Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland (2023): Season 1, Episode 2 - Do Paramilitaries Lie Awake at Night - full transcript

Neighborhoods and society in the cities have become very segregated. Both sides of the conflict are using paramilitary organizations. Botha sides are using hatred and fear to attempt to protect their culture. This episode does off...

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- Is this us starting now?
- Well, we can.

You know, let's start.


What was the question?


I'm waiting on you.

My name is Terri Hooley,

born and bred in Belfast,

the centre of the universe.

The centre of my universe, anyway.

A lovely, lovely Belfast concert.

In the '60s,
The Rolling Stones came.

The Beatles came.

Jimi Hendrix.

I met Jimi, great guy.

# Why don't you smile now? #

Dylan came to Belfast in May '65,
was it?

And I got my audience with Bob.

- Want a light then?
- Huh?

That's just... it's just we were
on the circuit.

You know, you played Liverpool,

Dublin, back to London.

# ...love didn't get you far #

# Why don't you smile now? #

And then the Troubles came.

And I couldn't believe how quickly

my lovely city became divided.

I really couldn't.

Everything died.


Was there one event that really
sticks out for you, a moment like,

"We're never getting it back?"

Was it... was it... was it...?
Bloody Friday.

Bloody Friday.

To see people with shovels

shovelling up arms and legs
and putting them into bin bags.

That was pretty disgusting,
so it was.

I was going to buy a record,

And next thing...

...a bomb went off near where I was
going to buy the record.

[MAN]: Get back now.



It's twenty past three
in the afternoon,

and for the last 20 minutes
Belfast has been rocked

by the biggest bombing offensive
seen in the city this year.

All over the city,
plumes of smoke arose

as explosions took place.


Bloody Friday, the worst ever
example of IRA terrorism.

Nine people killed
and more than 130 injured.

[WOMAN]: I do remember Bloody Friday.

You heard a couple of bombs go off
and you seen the puff of smoke

and you sort of went, "Right,"
and then you carried on playing.

And then there was another one.

You went, "Another one?"

You carried on playing,
then there was another one.

You know, and you're sort of going,
"Oh, you know,

"this is different."

[TV]: Bombs exploded every minute
for 20 minutes

in busy shopping areas
and a crowded bus terminal.

I was actually seven
when Bloody Friday happened.

The sky was black.

It was like a scene from hell.

And you could even smell
the acrid smell of the bombs.


It was indiscriminate.

Anyone, Catholic, Protestant,

could have become a victim.

Neighbours, those who had TVs,

the pictures started coming in.

Horrible scenes, horrific scenes.

Here in this bus station was one of
the worst incidents of all.

The bus station was crowded

when a bomb went off
without warning.

It didn't seem real,
what I was seeing on TV.

Felt like another place.

And yet it was only streets away.

It was... it was frightening.

It was very frightening.

Certainly the elders
in the community were saying,

"This is an attack on us.
They're attacking Protestants."

How did you feel about the IRA
at that point?

That they were awful people,

to do that.

You couldn't look at those pictures
and not be...

...horrified by what you saw.

I was in the IRA,

but wasn't involved
in Bloody Friday.

I knew nothing about it.

I'd seen it on the news
like everyone else.

And that's the truth.

You couldn't justify it.

Catholics as well as Protestants
were blown up on that day.

It was awful, fucking awful,

all those poor people
getting blown up, I mean...

It was fucking not just awful,
it was embarrassing.

And is there, is there more emotion
in there,

rather... other than
just embarrassment?

Is there... Is there conflict
in there for you

when you... when you...?

At... Even now or at the time?

Well, there is now,
of course there is.

At the time...

I was 17 and 18,

I was full of revolutionary vigour,

and it was just
a balls... a balls-up.

Did it make you question
being in the IRA?



...the whole tone of the war

seemed to deteriorate
after Bloody Friday.

It seemed to be a direction-changer

into a very dark place.

You know.

I was totally comfortable
with combatting the British Army.

But as things developed,

it was republicans
who were sectarian.

And I mean, that's...

...that's indisputable, right?

I mean, there was Protestants killed

purely for the sake of the fact
that they were Protestants.


