• ingewriting

'You don't tout on the IRA' – Paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland

Fear of a possible return of the violent Nortern Irish conflict has dominated the Brexit debate. But paramilitary violence never truly left Northern Irish society. The emphasis just shifted from political struggle to heavy-handed law enforcement and drug trafficking.



Patrick drives his car through Ballymurphy at a walking pace. He hasn't lived here for decades, but he effortlessly finds his way through the meandering streets of the Belfast neighborhood he grew up in during the Troubles. We stop at an abandoned parking lot as Patrick points out the window. "This is where it happened."


On May 11, 1989, eighteen-year-old Patrick was still living with his parents. That evening, three masked men knock at the door and order him to get into a black taxi. Two other boys from the neighborhood are lying on the car floor. They look at each other, but don't say a word.

The three boys are offered a chance to take off their jeans before laying face down onto the asphalt. Then one of the paramilitaries approaches.

That evening, about twenty members of the IRA are waiting on the parking lot. A few local residents have gathered around, looking on curiously from a distance. The three boys are offered a chance to take off their jeans before laying face down onto the asphalt. Then one of the paramilitaries approaches.


"He shot me through my ankles, the other two through their knees," recalls Patrick. He doesn't know why exactly, although he has a suspicion. "I broke into a car and got into an argument with someone in the street, anti-social behavior." Patrick remembers very little of the moment after he was shot in the ankles. He later heard from a bystander that he had been singing throughout the whole ordeal. Probably nerves.


Full the article in Dutch here


Originally published in De Groene Amsterdammer on September 14, 2020