Podcasts reveal personal side of loss in the Troubles
Stories from Silence features the families behind the statistics
Alan McBride with his wife, Sharon, and their daughter Zoe. Photograph: Courtesy of Alan McBride
Pat and Geraldine Finucane met when they were both students at Trinity College Dublin.
“I think he spotted me before I spotted him,” says Geraldine, “but I guess if he was here he’d say no, no, no, you picked me.
“He was a lot of fun, we had a lot of good times. We used to argue like cat and dog,” she laughs. “When things were going well for Pat, life was wonderful.”
Pat, a well-known Belfast lawyer, was shot and killed by the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) in 1989 as the couple and their three children ate Sunday dinner at home.
Geraldine Finucane continues to campaign for a public inquiry into his death; she has become a prominent spokeswoman not just in regard to her husband’s murder, but also the broader issues of security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.
She is one of a number of partners bereaved by the Troubles who have spoken of the personal side of their loss in a new series of podcasts, Stories from Silence, by the Belfast-based Wave Trauma Centre, recorded by author and journalist Susan McKay.
“If I’m doing something public, you sort of do it in a detached fashion,” explains Geraldine in the podcast. “It’s never your private life, it’s the campaign, and what I’m doing will hopefully help other people reach the truth of their particular situation, but when you’re at home it just impacts.
“Occasionally if I am sitting and if there’s a lot of couples about and we’re all having a great time, sometimes I can’t bear it, and I just have to go away.
“I think, well, it should have been me and Pat in this company with our friends. But I just have to get on with it.”
Her story is not unusual. Among those who have also spoken as part of the podcast is Alan McBride. He is manager of the Stories from Silence project and the co-ordinator of Wave and his wife, Sharon, was among those killed in the IRA bombing of Frizzell’s fish shop on Belfast’s Shankill Road in 1993.
“I tell my story every day,” he explains, “but my story is not so much about Sharon the person, it’s more about the loss of Sharon and the campaigning.
“This project is very much about Sharon the person, about who she was as a wife, as a mother and as a friend.
“I’m talking about little memories I have of our time together, trying to create a little sketchbook of her life and of who she was.”
In Alan’s “sketchbook” is Sharon’s love for their daughter, Zoe, who was only two when her mother died.
“Zoe and Sharon were inseparable; it was just lovely to watch the two of them,” he reveals in the podcast. “Now, I think one of the biggest losses for me is not just losing Sharon but actually losing the love that Sharon had for Zoe. Seeing that up close and personal was a really beautiful thing.”
We talk about 3,700 people murdered in the Troubles, but behind each statistic there’s a story, there’s a family
For Alan, it is vital that such memories be recorded. “Sometimes we talk about 3,700 people murdered in the Troubles and that just rolls off the tongue, but behind each statistic there’s a story, there’s a family.”
Also among the podcasts are the memories of Kate Carroll, whose husband, Stephen, was a policeman killed by the Continuity IRA in 2009, and Sara Canning, the partner of Lyra McKee, the journalist murdered by the New IRA in Derry earlier this year, as well as less familiar stories such as that of Gladys Robinson, whose husband, David Shiels, was shot dead by the IRA outside their caravan near Maghera, Co Derry in 1990.
Gladys died earlier this year, before her interview could be published; her son Steven, who was only four weeks old when his father was killed, gave his permission for it to be included.
“He phoned me to say how wonderful it was to have his mother’s story in her own voice, because she’s no longer here to tell it,” says Alan.
“There’s a real imperative here that we have these stories down, because we have an ageing victims population here and in 20, 30 years a lot of these stories aren’t going to be around.
“I regard these stories as warnings from history about what actually happened here, and we should use them to make sure that these things never, ever happen again.
“People are already talking about the inevitability of violence because of Brexit. I choose not to say that violence is inevitable, I don’t think it was in 1971 and I don’t think it is now, but if you ever wanted a warning about how bad it can get, you just need to go onto this site and listen to these stories.”
The Stories from Silence podcast series is available to listen to now at http://wavetraumacentre.org.uk/who-we-are/wave-stories/