I didn't understand, you know,

exactly what had happened
on Bloody Friday,

but I knew my community,
my people, my city

was being attacked again by the IRA.

There was a lot of talk about it.
I remember all the adults,

it was palpable hatred and anger,
you know what I mean?

Rest in the Lord,

and wait patiently for him.

Fret not myself because of him
who prospereth in his way,

because of the man
who bringeth wicked devices.

Ordinary peace-loving people

were queuing up to join
loyalist paramilitaries.

That galvanised support
for loyalist paramilitaries.

We needed to fight back
and this was our army.


[TV]: It sounds like
a modern mafia,

but the UDA,
the Ulster Defence Association,

ostensibly exists
as a military force.

50,000 strong...

the biggest private army
Britain has ever seen.

Well, we intend to see that
the terrorists are stopped.

The security forces have obviously
failed to stop them.

We have no alternative but to try
and stop them ourselves.

This we will try to do.

[TV]: Today's march, I was told,
is the beginning of

the Protestant backlash
and is a warning to the IRA.

The UDA started out in Belfast,

right, up the Shankill Road.

Some of the men got together
trying to protect their areas.

Rather than go to bed
on Friday night,

the men would
patrol round the estate.


They were vigilantes.

I was one of them.

My name's James Greer.

I was 17 when I joined the UDA.

Guilty as charged.

But you got a gun when you were 17?

I was in charge of guns
when I was 17.

I have a granddaughter of 17,
by the way,

and I could not imagine
handing her a gun.

I could not imagine
handing her anything

other than a strawberry fucking
milkshake, to be honest.

But anyway...

Did not have a great home life.

I was probably regarded
as the low-hanging fruit,

and people were whispering
in my ear, you know,

"If we don't stand up for ourselves,

"we're going to be
trampled under the ground."

And I'm thinking,

"I don't want anybody tramping me
under the ground."

So I found myself, you know,
with my hand on the Bible

and a .38, an old Webley .38
in this hand,

and a guy holding a pre-prepared
statement in front of my face.

And I'm reading it off that
I swear to this and I swear to that

and I swear to the other thing
for God and Ulster,

and if I die in the battle
it's the will of God...

God has to be in there too.

And, er...

...there I was in the UDA.

I swear on my life...

I swear on my life...

...that I will defend
my appointed district...

...that I will defend
my appointed district...

...against any invaders.
...against any invaders.

It's all very serious.

These guys are sitting behind
the counter and you know yourself

these guys don't mess around.

Like, it's not as if they're
fucking going to kill a pussycat.

They'd fucking cut your throat
as quick as they'd look at you.

But what I didn't know
that particular night

and didn't learn until months
afterwards that I'd joined the UFF.

So I had been purposely duped.

In those early days

you were not even allowed to mention
the UFF either,

because the UFF
was a military organisation

that done a lot of atrocities.

It's like joining the Mafia,

in all honesty, it's pretty much
the same idea.

At the start it's all very well,
you know,

you're sort of doing
stupid things like hijacking

and stuff like that.

You know, then it goes on to
more serious things.

They'd hand you guns,
"Go down there

"and shoot that fucker there,
would you?"

You know, and then it's sort
of a position when you can't say no.

- You know?
- You're in.

You're in, you're in there.

As you all know,
the workers in the...

A lot of people would say
the paramilitaries

were horrible, awful people

and Northern Ireland
would be a wonderful place

if they all went away.

But they weren't parachuted in
from a different country.

They didn't land from
an alien planet, you know?

They were brothers, they were
uncles, they were fathers.

They were my friends' fathers.

And they weren't bad people.

They weren't horrible people.
They did horrible things.

But why did they do those things?

[TV]: On either side of Shankill Road

all are Protestant.

On either side of Falls Road

all are Catholic.

Catholic, Protestant, Catholic,

Protestant, Catholic.

Why is it so difficult for boys
like you on the Protestant side

to meet and make friends
with boys on the Catholic side?

Because they don't want
to make friends with us.

There's times where we can't
walk up the road,

we're getting pulled.

We get a hiding, nothing's done
about it.

