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Robbie Williams
- Somebody Someday

THE CRAIC (1998) - Extract 2

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In Derry I talked to two victims of the Troubles, men whose experiences would have made the news for a moment thirty years ago, but were still living with their loss and pain ...

Just over three months after Bloody Sunday, on the 4th May 1972, a little boy of ten had been taking his usual walk home from school in the Creggan. It was through a field and the playground of St Joseph's secondary school, then up past the army lookout post. Which, he remembered, was corrugated iron with sandbags behind, 'and there was like the porthole of the soldiers' lookout in the middle, and barbed wire in front.'

He ran past it, as he always did, and when he was 'about ten feet away, for some inexplicable reason a soldier decided to fire a rubber bullet at me. And it struck me on the bridge of the nose from about eight feet.'

The sandbags were the last thing Richard Moores saw. For when he woke up on the school canteen table he couldn't see. 'I kept saying, "I didn't do anything, I didn't do anything." So I was obviously aware of what had happened to me.'

He was taken to hospital in an ambulance. 'And I can remember the ambulance man saying to my daddy, "There's a woman out here looking to get into the ambulance, will I let her in, who is she?" And I heard me daddy say, "It's his mother, don't let her in."

'I spent two weeks in hospital and during those two weeks I thought I just couldn't see because of the bandages on my eyes. And I'm sure it must have been very difficult for my father and them because, you know, I kept talking about, when I get the bandages off my eyes, as if I was going to be able to see, and they knew that that wasn't going to be the case.

'After I got out of hospital my brother Noel took me for a walk in the back garden. "D'you know what has happened to ye?" he asked. And I says, "All I know is I was shot and all that." And he says, "But do you know what damage has been caused?" And I said, "No." And at that point he told me I had lost one eye and I wouldn't be able to see with the other one.'

Now, twenty-five years later, I sat over the desk from those useless eyes. The right one just a wide open socket of pale pink skin; the left had a fractional circle of redundant iris visible in the tiny triangle between the eyelids. They were shaded from too close a view by tinted glasses.

'I'm not bitter,' Richard told me repeatedly, as he took me through the stages of his later, blind life. 'Even when my children were born, I have never felt bitter about what's happened, I've just felt a sense of loss.

'My daughter Niamh made her First Communion last year, and she was wearing her wee dress and everybody was telling me how beautiful she looked and she was sitting on my knee and I was walking with her and all that sort of stuff. I realized that there is something special about being able to see that situation, and I haven't got it.

'I suppose I was philosophical in the sense that I would think about the soldier and think, "Does he realize?" There's two people, me and him. I've thought about meeting him, I've thought about how he's feeling. I mean, there was a day in his life, in the space of one minute - dramatically - I wonder, has it changed his life, because he's no different from you or me, and if I'd done something like that twenty-five years ago, and I was aware I'd blinded a young boy, then I don't think I could ever run away from that memory.'

Now Richard worked for a charity called Children of Crossfire, which helped, as the name suggested, children who were victims of war worldwide. Not that he'd gone straight into it. As a young man he'd run a bar for a while, but now he felt more content helping others. He laughed, self-deprecatingly. 'I don't mean that in a charity kind of way, the selfish thing is I just get more pleasure out of doing that than I did running my own business.'

Micky English was less forgiving. He had lost two of his four sons in the Troubles, and though he seemed to have accepted the loss of the second he hadn't at all accepted the loss of the first. He sat in the front room of his little house in Bogside, chain-smoking and visibly trembling as we leafed through the papers and photographs that documented his fatal day, which was Easter Sunday 1981.

After the annual march to commemorate the 1916 Rising his eldest son Gary had gone off before the orations to play in a football match. The pitch was right beside the Catholic Cathedral up on the edge of the Bogside.

And on that day there'd been a bit of sporadic rioting on the junction that had become known, after the Battle of the Bogside, as Aggro Corner. The joint RUC and army forces on the ground had shifted the riot up to a quieter junction by the football pitch, where they would try, Micky explained, and get a pincer action going so they could grab and arrest the rioters in between.

The football match was over and Gary and his friends had been having a kickaround. And when the riot had appeared they had, out of curiosity, joined the large crowd that had gathered to watch. Micky had never, incidentally, had any trouble with Gary, in regard of rioting. 'He was a responsible young man, a worker, meticulous about his appearance, never went out without polishing his shoes, no matter where he was going.'

