Sacrifices of busmen during Troubles needs to be acknowledged
Recently and with little fuss, a representative group of people which included many retired busmen and their families, trade union members and historians gathered in St George’s Church Hall in High Street, Belfast for the launch of a book Busmen in the firing line. This amazing book is the memoirs of the late Eugene O’Callaghan, who carefully compiled a beautiful but tragic account of the experiences of his trade union colleagues during the Troubles. This brilliant publication could, I suppose, be described as an oxymoron of success and tragedy and well worth reading.
I was privileged to be there but regret that more people from political life weren’t present because the story of the sacrifices made by those who drove our buses during the Troubles needs to acknowledged and not least the supreme sacrifice made by the 17 individuals who lost their lives.
For me, who lived through the Troubles, I found it shocking to recall that in the space of a few short years 874 buses were completely destroyed, countless depots bombed and many people lost their lives. Oxford Street was the worst but it was not alone in terms of tragedy and suffering.
In those years there was another battle going on and that was to prevent public transport being privatised as happened in Britain and central to that struggle was Eugene and his comrades in the trade unions working, not as Catholics or Protestants, nationalists or unionists but ordinary people trying to keep the buses on the roads and the trains on the rails.
Today our public transport is not perfect but it is infinitely better than that on offer in Britain and we owe a debt of gratitude to Eugene and his union colleagues for their courage, dedication and indeed bravery. However, there is much more than that, we must take a leaf out of Eugene’s book and record for future history the terrible price his colleagues paid while keeping public transport operational. Not least are the memories of those 17 who didn’t survive.
Of course there are many other groups who were also heroes, keeping public services alive but I doubt if anyone would take exception to paying tribute to those highlighted in this extraordinary book. Let us hope that if and when we have an assembly back it will redress a failure which needs to be put right.
JOHN DALLAT MLA
SDLP, East Derry
People must make their views on abortion known
As Dawn McAvoy has rightly said (September 17) the looming disaster of Westminster’s abortion on demand legislation makes “human worth utterly dependent on human want”. Politicians, wake up to your responsibilities – responsibilities to mothers facing a difficult pregnancy and responsibilities to their unborn children (YES – what a great slogan and organisation – Both Lives Matter). But this article also calls on politicians to take up their responsibilities for our medics.
Are we as a society going to stand idly by while this evil abortion regime is imposed on our caring professionals? Down the road will there be any caring midwives and doctors left in our hospitals?
Thank God for that midwife who is asking if, in the very same hospital, they are now expected to “treat one unborn child as the most precious gift in the world and discard another like clinical waste”.
I worked for many years in Africa where traditional witch doctors are ready to kill or cure according to what the client wants and as long as they get their fee. Is this the direction we want to go? Our politicians must choose. And we the people must also choose to make our views known.
Some unionists have short memories
THERE was a report in The Irish News (September 17) a report that former Down GAA star Gregory McCartan apologised and expressed his regret at his behaviour during a loyalist parade in Co Down. It read: ‘Apologises to anyone who took offence to my tweet the other night folks. Lesson learned should never have happened. Alcohol no excuse.’ Notwithstanding his apology, Mr Jim Wells, DUP MLA, is asking the PSNI to review the video and to investigate Mr McCartan’s “sectarian outburst”. He went on: ‘This band includes several young people and there were children who heard his sectarian outburst.’
Ulster Unionist councillor Alan Lewis said: “This type of behaviour drags us back to the sectarian division of the past. This was vile sectarian abuse shouted within earshot of young children.”
I wonder how far back does he want to go?
Maybe to June 2001 when a DUP party member pleaded guilty to charges of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace when he confronted nationalist marchers demanding they rerouted their St Patrick’s Day parade away from Kilkeel town centre. The member, Mr Jim Wells, was fined £300 and ordered to pay £221.32 costs. The band concerned was St Joseph’s Pipe Band and it contained some young people and children.
Newry, Co Down
One-sided description of Troubles
As with most mainstream commentators, Billy Foley’s review of the BBC’s Secret History of the Troubles (September 14) is no different. His most extreme description of the players involved in those early days is directed at republicans. Des Long, his grin was ‘sinister’ and ‘disturbing’, the clip of Martin McGuinness’s role in readying a bomb was a reminder of his ‘brutality’ and ‘callousness’.
Before either McGuinness or the Provisional IRA was ever heard of, Sammy Devenny, an innocent Catholic family man and a father was battered senseless by the RUC in his own home in Derry and died afterwards from his injuries.
In Belfast around the same time Bombay Street, mainly Catholic, was burnt to the ground by a unionist mob, with the complicity of state forces, ie the RUC and their paramilitary reserve, the B Specials, a predominantly Protestant force.
The state’s murderous and sectarian attacks on innocent defenceless Catholics are spared your reviewer’s one-sided description of those times.
Newry, Co Down