- Well, do you want to make friends with them?
- No.

Do not.

If you live in a segregated

you're growing up in ignorance.

And ignorance just generates hate.

And hate begets hate
begets violence.

And that's what we did
to each other here.

[ARCHIVE]: In Belfast, the protection
of the military is called for

to get children safely to school
and home again.

Their school uniform clearly marks
them as the enemy to the Catholics

on the other side of Crumlin Road.

I have a legal shotgun.

And should I have to carry it
up the Crumlin Road?

I do so to protect my child

because my child should have
the liberty to walk on British soil.

She was born British,
and British she'll remain

till she dies and I die with her.

What about going on another road
rather than the Crumlin, Mary?

- No. - No.
- The Crumlin's our road.

The Crumlin's ours
and it's going to stay Protestant.

Aren't you afraid of the stones?

No, I'm not

because if I get hit with one,
I'd throw it back.

That's right, love.


I'll help you, love.

What if it's worse than stones?

Well, what if it is?

Can't WE get bottles
and make petrol bombs too?

Good for you, love,
and we'll help you to make them.

You only mix with people
on your own side.

The other side is portrayed

in your head and songs you sing
in the bar as the enemy.

And they are, you know,
in your head,

this horrible hatred is built up.

Bow your heads.

Even something as
innocent as a school assembly,

we used to make our own songs up

The one "Give me oil in my lamp,"

we'd sing,
"Give me bullets in my gun,

"keep it firing,
give me bullets in my gun,

"I pray, give me bullets in my gun
and we'll shoot them, every one,

"the members of the IRA."


# Sing hosanna, sing hosanna, sing
hosanna to the King of kings... #

This is the Shankill Road,
the heartland of loyalism.

Where my heart and soul was forged.


Our whole world, our whole
environment was dictated to by,

you know, being loyalists and
Protestant and hating Catholics.

You know what I mean? It was in our
DNA from birth to hate Catholics.

We hated them with a passion,
so we did.

Every minute of our day
we despised them

and we wanted to see them suffer.

And I know that is harsh.

You know, I mean,
looking at it now it's crazy.

But when you're born in
that tribal environment

and your whole life is dominated
by the Troubles,

they were our enemies,
you know what I mean?

There was no getting away from that.

It's an ingrained survival strategy.

We can tell just by looking
at someone

if they're Catholic or Protestant.

And I remember doing that myself

when growing up as a kid
when I was in Belfast City Centre.

We always thought they were smelly,
so we did,

and we just knew,
"He looks like a Catholic."

Yeah, I'm a bit worried
I'm coming across as a mad, bigoted,

Catholic-hating madman here.


But what I'm talking about is,
you know, that environment

that I grew up when I was young,
know what I mean,

when we get to talk about the later
years, hopefully I'll be able

to explain that my attitudes have
changed, you know.

You've gone on a journey, John.

- Yeah, exactly.
- It's partway in.

Right, OK.

It doesn't... it doesn't end
in the same place.


My name is John Chambers.

I was born and bred in Belfast.

I'm a peace-loving loyalist.

And... Let me start that again.


That's good.

I sound as if I'm on a game show.


My earliest memory is in hospital.

Um, I was in hospital quite a bit

when I was younger,
I had a bone disease.

Gradually my mum stopped visiting me

and I thought,
"That's a bit bizarre," you know.

No-one actually said anything
up to this point.

And then my grandmother sat us down
one day and she said, you know,

"I've got some news to tell you."

And we were like, "What?"
And she's like,

"I'm afraid your mum's died.
She died in a car crash."

You know, it's harsh,
but I didn't even miss her.

I know that sounds bad,

but because my grandmother was
taking such an active role

in our upbringing,
she was my mother,

basically, and my grandmother
all rolled into one

and I didn't miss having a mother
until I was much older

and learned the truth.

What is this place?

This is Glencairn.

This is where we moved,
late sixties, early seventies.

And our house was just here.

And I lived there with my dad
and my siblings.

The house is where the bonfire is.

Right where the bonfire is, yeah.
That was our house.

Glencairn is a great place
to live, you know what I mean?

As kids, we loved it, so we did.

