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Bear in mind these dead... An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969-1993

Malcolm Sutton Beyond the Pale Publications, Belfast . 9.95 ISBN 0 9514229 4 4

THERE ARE FEW people in Ulster who have not been touched in some way by the effect of the national conflict which has been going on in our country for the past quarter of a century. We all remember the deaths of friends and workmates and especially those of members of our families at the hands of one or other of the parties to the conflict. The rest, unless they were prominent in public life in some way or another, are generally forgotten statistics to everyone but their immediate friends and relations. Now at last we have this permanent reminder of all those who have had their lives taken from them in the course of `the troubles'.

Malcolm Sutton has been compiling information on all deaths in the conflict since the mid 1980s. When he started he had no idea of the enormity of the task. For example, the official statistics take no notice of deaths outside the six counties of Northern Ireland . Thus the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, the Warrington children in 1993 and the soldier killed by a booby trap bomb under his car in Hanover , Germany in 1989 are not counted. Mr Sutton, quite rightly in my opinion, thought that this approach was illogical and has included all the victims, whether or not they actually lost their lives in Ulster itself or not.

The main part of the book lists the victims in chronological order from 67 year‑old Francis McCloskey who died from injuries inflicted by an RUC man's baton on July 14th 1969 to 23 year‑old Daniel Blinco, a British soldier who met his death from an IRA sniper's bullet on December 30th 1993 . Mr Sutton has taken great pains to establish the personal details of each of the victims, the agency responsible for each death where known and the circumstances of the killing. He also lists the status of each victim, that is their perceived religion and other affiliations if any. As he says, all the information is in the public domain, so it should be possible to check the details of each entry. However, the test I am using is more personal, I'm looking up some of the entries for people whom I knew who became targets for terrorists.

September 1988

Colin Abernethy (30) Civ (PA) IRA Ulster Clubs member. Shot while travelling on train to his workplace, Finaghy, Belfast .

March 1990

William McClure (44) Civ (P) IPLO Shot at his home, Skegoneill Avenue , Skegoneill, Belfast .

On the basis of these two entries I can say that the information is accurate, if sparse. It correctly says that Colin Abernethy was a PA, that is a Protestant political activist. Billy McClure was not a political activist but an uninvolved Protestant. Both were well known to me, one through politics, the other through work and the trade union movement. The entries report which organisations murdered these men but not why. They also cannot say what kind of men the victims were. How did they live? Who was left behind to grieve for them? Some weeks before his death, Billy McClure dressed up outrageously to collect money for the BBC Children in Need appeal. He had a lively and sharp sense of humour. This will be recalled by those who knew Billy but it can't be seen just by a casual reading of this book. However, each of the normally faceless and nameless statistics has had a name and a place in society and Mr Sutton has done a praiseworthy job in reminding us all of this. Just browsing through my copy has brought to mind incidents and occasions which I had forgotten, some which happened close to home.

In the appendix to this book, there is a very useful statistical summary. Of the total deaths to the end of 1993, 3059 Gave occurred in Northern Ireland, 91 in the Irish Republic, 118 in Great Britain and 17 elsewhere in Europe. Republican groups have been responsible for 1926 of the deaths, loyalist groups for 911, the security forces for 357, the Eire security forces for three. The author has not been able to give a positive identity for the perpetrators of the remaining 88 deaths. In some cases this is because they died in street disturbances, others were republican hunger strikers who died in prison.

This is a valuable book and I commend the author and Beyond the Pale Publications for publishing it. I hope that it will not require much future revision or many new editions; something which I'm sure the author will have in common with me. This is one area of research and publishing where it would be great to be declared redundant.

David Kerr

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