Pension For Troubles “Combatants”

I tried to post this on Slugger O’Toole an hour ago. Seems a shame not to publish it. The nature of posting on Slugger (his gaffe, his rules) and Czar (my gaffe, my rules) is that I am somewhat more restrained on Slugger. But the piece that follows is as written for Slugger. If I had been writing this for Czar, it would be slightly different.

There are incidents which can be called Conflict.

There are incidents which can never be called Conflict.

The problem with Conflict Resolution is that it thinks in terms of a Timeline of Headline events.

The Conflict Resolutionists dont really know the names behind a headline. Whether it was Bloody Sunday, Kingsmills, the mortar attack on Newry RUC station, the professionals wont really know the names.

Many ordinary people think in terms of names of sons, daughters, husbands, wives. Sooner or later many who died childless will be totally forgotten. At some point beyond 2050, people looking up a family tree will be surprised to learn that a great uncle from Sheffield died in a booby trap in South Armagh or a cousin of their granny died in the La Mon Hotel or the brother in law of a great aunt was abducted and tortured to death in the North Belfast.

For young people who think its all over….well they are wrong. Just as I was sitting on the stairs and listening to two elderly neighbours scare the life out of my mother with tales of the 1920s. And just as I was wrong to think that jumpers for goalposts in Woodvale, Ormeau, Botanic whatever was ok.

Giving out pensions to these combatants is simply wrong.

A proportion of the deaths, injuries, perjury might (a stretch for some) might be called “Conflict” but not all were “Conflict”. Some were just blatant cruelty of the worst kind.

Conflict is in some DNA.

Cruelty is in some DNA.

Pensions blurs the difference between the two and is an encoragement for those who will do it all again down the line. Just a different generation.

Did we all suffer?

No….like the man who stood up at the end of a Slugger sponsored Platform for Change event about five yeras ago. Responding to a presentation by cross-community women victims, he said “I wish I had known about this”

At the time, I thought it was a sad comment.

But actually that man was an authentic voice of the Troubles. As much as anyone living in Short Strand or Dee Street.

So I dont really agree with the point made by “Korhomme” in another part of this thread. We did not ALL suffer. Many of us did…in greater or lesser extent….and while it would be an insult to good decent people …the good living quiet people to see combatants get a “pension”, then I see no real alternative to giving a lump some to everyone. Even the “I wish I had known” folks in Donaghadee and Malone Road.

I seriously submit that £100 for every year as an adult from 1969 to 1998 and £50 for every year as a minor.

Id happily take £2,950.

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5 Responses to Pension For Troubles “Combatants”

  1. Kevin Hughes says:

    Hi John,

    sorry to see that MF has decided to go a little swivel eyed over the past few months, but no matter. It’s a tough one in many ways. I feel that getting a pension seems a tad crass, how is it determined etc., these are matters I confess not to know the why or how, but it seems somewhat arbitrary.

    suffering is such a personal matter. I was at a store in Craigavon 5 minutes before 3 of my neighours where shot, and I attended a school that was flattened to the ground one cold winter night, yet I would never ascribe the status of victim of the Troubles to myself.

    I have no answers to this conundrum or the morass that appears to be setting in, but I just hope to read some more of your articles.

    stay safe!

    Kevin

    • Youre a younger man than me Kevin. I cant get past the 1970s in many ways. The Fear. The Cruelty.
      It WILL happen again.

      • Kevin Hughes says:

        I don’t know if it will. No one does.

        I kind of go with the notion that history rhymes, rather than it repeats itself.

        As you know John, I no longer live back home and most likely never will again, unless I moved south to Dublin. I look in every day and wonder, what is going on. I watch snakes eating their own tails every day from a far and wonder where this is going.

        I worry that having BJ in charge what will happen, especially with the likes of Bryson and Nolan stirring the pot every day, chasing good copy instead of real insight.

        Now we throw in Covid 19 and I am reminded of what someone said “it’s not the earthquake that kills most but the fires after…”

        stay safe John.

  2. korhomme says:

    My comment was, “We are all victims” and I stand by that. It does need a little qualifying and explaining.

    Firstly, I made no comment on the severity or equality of injuries.

    I did mention a “hierarchy of victims” and the “deserving and the undeserving victim”, regarding that as a return to the “morality” of the Victorian age. But there’s more.

    You yourself in your reply to Kevin say, “I can’t get past the 1970s…” What is that if not rumination, thinking about something negative over and over again? Rumination can be a symptom of depression. We are all aware that NI has very high levels of mental illness; partly as a direct result of the troubles, and perhaps partly as a result of a lack of proper resolution of the troubles.

    My point was that there can hardly be anyone* in Norn Iron who lived through the troubles who doesn’t have memories of something; they might have had to avoid friends and relatives in some areas, or to make elaborate detours to get there. No obvious injury, but still. Or, as I did, they might wonder how to answer if stopped and asked to recite the alphabet.

    Then there are the things that didn’t happen; Belfast city centre was closed at night, there was no night-life there, nowhere for the kids and others to go. A deprivation if you like.

    Think of the bombings and injuries; the Abercorn could have been any café; Omagh could have been any town’s High Street. The apparent randomness of such attacks must surely have led to an increased level of anxiety for many people.

    And more; rather than improving things, infrastructure etc, for 30+ years all we tried to do was rebuild what had been demolished; the A6 Belfast-Derry and the A5 Derry-Aughnacloy-Dublin roads could have been improved decades ago. But it didn’t happen.

    *Well, perhaps someone in an enclosed, remote religious order. But you know what I mean; the troubles were all-pervasive.

    And BTW, the point about us not agreeing about somethings is surely that it makes us think more deeply about why we have such a point of view. Far, far better than a collection of “yes men”.

    • I would have said that ten years ago.
      The man at the Platform for Change presentation shocked me with the “if only I had known”. I was angry even that he was so unaffected.
      A visitor to Belfast from (say) Cultra could walk past a car bomb but it was not as dangerous as living in (say) Ballymurphy.
      Depression?
      I do seriously wonder about this. I was a victim when a gun was shoved in my mouth and a threat made. I was 22 and I got no treatment. It happened at work and nobody even said “go home for the rest of the day”. When I did get home the BBC newsreader, Larry McCoubrey was talking about the incident.
      Around ten years later, I was distant enough from it to talk to co-workers (different workplace of course) and the advice was that the government had a compensation scheme.
      I did phone it…a place called Griffin House, Queen Street.
      “and when did this happen?”
      I gave him the date.
      He laughed. He actually laughed.
      For it was time limited. If memory serves, the time limit was 14 days for a property claim and a month for injury.
      Treatment and Compensation was never an issue in the 1970s.
      The solicitors offices never really got to my part of the world until the mid 1980s.
      I think for the 1970s generation, talk of compensation is always greeted with “what about me?” and likewise talk about pensions.

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