- All right, mate?
- What's happening?

It was a brand-new estate,
but it was an ultra loyalist estate,

you know. Loyalists controlled
every aspect of it.

What is a loyalist?


Er, good question.

A loyalist is a WASP,

a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant,

We're more British than the British,
you know what I mean?

Prouder, should I say,
than the British to be British.

Do you know they still stand
for the Queen in Northern Ireland?

All loyalists from Protestant clubs,
at the end of the night,

no matter how drunk or stoned
or wasted that you are,

when they play the Queen,
you have to stand up and salute.

If you don't do it, you're going
to get a beating or a hiding.

They take it very seriously.

[TV ANNOUNCER]: That brings us to the
end of our programmes on BBC One.

And I remember as a child, the BBC
every night used to play the Queen

at the end of night, and we used
to stand up in the house

and salute the Queen
when they played it.

[TV]: For all of us here at
Broadcasting House,

wishing you goodnight.

We were that fanatical, you know,
we took it that seriously.

[MUSIC: "God Save The Queen"]

Me mammy, she would go,

"Jim, knock that TV off now.


"I told you to knock it off."

That national anthem
and that flag...

Just can't.

It means more to me than
just a song or a piece of cloth,

because it's one of the things, too,

that would have probably been on the
uniforms of the soldiers, you know,

even should it be small, it's there.

It's, "I'm your oppressor.

"I'm the one that's keeping
you down."

But one of the...
I'm not saying like...

...that, as I was growing up,
I didn't sort of, you know...

...sometimes see soldiers
and think,

"Mm, he's nice looking."

Because that is what happened to me
one day coming from school.

Literally, I had walked out
of the school gates

and I was walking home with friends

and stopped by the soldiers.

"OK, could we know your name?"

"Where are you coming from?"

I'm like, "You're seriously
asking me where I'm coming from?

"That's my school behind me.

"I'm wearing my uniform.
What, are you stupid or something?"

And while I'm being all, you know,

feisty and all this carry on,

the fella that was actually
asking me the questions,

he was a good looking dude.

And I'm kind of going,

"You're lovely."

And then I'm like, "Oh, Jesus, no.
Get yourself in check."

And literally had to think, "It
doesn't matter how good looking

"that... or gorgeous that boy is,
he's the enemy."

Because you understood the rules?

I understood the rules, aye.

And you understood what happened
if you broke them?


Oh, Jesus, aye.


[ARCHIVE]: These scenes are
a remarkable contrast

in a city of totally polarised

Here Catholic and Protestant girls
risk very unpleasant reprisals

to dance with British soldiers
in a makeshift disco

inside the Army barracks.

You're both Catholic girls
who've come for a night out

with British soldiers.

Isn't that a dangerous thing to do
in your circumstances?

It is, yes.

But we still take the risk.

We think it's worth it.

What do you think about the
soldiers? Do you like them or...?

Of course we like them very much.

You get to really do like them

when they start coming to the disco.


Soldier dolls.

That was the known term for them.

This is the lamppost where

a 19-year-old girl was tied up
last night

and jeered at by women and others,

after she'd had her head shaved

and she'd been tarred and feathered
all over her head...

...all because she'd been going out
with a British soldier.

They were left tied there
for the longest while

so that people could get
a good look at them,

totally shaming them
and humiliating them

and marking them
within the community...

this is... this is somebody
that fraternises with the enemy.

You were not only bringing shame
on yourself,

you were bringing it on the family.

What would you do if you found

your daughter going out
with a British soldier?

I would hand her out to the women
who took the girl last night.

Are you in favour of tarring
and feathering?

Wholeheartedly, yes,
I am in favour of it.

Are you in favour of it?

Definitely, yes.

And me, definitely.
You are in favour of it?

And all my friends are.

I do wrestle with it myself because,
you know, I had moments of my life

where I was completely in support
of the paramilitaries, you know,

because I felt that
they were my protector.

But also at the same time they were

doing what they were doing to
their own people,

that's the ultimate form of control,
keeping everybody

within their boundaries
and within their tribe.

They could be the good AND the bad.

The very bad.


