Sobered by the shattering events in Boston, I recalled my own experience with terrorism, though mine was in the Irish context. I write further about it here in this post, titled "But for the Grace of God ... The Dublin/Monaghan Bombings, May 17,...
Right, view of the memorial to the bombings' victims on Talbot Street, Dublin. Source: Wikimedia
Wikipedia highlights, but does not limit political violence, to eight different forms:
Have you had any experience, direct or otherwise, with violence used in an attempt to achieve a political end?
When I read this story, I doublechecked with a man who lives on my street in Ship Bottom about a story he had told me a few years back.He confirmed my memory of what he had said. He was in Ireland the very same day as you were in 1974. It was the first day of his five-week stay in Ireland. He and a friend were in a pub in Dublin, when, as he talks about it, he just had a bad feeling about the place. So he and his buddy went to a pub up the street. While he was there, the first pub blew up. He's convinced that he wouldn't have survived the blast.
Trust your instincts. I guess that's the moral.
I only have second hand knowledge from others I have met, so cannot relate those here without fear of embellishing. However, in spring of 2007 I visited Belfast to research and vacation, and have to say felt most uncomfortable there. It felt as if everyone wanted to be sure I was okay so were always asking, prying, watching; who are you? what are you doing here? where are you staying? where are you from?
I had met one young man who reminded me of my younger brother and was not like the others. He was most open and good company. He worked part time in a laundry and I ran into him again later that evening at a restaurant. I spoke with him about 10 minutes squatting down by his table. After I returned to my table someone in his group said something to him and he stormed out. Did they chastise him for speaking with me or was this just his way of evading the bill? I don't know. I just know the people in the south are more at ease with visitors.
If this comment is received poorly, I will just delete this comment.
My husband and I were in Galway when the Omagh bomb exploded. The next week we went through the town as they were commerating the one week 0ld tragedy. It was heartbreaking to see the faces of the townspeople. It was all dis-belief anf agony.
Growing up in Britain's Irish community during The Troubles would be similar in many ways to growing up as a member of Britain's Muslim community today. We were viewed by many with great suspicion, as a fifth column - the enemy within. It was a time to keep your head down, watch what you said, and to whom you said it.
The extent to which we were a suspect community was brought home to my family when my grandfather, back in Limerick, died in 1972 and a family friend who worked for the Post Office, which in those days controlled Britain's telephone network, tipped-off my parents that their telephone conversations to Ireland concerning funeral arrangements, etc, were being monitored by the Police Special Branch. This was because my father and my grandfather both had the same name as another Limerick man who had been active in the IRA during the Tan War – more than 50 years before!
The following year, 1973, my parents were shocked when they heard that the Priest from our neighbouring parish, Father Patrick Fell (he baptised me), was arrested along with several other men, accused of being an IRA commander, and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. It was also around that time that the nearby house of an Irish family that we knew was raided by the Police, and two of the young sons were arrested because they had been selling Easter Lilies. With almost daily reports of Irish families being harassed by the police and their homes raided, it was hardly surprising that I was severely admonished by my mother when I told her that me and my best friend had been singing Sean South of Garryowen on the School Bus – in my defence, I was only 8 years old and didn’t really know what the song was about. My mother was right, though, that singing rebel songs in public was not a wise thing to do, because a few weeks later the house of my best friend was raided in the middle of the night because his father, who was an ardent fan of Celtic football club, was heard singing a rebel song in a pub following some Celtic victory and it was assumed he was a Republican sympathiser.
Although the vast majority of those Irish people who were arrested in the English midlands at that time were innocent of any involvement in Irish Republicanism, there certainly was IRA activity in that region which was home to tens of thousands of Irish immigrants. In mid-November, 1974, Birmingham-based Irishman, James McDade, blew himself up as he attempted to plant a bomb at the main telephone exchange here in Coventry. Then, one week later, IRA bombs exploded in two pubs in Birmingham, killing 21 people and injuring 182.
Following the pub bombings relations between the Irish community and the local British public were toxic. There were several parades calling for the reintroduction of hanging and the forced repatriation of the Irish, and I can remember the windows on our church being broken and numerous retaliatory bomb threats being made at my school and all the other local Catholic schools (where 90% of the children were Irish, or the children of Irish parents) – these bomb threats continued to be almost weekly events during the 1970s and early 80s. At my father’s place of work, Coventry’s Massey Ferguson tractor factory, there was a mass meeting of employees where a proposal was put to the vote that all Irish workers should be fired. Given that a sizeable proportion of the workforce was actually Irish, the management pointed out that production would suffer if the Irish were sacked and so nothing came of the proposal.
I was fortunate in that I never suffered any personal injury during The Troubles, just the usual casual bigotry, discrimination and ethnic prejudice, the occasional harassment from the Police and petty harassment from customs official when travelling between Britain and Ireland. The closest I came to injury was when I was shopping with my mother in the middle of Coventry and a small bomb that had been left in a waste bin exploded in one of the city’s main shopping thoroughfares not far from where we were standing. That bomb, however, was not the work of the IRA but rather was planted by animal liberation extremists who were targeting a Canadian fur shop.