03.12.09

The glamour of guns

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:18 pm by rachel

Kilwilkie Housing Estate, resplendent with pro-CIRA graffiti this week, is about 2 miles from where I grew up, but it might as well have been on the other side of the world. It wasn’t somewhere I hung out. I can’t remember the name of the road which leads to it, as the sign has always been covered up by green, white and orange paint. You heard about it on the news occasionally – generally preceded by the words “And today the Belfast to Dublin train came under attack from stones thrown by youths from the…”

A return of gunmen in Northern Ireland is not a surprise, unfortunately. Some of them never went away. David Ervine used to talk about the need for mindsets to be decommissioned, along with weapons – a smart play on words from Dictionary Dave, perhaps, and a way to deflect attention from his loyalist supporters who refused to hand over their toys. However, for some people, the last decade of imperfect peace has not been wonderful, and their bigoted mindsets remained ready for war. These people had experienced a loss of status and income since the advent of the ceasefires. If you have always defined yourself as anti-the other side, well, when the other side stops fighting, you are lost. You are nothing. Propping up a bar somewhere, all you can do is reminisce about the good old days, when you could ‘off’ people rather than be required to negotiate with them. Teenagers from the estate, themselves with no goals or prospects in life, hear this romantic nonsense and want a piece of it. How different their lives would have been if they’d been born twenty years earlier! They could have been the hardmen, the defenders of their community. So called freedom fighters. Or murderers, as the rest of us know them.

The murderers cannot seriously have thought this would achieve their means – violence didn’t exactly bring the British state to its knees before, it won’t now, and for one reason or another, we’re slightly less supportive of terrorists as romantic figures these days. This was their last chance to live the dream and be the big man again, before policing is devolved to the Assembly and the whole of the North embraces it. I imagine the sight of Martin McGuinness condemning the murders and calling for Republicans to inform on their own probably reinforced their view of Sinn Fein selling out to the Brits; for everyone else, it shows us how far we have come, and makes the so-called hardmen look like dinosaurs – who will soon be extinct.

These men love the glamour of guns. Justifying their actions against others because they feel hard done by in their sad lives. Whether it is a no mark from Lurgan, or a confused teenager in Germany, there will always be someone who refuses to take responsibility for their own failures, and casts around for someone else to blame and punish. It might be pitiable, but it is their victims and their families that I feel sorry for.

The events of the past week was a wake up call – don’t take peace for granted. It’s not perfect, but for twelve years, the absence of funerals, roadblocks, code words and car bombs, has been a revelation in normality. A generation has grown up without fear. People forget… then remember what it was like. There is no going back.

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