A widowed mother of ten children
was kidnapped from her home

here in the Davis Flats complex
on Belfast's Lower Falls Road.

On the evening of December 7th,

four women entered the home
of Mrs Jean McConville,

told her family that their mother
would be returned in half an hour

and then left with her.

Mrs McConville never returned home.

My name is Michael McConville.

I'm the son of Jean McConville,

and my mother was taken

from us by the IRA in 1972.


Sorry, it's really hard looking at
this here, to be honest with you.

Just seeing how young
everybody was, you know?


So this one here is me.

Dervi, Elizabeth.

My father was a Catholic,

my mother was a Protestant.

So it's what they say over here,

it's a mixed marriage.

And in 1970
we moved into the Divis Flats.

[ARCHIVE]: At the end of the Falls
Road is Divis Flats,

a citadel of 10,000 Catholics.

Divis Flats are a stronghold
of the Provisional IRA,

a stone fortress that gave them
both cover and escape routes

in their war against
the British Army.

My dad wasn't well for a good while.

He had cancer, so he had.

When he died, I thought that was the
worst thing

what could ever happen to me
and my brothers and sisters.

Little did I know that nine months

we'd have lost our mother as well.

How would you describe him,
your dad?







And just really a heart of gold.

He's a kind wee soul, so he is,

who's just had...

...so much bad things happen
in his life.

He wouldn't let anyone go through
what he had to go through.

No matter what,

if I told him that something
may have happened to me,

I always knew that he would
protect me from that.

And I think that's what he wanted us
to feel, do you know?

Where do you think that stems from?



probably from my granny
getting taken away.

[MICHAEL]: There was a shooting going
on that night

between the IRA
and the British soldiers.

And a soldier was injured

and my mother went to his aid.

Who was he, was he a...?
He was a British soldier

and, er,

she tried to help him.

Show an act of kindness
when someone was injured.

But, er,

the people of Divis Flats
didn't see it that way.

When I say the people of the
Divis Flats,

the IRA of the Divis Flats
didn't see it that way.

They sent someone round to write

a slogan across the door,

while we were all sleeping.

"Brit lovers" or
"Get out or else, soldier lovers".

I can't just remember what it was,
but it was one of them slogans

what they had across the front
of the flat.

And then the IRA took
our mother away.

I knew something bad was going to

I didn't realise at the time

that they were going to murder
my mother.

We had no parents,

we really had no-one
to look after us.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot
of good people in the Divis Flats,

so there was,

and I would say they probably
were scared.

What were they scared of?

They were scared of the IRA.

There was nothing else.

They were scared of helping us
because the IRA didn't agree

with it. So they ruled
and they ruled with an iron fist.

Squeeze, one, two, release,
squeeze, one, two, release.

That gives you a burst of three
or four rounds at a time.

Would you ever, ever doubt
or question an order?

- In those days? - Yes.
- No.

You wouldn't have done that,
like, it was, you know...

That could have cost you your life.

And that was made pretty plain,
you know.

Sergeant Major, you'll take
number two patrol tonight.

When I was asked to do things,

I can remember, you know,

the excitement,

the butterflies in the stomach...

...like it was yesterday,
and that becomes addictive.

Do you know what I mean?
That adrenaline, maybe...

...rush that you get
because you're living on the edge...

...you know?

That day was
a day like any other day.

The Thursday,
five days after my 19th birthday.

Come home from work, got something
to eat, went out and had a pint.

And then me and my friend,
we were approached by two men

and these guys said,
"Come with us.

"We're going to do such and such
and such and such

"because of such and such
and such and such."

When you say "such and such
and such and such..."

Aye, that's what they call

See, if your paper, scribble across
it, "Oh, it's a redacted statement."

You're not going to tell me this?

I am fucking not going to tell you
any more than

such and such and such and such.

But we went to this place,
which was a such and such place

and I met up
with the senior officer,

and he gave me a list of things
that I had to do

and said, "Right, get on with it."

What was on that list?

Where to plant the device,

what I was looking for
before I planted the device,


...sort of specifics about time

and stuff like that.

So you knew it was a bomb, then?



How did you feel?