Now while they'd been standing watching, two army Land Rovers had sped down into the crowd, 'on a gradient that's something like 1 in 6, travelling at about 70 miles an hour.'

People were running away from them but one had struck his son, knocking him to the ground. It had then stopped and, in the eyewitness accounts of 90 per cent of the people who were there, reversed back over his son's body, killing him.

This was the point at issue, for the soldier in charge of the Land Rover had denied this second manoeuvre.

The case had gone to court in Belfast, it having been decided by the powers that be that the soldiers wouldn't get a fair trial in Derry, and there, their story backed by the trial pathologist, the soldiers had been acquitted of reckless driving and causing two deaths.

But Micky English was certain of his facts. He still had Gary's shirt with the W-markings on the fabric (the Land Rover's tyres had been W-tread Goodyears). He had the photograph of his son's body, with that wheel-thick band clearly marked, a diagonal right across his back. The soldiers' evidence was that the first impact of the Land Rover had knocked the son under the front axle, he had been pushed along with the vehicle. But if that was the case, asked Micky, why were there no abrasions on his front? Why were the knees of his trousers unmarked or in any way torn? Why were there no dragging marks?

Micky English had gone on a speaking tour throughout mainland Britain. He had fought for and eventually been granted an inquest, engaging an independent pathologist who totally disputed the trial pathologist's findings; an opinion that was backed up by another British pathologist, who, according to Micky, couldn't believe that anybody could come to the conclusions arrived at during the trial.

Helena Kennedy and Michael Mansfield had agreed to act, for free, on the English family's behalf, but the Northern Ireland Bar Association (whose Chairman was, coincidentally, the barrister employed by the Minister of Defence in this case) ruled that because these two distinguished champions of human rights had not taken the Northern Irish bar exams, they could not appear. 'I mean,' said Micky, 'we're supposed to be British, part of the British legal system, and they were told they couldn't do that case.'

Nonetheless, and despite facing a jury from North Tyrone, 'with not one Catholic on it', English's family had won two out of his three points. But Gary was still dead, the soldiers were still acquitted and Micky was left with a burning sense of injustice.

A year later Micky learnt that his next oldest son, Charles, had joined the IRA. He was eighteen years old. 'I sat here with him, on this very chair I'm sitting on now, till the dawn was breaking, and we were arguing the pros and cons of why he shouldn't do this. I was giving him one particular set of arguments, that that's effectively the end of his life. I said, "There's three ways you can go: you can come in, like your brother, in a box; you can spend the rest of your life being hunted or on the run; or you'll spend the best part of your life in a prison. What happened to all that time you spent training, playing football for the junior clubs, with the prospect of taking your career further?"

'He says, "Look, I went with you down the line. I went to the extent of putting on my brother's clothes at an inquest and standing and showing exactly where he was struck and all the relevant things. I watched you, and I watched me Ma, and the rest of us, slowly being drained away, and at the end of the day who was listening? What do they listen to? They don't listen to people like us. They don't listen to reasonable argument. They protect themselves. They kill us. And that's your answer.

'"I'm going to get into a position to defend myself, and that's the only way I can defend myself because they don't know anything else. The only way they will move, the only way that we'll get concessions is through force. We've come down the line this far."

'He gave me,' Micky said, 'from his perspective as good arguments for taking up the life that he had embarked upon as I was giving him for not doing it.' He would stand by his son, he said, as would the rest of the family. '"Because what you're embarking on I can understand to a degree. I don't condone it, and I wish you wouldn't do it, I wish you'd change your mind and see if there's another way to go, but at the end of the day we'll stand by you, you're doing what you're doing because of how you feel, what you've experienced, and where your heart is, you're not being paid for it. And if anything happens I will bury you as a soldier, because to me you're as much of a soldier as anyone who joins the British army, or the American army, or the Republican Army of the 26 counties."'

A year later Charles was dead, blown up by his own bomb while on active service. 'He was stepping though the door,' said Micky, shaking his head ruefully as he gazed down at the carpet, 'and he tripped. And we always used to call him - one of his nicknames in the family was Charlie-Muddle. He was lanky and big and he was always tripping over his own two feet.'
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