Adventures of a Member of the Diaspora in Occupied West Belfast

I’m a first generation immigrant born in Aotearoa New Zealand to an Irish couple, both of whom were born into actively engaged Irish Republican Families.
Ma’s dad worked in the Irish health department, he became a Quartermaster in the Irish Citizen Army. He was captured with weapons, arrested, charged, and imprisoned.
Whilst in prison he served 23 days on hunger strike. His health was forever compromised.

Da’s family had a long history of republicanism, that led to his two older brothers having to escape to America whilst being hunted by the merciless “Black and Tans”. He never saw them again after he emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand. Had I been born in either the war zone, or the Free State, I seriously doubt I would have survived my 20’s.

When I was 21 the 1981 hunger strike was underway by the 10 brave men in the occupied 6 counties jail, you know, like one of those gulags where world renowned journalist Julian Assange is being publicly tortured to death as I write.
I remember watching Ma walking around the house weeping, “What must their Mamies be going through”. She knew what they were going through, as she had watched her mum go through the same trauma.
One by one those heroic comrades starved to death whilst the monster Margaret Thatcher ignored their simple demands to not wear a prisoners uniform and be treated as political prisoners as was their right under the Geneva Conventions.
The mid-eighties rolled around, and I set off to Ireland to make some sense of it all and to show some solidarity.
Dean Parker a NZ playwright and fellow member of the H Block Committee in NZ gave me the address of some comrades affiliated to the Irish Republican Socialist Party and I was off to witness the war.

An incredible aspect of the war was how people maintained their sense of humour, Irish gallows humour was everywhere to be found in the occupied 6 counties.

One evening I was invited to have drinks at The Felons Belfast and arrived promptly on time to occupy a table for four, all my mates were ‘fashionably late’. Shortly after two gorgeous young women entered the bar and asked if they could share our table !
Who was I to deny them a seat in their own pub!
The Felons provided jobs for the partners and families of prisoners and much of the profits went to the prisoners fund! Innovative bunch these Paddies! Another thing I learned was that many of the Glazing companies were owned by the ‘RA’, another source of funding. Blow them up, sell them more. All war zones are ‘gamed’ by someone.

One thing led to another and these two young revolutionaries invited us to their home for another drink. I said I didn’t have anything to bring and they laughed and said “We’ll get Take Outs”. We left with booze from the bar and made our way in a cab to Ballymurphy !

The “Murph” was famous for a slaughter carried out by the British Parachute Regiment in 1971. That slaughter led to both the INLA and the PIRA having their own brigades evolve in this one tiny suburb in the conflict zone.

When I entered Edie’s home the first thing I saw was a framed Irish Tricolour flag with a beret and gloves centre piece, hanging on the wall. This is something given to the families of our fallen volunteers. Remarkably Edie’s husband and I were born on the same day with the same first name. It kind of freaked us all out ! Kevin Delaney had died when the bomb he was transporting prematurely detonated ! R.I.P. comrade.

We had a great night and around 4am I set out down the hill towards the Falls Rd and then ‘home’ on Donegal Rd. At this time in our history you couldn’t walk 1000m in Belfast without ‘bumping into’ a Brit patrol. One soldier would search you whilst the others trained their guns on you. To have half a dozen soldiers pointing guns at you in anger is disconcerting, more so because I could see the fear in their eyes! These young Brits were perpetually in fear whilst on patrol.
I was first stopped near the top of the White Rock Rd, put up against a wall, frisked, hassled, slapped around, kicked like a dog and released.
Not long after I reached the Falls Rd, hung a left and walked past the off-licence opposite the Rock Bar as a dude was carrying boxes of booze from the pathway adjacent to the establishment and loading them into an Austin A40!!!
He offered me a bottle of Whiskey, I declined politely and shuffled another 20m and turned right onto Donegal Rd, wondering wtf was going on!
As I walked down Donegal Road a Saracen and two armoured Land Rovers raced passed me, 3 soldiers in the turrets all training their Steyr assault rifles on me.

They flew passed me and when they got to the intersection with the Falls Road they stopped in a road block formation.

The plucky wee Austin A40 bounced off the side of one of the Land Rovers and was screaming, slowly, down the road towards me, the Brits immediately opened fire spraying automatic weapons fire down a residential street, in my direction. I heard the A40 being perforated with bullets as it ‘sped slowly’ towards me. I saw sparks fly off the vehicle and the road indicating that they were using “Full Metal Jacket” ammunition. Note to self and others, never use an Austin A40 as a getaway car! Note the message on the Land Rover below. Informants were called ‘Tout’s’, we were betrayed by many informants.

