A gracious invitation to take part in a Reflective Service by Northern Ireland’s Victims and Survivors Trust (VAST) led me into a world that has opened up many emotions and thoughts. It was moving to spend time with those who had lost loved ones and hear their stories. I came home and checked up Lost Lives, that amazing catalogue of everyone killed as part of our Troubles. Yet, sadly, I expected that and therefore that wasn’t what caught my attention or most challenged me. Meeting Paul Gallagher, Chairman of VAST, who invited my friend Fr Martin Magill and I to do the Reflection, alerted me to the tragic legacy of our Troubles that we have hidden away; the injured! To sit with Paul in his wheelchair and the home he was shot in, that has had to be altered to cope with the extent of his injuries, then hear about his brother giving up work to look after him. This is the debris of the bombs and bullets that can’t be cleared up the morning after and long forgotten. This has long term implications for individuals and families. My question was what are the
implications for communities and, for me particularly, the Church?
As I was leaving his home Paul reached me Injured... On That Day, a book that catalogues the stories of the injured as they talk through the day their lives changed forever. It is not a literary work. It is simply the raw truth of lives where a wind came out of nowhere and knocked them off their feet; sometimes quite literally! These stories grabbed me by the throat and threatened me to respond. Each of them led me to touch the painful broken heart of God, forced me to feel the righteous anger of God and had God asking me what I was going to do to make sure that the injured are given the voice they deserve and that no one ever thinks this kind of carnage is a useful contribution to any society, country or political cause!
In recent days through various campaigns we have made drink driving a social no no. We need a campaign to saturate our youth with the horror, futility and flesh and blood cost of our violent Northern Irish society. Every person who is vulnerable to the evil romantic notion of violence needs to read about those who were beaten up, shot in the head or had the dashboard of their car blow up in their face. We all need to hear about the physical injuries but also need to become acutely aware of the mental scars, the marriages broken up, the vocations lost and the families living in the shadow of horrific events. I would urge our First and Deputy Ministers to put this book in the hands of every house in our country. If a millionaire is reading this blog then fund it! Who runs the sod that keeps our feet wet and what flag flies over it is not worth this legacy of suffering. Let us tell our children and young people these stories that might prevent them going down an uncivilized road.