WRITE ON MA!
This blog wandered into Saint Mary's University College on the Falls Road and through the main exhibitions. All of them are brilliant. That aspect of the Féile goes back to almost the first Féile an Phobail twenty one years ago. Paintings, art work, photographic exhibitions, sculptures, quilts. Every Féile has had unique and very striking examples of the visual arts.
Robert Ballagh, a long standing friend of Féile exhibited his remarkable work here. So did Jim Fitzpatrick and many, many others. Some of the exhibitions are of times past. A good example of that this year is the exhibition about Belfast dockers. And there is Gerry Collins Bombay Street photos. And work by irish women artists.
There is also an exhibition by the families of the eleven people killed in Ballymurphy between the 9th and the 11th of August 1971 when the British government introduced internment.
These families are looking for:
• An Independent international investigation examining all of the circumstances surrounding all of the deaths
• The British government to issue a statement of innocence and a public apology.
This blog will return to this campaign at some other time but if you are interested in contacting 'The 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre Committee' email firstname.lastname@example.org
Their exhibition drew me in to looking at the photographs of the victims and other artefacts from that time. My attention was taken by a handwritten statement. The writing looked vaguely familiar. It was my mothers! It was a complaint which she had handwritten against the British Army a few days after internment.
We lived at 11 Divismore Park at that time. The house had been targeted by the British Army constantly. Indeed they used to run their heavily armoured Saladin and Saracen cars against the walls of the house. A combination of that and the bad design and structure meant that the house was demolished and there is a shop where once we used to live.
I remember when I was a child; perhaps 7 or 8 accompanying her as she lobbied local political representatives for a house. Since she and my father married they and our growing family had lived with other family members or in a private rented tenement. A number of other families shared this slum with us.
Eventually she succeeded in getting allocated a house in Ballymurphy and she and my Granny went there one day to view the site. I was with them and I recall as we walked across the building site one of the workmen showing her where her new home would be.
In August 9th 1971 I watched the Paratroopers raid our home. I was in Springhill Avenue. My father and one of my younger brothers were among the several hundred men from across the north arrested that morning. I hadn't slept at home since 1969, except for the odd night.
All of this came back to me as I read her statement. It is here for your perusal. My mother's matter-of-fact account of the behaviour of the British Army says it better than anything I could write about what she and other women put up with.
The damage to the house was so bad during that internment raid that my mother moved out - never to return again. She's dead now but she often used to say that 11 Divismore Park was the place in which she was happiest.