I instantly dived onto my hands and knees in an adjacent pathway and I could hear bullets going through the foliage near and above me. I’m uncertain if they were trying to kill me but if not they were lousy shots because my position was a long way from the illustrious Austin A40’s path down the road. These monsters were spraying bullets down a residential street, it was common behaviour from the occupying forces.
I crawled to the doorway of the house and tentatively knocked on the door whilst still on my hands and knees, pretty much in shock! The curtain moved, the occupant had a look around then opened the door, reached out a huge hand, grabbed my collar and dragged me into his house and closed the door.

Then in an incredibly thick Belfast brogue he asked this startled kid “Who are you, what’s going on and why are the Brits shooting at you” Reasonable enough questions I suppose lol.
I told him my name, where I was staying and who with. He laughed and replied “Oh, you’re the Kiwi I’ve heard about, make yourself at home.” Then with fingers pursed to his lips he whispered “The Brits will be at the door any second, don’t say a word, don’t move a muscle”. All the while my heart rate is through the roof and my chest is heaving !

Nekminit pounding on the door and in a broad Cockney accent the Brit, silhouetted through the glass door, rifle and all, yelled “Open up or I’ll smash the door down.” All the while my ‘host’ has his fingers to his lips and mimes “Say Nothing, Don’t Move’.
The Brit hung around for a moment or two and then was called back by his commanding officer in the Saracen and they drove off.
My host offered me a whiskey and a sleeping bag and I was invited to sleep on the couch. Even though I was only 50m from my home it was suggested that I lie low until later in the morning. I gratefully accepted the hospitality that put them in danger.

I woke up a few hours later with a small girl asking “Mister, who are you, why are you sleeping on our couch”. If you want an idea of what the Belfast kids are like check out Becky and multiply her militancy by 100. I once heard a woman ask an 11 yr old what she wanted to do when she left school. She replied “I want to join the IRA and drive the the Brits out of our country”. All the children in war zones are traumatised. No soldier, nor civilian returns from war uninjured.
On multiple occasions I watched Brits use kids as “Human Shields”, another war crime.

I was generously given breakfast, we retold the story to the neighbours and I went ‘home’ where I was questioned on the nights action.
Later that day I was told that I was invited to a party in the adjacent St James and all the booze was ‘on the house’. Can you see where this is going?
Remarkably the stoic Austin A40 had escaped the clutches of the Brits and whilst some of the loot had been ‘spilled’ as the car was ‘perforated’ much was saved and I was invited to imbibe and share my version of events. It was fascinating to see the camaraderie that these people developed during the war.

Not long after this ‘incident’ I was at the funeral of a young INLA volunteer in Strabane who had been shot whilst on ‘Active Duty’ by a Brit sniper. I took 3 of my IRSP comrades down in my car for the funeral.
The Brits searched the car in the morning, removing the seats, the carpets and the door linings. When they were finished they walked away leaving me to put it all back together. ‘Community building’ that’s referred to apparently!
We jumped in my German registered VW Golf and set out for Strabane. Whilst still on the Falls road smoke started coming from under the hood and I stopped at the adjacent petrol station knowing they would have a fire extinguisher to put the fire out. The bastards had put some flammable material on my manifold and it caught fire as planned when the car heated up. One of the many reasons the Brits were hating on me was the Provo’s were bumping off Brit soldiers regularly in Germany so they didn’t like seeing a German car in the Occupied 6 counties!

We arrived at the Catholic Church in Strabane where the service was being held and being a bunch of ‘Commies’ we didn’t enter the church but remained on the doorstep.
That night footage of the funeral was shown on the BBC, the British Bullshitting Corporation.

Whilst filming myself and my comrades at the doorstep the Brit’ announcer said “Leading Members of the INLA refused to enter the church”. The INLA was the military wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party Many thanks to my comrade Ray Collins for the above musical summary.

When the ceremony ended we hung outside to chat with the other mourners. All the while the funeral attendees were surrounded by Brits brandishing assault rifles, choppers over head, Saracens and armoured Land Rovers all around us whilst we were mourning the death of a young volunteer. Shot by these very same people.
Ma saw the clip on TV in New Zealand and recognised me, tracked me down through Dean Parker, got my number and called me with money she couldn’t spare and said “Son, Ireland doesn’t need anymore Martyr’s you know”. It freaked Ma out that I was back in the war zone, angry as fuck and being assaulted by the Brits.

