Irish Story

Urban and rural scenes of Ireland

 Altamont House


Thirty years and more

Urban warfare in Northern Ireland ...

By popular demand, the IRA regrouped and rearmed, mainly to defend the Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland from attack by the British Army, the RUC and the notorious 'B Specials', a motley collection of bigoted thugs in uniform who had been given the task of subduing the Catholic populace by any means they chose. Which was usually the one most likely to inflame the situation.

This was a period when the paid forces of the British establishment endeared themselves to the Nationalist community by burning down their homes, killing their sons, and arresting and imprisoning their fathers without trial. It must be remembered that all this began with civil rights marches, the escalation being largely a by-product of the overreaction of the Ulster Unionists and the British government.

With the masterly understatement of the Irish, who had always called World War 2 'The Emergency', this period of our history is known as 'The Troubles'. One can only imagine that a world-wide nuclear holocaust would become known here as 'The Bit of a Bang'.

Be that as it may, the Troubles have now gone on for 30 years, with the loss of over 3,000 lives, the injury of countless others, and untold misery for the whole population. The IRA mutated from a defence force into one that merrily tried to bomb Ulster into a United Ireland, the Ireland, they believe, which should have been enshrined in the Treaty of 1921 to begin with.

It is always difficult to gauge what support exists for this in Ireland as a whole, most Southern Irelanders being quite aghast at the thought of sharing a constitution with those mad Northern bastards. The mad Northern bastards are equally aghast at this, being quite happy to continue to bleed the United Kingdom for every penny they can get their hands on, being disadvantaged as they are by having all these mad Irish bastards in their midst.

But times slowly change. The IRA, through Sinn Fein, their political wing, began to realise that, although bombing and killing was a lot of fun and that, in global terrorist terms, they were awfully good at it, it was never going to result in a United Ireland. In a move designed to annoy the Unionists even more than terrorism, they decided to pursue their goal through political means.


Nine years old, and television,
Brings pictures barely understood,
Of fighting on the streets of Derry,
And uniforms in neighbourhoods.

Forsaking cowboy games, we choose,
To play this game we see each night,
With dustbin lids and home-made knives,
Young rioters and soldiers fight.

Thirty years have come and gone,
Those kids of yesterday are grown,
We're older but no wiser now,
For still the rioting goes on.

Our history is not consigned
To pages closed and filed away,
Held in death grip, raised triumphant,
It bellows from an open grave.

Thirty years of pain and anger,
The child of yesterday is grown,
But still our dreams of peace lie bleeding,
In another Northern town.

Colm McElwee, 1999


page 5 - Towards peace?  

  page 3 - Making the Republic

page 2 - Resisting invaders

  page 1 - Colm's story begins



Colm at Altamont




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