It is easy to lift a gun. It is even easy to fire it. When you see the body of a 17-18 year old it is not so easy.
We were young. They were young too. The British Government sent them onto the streets of Belfast. The IRA sent us out to oppose them. I took no pleasure seeing a young Englisman lying on the street. But I admit to taking pleasure from taking on the might of the British Empire.
Most of the kids who died here knew nothing of why they were here. The bulk of them came from poor working class families just like our own. I remember one time in McDonnell Street a young British soldier had been left behind by his foot patrol. He was only 18. I was not at the scene but soon received word that the IRA had captured a British soldier and were holding him captive. In those days we did not have radio communication. By the time I arrived at McDonnell Street the 18 year old soldier was already dead. He had been shot dead by a 17 year old IRA volunteer. I regret to this day that I was unable to stop his death.
We had no desire to kill kids whether in uniform or not. But it was kids who fought this war on both the British and Irish sides. I was never filled with hatred for other human beings. I did not hate the English people. I hated what the British Government did to my country.
Today I left my flat which is situated near the top of the high rise complex in which I live. When I reached the ground floor I met three armed British soldiers waiting to take over the lift. No one is allowed to use our lift when the British soldiers change guard. But the lift was put there for the residents not an occupying army.
It is not easy to swallow it. If you live in London or New York, could you feel indifferent, if you were to walk out of your home to be confronted by a number of armed foreigners who insist on telling you what you may and may not do? I don't think so.
As I walked up the Falls and past the commemorative garden built to honour the dead volunteers who had given their lives resisting the repression inflicted by the British Army I thought to myself that despite all the promises and new arrangements, the British hadn't gone away, you know.