The four of us got into the Golf and went to leave and were pulled over within 100m of the Church carpark. We were separated and interrogated individually. A Brit officer pulled me aside and said “WTF is a Kiwi electrician doing over here hanging out with known terrorists”. I replied “Rubbish, I’ve only just met you”. He instantly lashed out and punched me in the sternum. I thought he had collapsed my ribcage! Before he could assault me again another Brit touched his shoulder and said “Bob, too many cameras”!!!
When we left, the one person in the car who I didn’t know well, went ape shit at me for provoking the Brit. He said “What have you been told to say when being interrogated? STFU. All they need to do is shoot you and then they slip a ‘short’ into your belt and say, “He went for his gun”, end of investigation.”

I did a lot of growing up in the occupied six counties. I was fortunate to meet such caring people who kept me out of trouble and didn’t take advantage of my youthful anger.

Many years later I had the honour of naming a road in Aotearoa New Zealand after Patsy O’Hara, one of the INLA volunteers who died in the 1981 hunger strike. I’ve written about that here; My Tribute to My Comrade Patsy O’Hara and His Family
After this ‘adventure’ I returned to my home in Ashaffenburg in Bavaria and within days I was pulled over by a ‘Plain Clothes” police vehicle. The German cop or spook walked up to the drivers window and said, “Welcome back from Belfast Kevin “, in perfect English. He walked away without waiting for a reply, pure intimidation.

Ireland divided will never know peace;

This song was often sung in our singalongs in Belfast. Kevin Barry was an 18 yr old medical student hung by the Brits. Listen to the lyrics and his heroism. Kevin was no ‘Tout’, his lynching was proof of his loyalty. Irish Republican music was a salve to our wounds.
Ma used to sing this song to me as a kid and then got shitty with me when I headed into the war zone.
It’s the dilemma that all parents are confronted with in oppressed societies.

When I first arrived in the war zone, I was uncertain of my position on the “Armed Struggle”, and fascinatingly it was an elderly Patsy Marron that convinced me that the armed struggle wasn’t a choice our people made but was forced upon us. The state was out of control and the pogroms were well documented. Patsy convinced me it was our duty to resist and protect our own communities if the state had no intention of doing so. The rest is history.

Patsy Marron, continuing the struggle as seen here when she was 92yrs old.

After I left the occupied six counties, I went to Gibraltar to help a friend’s computer company install computers at a new bank.
I had to walk over the footpath where Mairead Farell, Dan McCann and Sean Savage were murdered in cold blood by the British SAS on March 6th, 1988. Mairéad was shot in the back along with her comrades Séan Savage and Daniel McCann, as they walked unarmed. Britain always denied that they had a “Shoot to Kill” policy with us Irish Republicans but the evidence is clear.

Sean was shot 18 times. “Farrell, Watson said, “was hit by five bullets to the face and neck and three in the back. . . . Danny McCann was shot twice in the head and twice in the back.”

Executed in a public street when they could have easily been arrested. Gone but never forgotten comrades.

Tiocfaidh ár lá , our day will come. Ireland divided shall never know peace.
I’m posting this on the 25th anniversary of the execution style murder of Mairead, Sean and Dan. R.I.P. comrades.

I'm an anti-imperialist, environmental activist and blue ocean sailor, who is passionate about the earth and all it's inhabitants without favour. Brace for imminent impact as we bare witness to the non-linear unraveling of the biosphere and habitability disappearing for most if not all complex life on the only habitable planet we know of. To quote President Niinistö in North Russia: ‘If We Lose the Arctic, We Lose the World’. Folks we have lost the Arctic.

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Posted in Belfast, Colonialism, Imperialism
10 comments on “Adventures of a Member of the Diaspora in Occupied West Belfast
  1. Kevin Hester says:

    James Conolly fell into a ready made grave.