I just... That was just a Thursday,
type of thing.

That sounds a wee bit blasé, like.

The seventies was an awful time.

You know what I mean?
So I was in the middle.

I was in the thick of that.
So somebody said to me,

"You're going to go and be planting
this device here." You know,

he might as well have said, "Do you
want a cup of tea?" Like it was...

It didn't mean anything.

I just said, "OK, right.
That's it, no problem.

"Get on with."

It was primed,

and it was myself and another guy.

So I said, "Right, go in there
and do that

"and set it there
and blah, blah, blah."

And he says, "OK, no problem."

And he took about...

...I don't know, maybe five
or six steps and it ignited.

All I can remember was
like a big white ball,

and I was unsighted.

I remember going...

My face was all blood,
it was pissing out of me,

but I was all there, you know.

What injuries did your friend get?

Lost his arm.

Why did it go off?

Premature explosion, just.


...any God's amount of reasons,
you know.

And then the Army were everywhere.

They were on top of us,
they were waiting on us.

Can I ask, were you...

...were you willing,

were you willing to kill someone?


That's why I was there.

And if I had to kill people,
I will kill people.

And that is not even a challenge
to me.

You know,
it's part of what I signed up for.

You went from being...

...a normal teenager to being someone
that was willing to murder?

Two easy steps type thing.



You know, looking at me now

that I am
right out of my comfort zone.

- Yeah.
- Aye.

You've taken me to a bad place,


It's all right. I'll get by,
you know what I mean?

It just takes you to a bad place,
you know, that you don't

really feel comfortable with.

But at the same time,
because you're not comfortable,

it doesn't mean that it's not there.

And I hate to ignore, you know,

the things that make me

because they're important.

You know.

- Are we going to get another cup of tea here?
- Yeah, sure.

Fancy one now?
I would love one now.

I would kill you for a cup of tea.

You're always aware that, you know,
a bomb could go off at any time

in the city centre
or anywhere throughout Belfast.

The security presence was always
very prominent, you know.

There's always someone
with a gun within eyesight.

So you're always cautious,
know what I mean?

And, you know, you could see it
in people's faces,

you know, the suspicion
and the fear.

You know, I mean,
everyone had it at the time.

From my earliest age,
Belfast was a no-parking zone.

You couldn't park
your unattended car in town.

So my mum would keep me off school

so I could sit in the car while
she did her shopping, you know,

because you couldn't leave an
unattended vehicle

within the city centre. It might
have been a car bomb, so somebody

had to be in the passenger seat.

Or when you came back, the street
would be completely cleared

and your car would be on fire.

The Army would blow it up.

What my mum did was put her big,
fat, school kid in the...

...just get in the passenger seat
with a bag of crisps

and a bottle of Coke and a comic,

and I'd be sitting there happy
for hours!

"Go ahead, Mum!"
I got the day off school.

Move over to the right there.

When the bombing started happening

then the businesses were complaining

then they built a ring of steel...

...round the city centre
to stop people getting bombed.

You had gates and barriers that went
round the whole of the city

centre, and it was just something
that was part of your life.

I think it probably looks
like a bomb scare.

Is it? How many times has this
happened here?

Oh, dozens and dozens of times.
Has there ever actually been a bomb?

Oh, yes, yes.

Do you get fed up with it?

No, it's just a way of life.

The whole life of the city had been
sucked out of it.

All the nightlife was gone.

I mean, Jesus, people were going,
leaving the country.

I should think all the poets,
the painters and the performers

of music all just got up and left.

It was pretty scary.


There are places in Belfast where
things have happened in my life

that I feel very uncomfortable
walking past.

Like Direct Wine Sales is
in the old building where I used

to work for Kodak, and I came out
one night and three gunmen

tried to grab me in the car

and these two guys,
they jumped in and saved my life

and I managed to get away.

That had happened to friends of mine
and they weren't seen again,

they were tortured.

I just thought, "Well, I'm going
to do something that I really want

"to do before they kill me."

And that was when I decided
I was going to set up a record shop.

It's an old building and we needed
to put windows in it and stuff.

And I decided we'd have a party
in it on a Sunday night.

