Saturday, May 17, 2014

Looking Back In Anger

In February 1973, during the first Loyalist Workers Strike, I was working in the Ballymena branch of Crazy Prices. There was a prolonged power cut and all the freezers powered down. Urged by our managers we worked on. Until the cry went up, 'the Tartan Gangs are coming!' And sure enough, gangs of youths, wearing denim, big boots and tartan scarves were rampaging along Broughshane Street, smashing windows as they went. Managers hastily locked the doors and told us to get ourselves off home but not before allowing us to help ourselves from the freezers. So it was I phoned Daddy to come and rescue me and my big cardboard box full of frozen food. Seamus was not afraid of any Tartan Gang.

That is my abiding memory of the 1973 Loyalist strike. Tartan Gangs and a surfeit of frozen food to which we were certainly not accustomed. Of course the power cuts meant that we couldn't refrigerate the food and a good deal of it had to be thrown out anyway.

This month is the 40th anniversary of the second, and even more sinister, Loyalist strike, the one that brought down the power sharing executive, and the one that Ian Paisley and his ilk supported to the hilt.  

Today is also the 40th anniversary of the co-ordinated bombings in Dublin and Monaghan. On the third day of the UWC strike thirty-three people died, the greatest number of people killed on any one day. A full-term unborn infant is not included in the list of dead but tiny sisters Jacqueline and Anne Marie O'Brien are. They were 17 and 5 months respectively and their parents died with them.

No-one has ever been charged in relation to the murders in Dublin and Monaghan.

It was thirty-three years later, again in the month of May, that Ian Paisley, who had been so vehemently opposed to the idea of power-sharing, accepted the post of First Minister of Northern Ireland, in an assembly that included Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein as Deputy First Minister. It is rumoured that the two of them got on so well they were dubbed the Chuckle Brothers.


Mage said...

Such frightening stuff all that was. Horrifying. So glad you are ok.

Doris Eleanor said...

It's taken me a while to comment here as I'm a bit wary of anything political, but your post sparked a memory. The loyalist strike at that time was a frightening experience for us too. I was a teenager and Mummy had the post office in Ballyronan. The milk tanker hadn't been to the farm and Daddy had gallons in danger of going off so we sold some to customers in the Post Office - Mummy hadn't closed up shop. That was until she got a rather threatening phone call telling her to stop. It was horrible wondering who had told what was happening and which of our neighbours had made the call.

Nelly said...

For some people morality and decency were forgotten during that time.