When thinking about the themes of Remembering, Forgiving and Forgetting I am drawn to my own story of what happened to me during our conflict. About how I personally remember it. My story is one of a physical attack on me in 1994. An attempt to murder me. To kill me.
I remember the attack well. I am reminded of it every day. I am now paralysed from the waist down. I cannot walk. I am in constant chronic pain. I remember it well.
I remember my home being taken over. I remember my family being held hostage. I remember the fear. I remember the relief when we thought they had left. I remember them coming back. I remember the shots being fired. I remember the smell of gunpowder. I remember sinking into the settee. I remember floating off to my death. I remember the panic and the pandemonium. I remember my brother pulling me back. I remember the ambulance. I remember the hospital. I remember waking up days later. I remember being told I would never walk again.
This is all easy for me to remember. I knew what happened. I knew why it happened. I was an easy target. It was easy for those people to knock my door, wave their weapons and walk on in. It was easy for them to pull the trigger. I knew I was innocent. But to them I was a Catholic, a Taig, a Fenian. I would do. That’s how I reconciled a very personal attack on me. It was ‘nothing personal’. That made sense to me.
I was able to accept this and live with it. Until I read about how they remembered it. It was a different account to my story, my truth, my account. There was a passage in a book about Johnny Adair and C Company of the UFF which referred to the incident. ‘Davy’ gave his account. I could not believe what I was reading. It put across the notion that I was an IRA man. This should not have shocked me. Dozens of the killings mentioned in this book that were carried out by the UFF were justified by the gunmen as being attacks on the IRA itself when in fact they were just attacks on random civilians.
I should not have let this distortion get to me but it did. My truth was being questioned. My identity was being attacked again. My memory of events were being challenged. The waters muddied. No smoke without fire. I was now stigmatised. ‘He must have been a bad boy’. He must have deserved it. That is the impression that a cursory reader of such a book would get. ‘It must be true, sure it’s in a book’. This is also the case for many of those killed and injured during the conflict. He was a nail bomber. He had a gun. He was a legitimate target. So we shot him. End of story.
However it is not the end of the story. How we remember as individuals is important. How we remember as a society is important. We need to find a better way to help people to tell their story, their way. To counter the counter narrative. To challenge the official accounts. To challenge the rumours and insinuations. To challenge the lies of the men in balaclavas with convenient pseudonyms like ‘Davy’.
Many families and individuals will be resigned to the reality that they will never have their day in court to see the faces of the triggermen and the godfathers. They may also never hear the truth as to why they were injured or killed. But they should be allowed to give their truth, their story, in the way they remember it and for it to be heard and hopefully believed.