conflict’s contours, if not its causes, emerge, as do its costs

A young boy is held by British soldiers from the Gloucester Regiment after he was caught hurling stones at a Saracen Armoured Personal Carrier in the IRA stronghold of the Lower  Falls Road area, March 1972. Photograph: Oliver Morris/Getty

A young boy is held by British soldiers from the Gloucester Regiment after he was caught hurling stones at a Saracen Armoured Personal Carrier in the IRA stronghold of the Lower Falls Road area, March 1972. Photograph: Oliver Morris/Getty

The Troubles began before 1969. In 1966, the UVF deliberately killed two young Catholics, storeman John Scullion and barman Peter Ward, and members of the same organisation also accidently killed an elderly Protestant widow, Matilda Gould, when they firebombed her home; they had mistaken it for a Catholic-owned public house. Part of the “forelash” against the civil rights movement, those killings open Lost Lives, the most reliable reckoning of the Troubles’ death toll.

And yet it was in 1969 that it became clear that the Troubles had begun, that nothing thereafter would be the same. It was in 1969 that the fiction that Northern Ireland was a liberal democracy was torn to shreds on television – at Burntollet, in the Bogside and on Bombay Street. It was in August of that year that the British army was deployed in the North. And it was in December that the Provisional IRA emerged from a split in republicanism.

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