An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

13 March 1997 Edition

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John Major's armed strangers

By Laurence McKeown

I sat down for a cup of coffee late one morning last week as is my wont. I had finished all the housework of course (just in case Deirdre happens to glance at this article). The floor had been vacuumed, the dishes washed, the bed made, Caoilfhionn changed and fed and now having a conversation with herself in that language unique to six-month olds.

I was seated at the table enjoying my dark French roast and contemplating a work-plan for the rest of the day when a young man appeared outside my window. He was clearly no older than 18 or 19 but he was carrying a gun and I suppose when armed in such a manner, he never felt the need to ask me if he could walk down the pathway to my home. His colleagues were in the street, some crouched down at the gate, the others pointing their rifles at my upstairs windows or at those of my neighbours.

Now, some people say they are really only looking through their telescopic sights to get a better view of the surroundings, to more closely observe the details that have gone into Mo chara's murals for instance, and that we shouldn't get annoyed. But if that's truly the case then why not hand them out telescopes? That way us natives would have more peace of mind and be much less jittery.

After some moments they moved on. There was nothing extraordinary about the scene. It wasn't an unusual occurrence. In fact, in recent weeks it is the exception that you can walk the street without bumping into these people who think the Mitchel Principles are most likely some version of an assault rifle.

The last one in the patrol had barely left the street when I heard the explosion. The news told us later that a landmine had been detonated as they passed a wall. No one was injured. Arrests were swiftly made in follow-up searches.

I've seen more of the same patrols since. I don't know if I've actually seen the one who stood outside my window as they all look alike in their khaki, helmets and flak jackets. I've wondered though, what if the explosion had killed one of the patrol and what if it had been the one who had outside my window? His last act as a living person would have been to point his assault rifle at the head of someone he didn't know in a country that he probably knew little about. His family would have asked why did he have to die and yet that's exactly what the locals of this area would have asked too. Except that they would know that he could have walked this area unmolested night or day if he had come as a visitor. He would have been made welcome as so many others before him have been. I'm sure Mo chara, if asked nicely, would have even taken him on a guided tour of the district to see the murals. He could have met with the locals, learnt a bit about the history of the area, had a drink even, just as so many like him have been doing this past week and more more will do throughout the summer that's before us.

It's time like these when the full extent of the tragedy and consequences of John Major's dismissal of the prospect of peace and the offer of a hand of friendship really hits home. I wonder too does he ever ponder on these issues when having his cuppa or is he too concerned with trying to extend the life of a government that's on its last legs, even if to do so means expending a life or two.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1