The brilliant documentary “Bobby Sands 66 Days” brought back memories of the 20 plus years the IRA bombed London. Dozens of bombs, scores of deaths, 100s injured, £100ms damaged, endless inconvenience. Bags searched, stations closed, it went on and on,we got used to it. Bad though it was, it wasn’t Belfast or Bagdhad.
For me it started in l969. I was a supply teacher in Tottenham. And a sympathiser to the “Irish cause”. I explained the best I could to my class, the civil rights/ revolt that was going on in Northern Ireland. The first London bomb was in 1971. After the class a lad came up “If we give them back Northern Ireland,, will they give us back Kilburn(an Irish part of London)?”.
In 1974-5 the IRA campaign was all about the Balcombe Street gang whose speciality was drive by shootings of up market restaurants. One Saturday the Met Police did a lock down of the West End. I was out partying with the legendary drinking and driving ,white shoed JR. High as kites we rolled down Pall Mall. At the end of the street a road block. JR has seen the movies, and did a U turn into St James Square. Before you can say Hunger Strike we were surrounded by very serious Black Marias, full of burly determined cops pointing machine guns at we poor party goers. Fuck Me.
A moment’s suspense and we were told to grow up, leave the car and piss off home. Fine, whatever you say officer.
In 1993 the Bishopsgate bomb, £350m damage. I am now press officer of the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters. I am no longer an IRA sympathiser. What I learn is that a major insurance concern is the looting by the security personnel who have been put in place around the damaged building! The “war” officially ended in 1994. The Peace Process started in 1997.
Back to Bobby Sands. What a story,he was the first of ten who starved themselves to death. Thatcher held brilliantly firm knowing that the more who starved themselves to death, the less effective each martyr became. After ten they gave up. And brilliant politician she was ;then under a slightly different title she gave in to their demands for special status. The IRA with their cod militarism milked every death with its Blood Sacrifice and echoes of 1916 and Catholic martyrdom. I had forgotten how much they owed to the Black Panthers in terms of uniforms, shades and berets. Right on brothers.
All those deaths, all that damage, all that hate just so we can have shared government in Ulster. Without any of that Scotland has almost become independent.