  2. Great commentary and returned many memories as I traveled in Ireland. Once in a British Regd white VW camper van. How naive is that.
    Most of the troubles were over in NI but pipe bombs were still going off in Larne.
    Last time I was there the Divis St flats had been demolished but the Falls/Gavary Rd barriers still existed

    Liked by 1 person

  3. denimoon says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for a remarkable story about Irish history and your own personal history.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anthony says:

    During the time of the B&Ts My maternal grandparents in Cork were lined up against a wall and threatened with shooting because the family list on the door didn’t check out they were trying to I.D. active IRA members. It was resolved by consulting parish records. My father often sang ” Kevin Barry ” though he was in the RAF during the War. The British gave economic opportunities for betterment to the Irish people. My Mother became a nurse during the War and as an ex serviceman afterwards my Dad could always find work. They were given a newly built 2 bedroom flat to rent at reduced social rates. Eventually the North will join to the South I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jay11 says:

      I remember the words of Kevin Barry he sung:
      ” Kevin barry was no coward from the foe he did not run. Shoot me like an Irish soldier do not hang me like a dog. For I fought to free old Ireland on that still September morn…” The Brit soldiers in the recent troubles committed war crimes as in bloody sunday. ” Bloody Sunday, demonstration in Londonderry (Derry), Northern Ireland, on Sunday, January 30, 1972, by Roman Catholic civil rights supporters that turned violent when British paratroopers opened fire, killing 13 and injuring 14 others (one of the injured later died).” Most Empires do commit crimes as the Brits did in Kenya and India and the infamous monster Cromwell.


      • jay11 says:

        My impression was the conflict was getting to a real civil war level and that’s what caused both parties to see sense and reach a peace settlement.


  5. jay11 says:

    Easter, 1916
    By William Butler Yeats
    I have met them at close of day
    Coming with vivid faces
    From counter or desk among grey
    Eighteenth-century houses.
    I have passed with a nod of the head
    Or polite meaningless words,
    Or have lingered awhile and said
    Polite meaningless words,
    And thought before I had done
    Of a mocking tale or a gibe
    To please a companion
    Around the fire at the club,
    Being certain that they and I
    But lived where motley is worn:
    All changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.

    That woman’s days were spent
    In ignorant good-will,
    Her nights in argument
    Until her voice grew shrill.
    What voice more sweet than hers
    When, young and beautiful,
    She rode to harriers?
    This man had kept a school
    And rode our wingèd horse;
    This other his helper and friend
    Was coming into his force;
    He might have won fame in the end,
    So sensitive his nature seemed,
    So daring and sweet his thought.
    This other man I had dreamed
    A drunken, vainglorious lout.
    He had done most bitter wrong
    To some who are near my heart,
    Yet I number him in the song;
    He, too, has resigned his part
    In the casual comedy;
    He, too, has been changed in his turn,
    Transformed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.

    Hearts with one purpose alone
    Through summer and winter seem
    Enchanted to a stone
    To trouble the living stream.
    The horse that comes from the road,
    The rider, the birds that range
    From cloud to tumbling cloud,
    Minute by minute they change;
    A shadow of cloud on the stream
    Changes minute by minute;
    A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
    And a horse plashes within it;
    The long-legged moor-hens dive,
    And hens to moor-cocks call;
    Minute by minute they live:
    The stone’s in the midst of all.

    Too long a sacrifice
    Can make a stone of the heart.
    O when may it suffice?
    That is Heaven’s part, our part
    To murmur name upon name,
    As a mother names her child
    When sleep at last has come
    On limbs that had run wild.
    What is it but nightfall?
    No, no, not night but death;
    Was it needless death after all?
    For England may keep faith
    For all that is done and said.
    We know their dream; enough
    To know they dreamed and are dead;
    And what if excess of love
    Bewildered them till they died?
    I write it out in a verse—
    MacDonagh and MacBride
    And Connolly and Pearse
    Now and in time to be,
    Wherever green is worn,
    Are changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.

    September 25, 1916

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David Kiernan says:

    Kevin; read all of this and I have been following you and Guy on Twitter and Facebook for years. What happened in Ulster over the past 60 years was truly horrendous and has left a stain for generations on the people of Ireland particularly in the North of Ireland and the Border areas. However, there is another part to the violence that occurred and that is, ‘no-warning’ car bombs planted and detonated by paramilitaries, both Republican and Loyalist. I have direct experience of these bombs. Most of these ‘no-warning’ car bombs were planned, planted and detonated by Republican Paramilitaries with great loss of innocent civilian life and homes and businesses, La Mon, Enniskillen and Omagh ‘no warning’ car bombs to name but a few. I am absolutely glad that Republican Paramilitaries were able to make ‘a buck’ from running Glazing business’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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Kevin Hester

Kevin Hester is currently living on Rakino Island, a small island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand, monitoring the unravelling of the biosphere and volunteering at the Rakino Island Nursery is currently developing a proposal to create a marine reserve near by. The Island has no grid tied electricity or reticulated water.  I catch my own water from the roof and generate my electricity from the ample solar radiation on the island.

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