So I painted up the toilet.

We painted it... I had an old can
of red paint and painted

the toilet seat red

because we couldn't
have young ladies coming round

and not having a decent toilet.

So that was my first priority.

And then we set up a music system
in it.

And we had a great party.

Terri's shop became a focal point.

It became a social thing to do,
and Terri loved that there.

You know, I went down to the shop,
you know, and met Terri

for the first time
and fucking loved him.

This bigger than life character.

It just gradually,
slowly but surely, built up

a bit of a reputation.

Then people started to come
from all over Northern Ireland

to the shop, so they did.

But it was a great way
of bringing people together.

Protestant and Catholics.

Nobody gave a shit.

Good Vibrations was a little oasis
in a sea of madness.

We have a body in the entry
behind us

and that body
has severe head injuries.

How was it discovered?

It was discovered this morning
by two passers-by.

It's assumed he set off
late at night to find a taxi

in the Falls Road and instead
became the random victim

of loyalist terrorists.

Everyone was scared
of the Shankill Butchers.

They were bogeymen.
We all feared them.

So many people were killed during
those days, but these were brutal.

They haunted my dreams.

To me, this is gruesome.

This is inhuman. Bestial.

It's indescribable.

What the Butchers used to do is get
a taxi and drive around Catholic

areas so the people
just flagged down the taxi.

And the minute they got in
they'd be attacked

by the Shankill Butchers and
tortured. Horrendous stuff.

Cut with knives,
have their teeth pulled out.

Absolutely brutal violence.

And they'd dump the bodies right
beside where I lived.

One morning we were going to school.
I was about 11 at the time.

As we were walking past
the community centre,

I could see the shape of a body
lying there.

There was loads of blood
all around it, so there was.

It had a profound effect on me
because I was such an innocent young

boy, just seeing someone there,
you know, I mean, cast aside

like a piece of meat
and butchered like that.

Our children are coming in
from school and from their play

and telling us that there are
men's heads lying in the gutter.

They're playing about in the blood
and they're coming in and saying,

"Mummy, look that's that dead man's
blood on my foot."

And we think that it's terrible

that children in this day and age
should be coming in and telling us

these things when they should be out
playing and enjoying themselves

like we had.

I used to play at the bottom
of the estate.

When I was walking home

if I heard the sound of a black
taxi, a diesel-engine taxi,

climbing the hill behind me,
I used to panic.

I used think, "It's the Butchers,"
and I'd be terrified.

Even though I was Protestant,
I was living in a Protestant estate,

I'd grab a stick or a plank of wood
or something and hide behind a bush

until they passed me.

I used to be freaking out
cos just say they stop

and they pull someone out and
they're killing them in front of me

and I see them killing them,
then they're going to kill me.

You know, there was that fear
of me becoming a victim.

And my dad was outraged
at these killings, so he was.

I mean, to him this is not
what loyalism was all about.

Can I ask about your dad?

I find it hard talking about my dad.
Do you?

Give me a sec. Yeah.

How old were you when he died?

- Ten.
- Ten.


He had cancer and my dad's death
hit me like a sledgehammer,

where my mum's death didn't
really hit me cos I didn't

have that relationship with her,
you know?

And I wasn't used to having
her around, where my dad

had been a constant presence
in my life. And it was decided

that we'd go and live with various
aunties and uncles.

So that was the end of our family
unit living together under one roof.

So life went on, you know what I
mean? I was living with my Uncle Rob

and my auntie, and that.

And one day I was sat at the top
of the stairs

and they were all talking.

And I kind of tuned in
to what they were saying

because they were talking
about my mum.

I thought,
why are they talking about her?

I realised that they were talking
about her as if she was still alive.

They weren't saying "was",
they were saying "is".

And then I came to the realisation
that, no, she's not dead,

she's actually alive somewhere.

My uncle said, "Oh, I wonder if
she's still a practising Catholic."

I was like, "What?!"

I gleaned that she was alive first
and I saw it,

I went, "Fuck me, she's alive!
I want to meet her."

And then when found out she was
Catholic I sort of nosedived again,

thinking, "Fuck me, I don't want to
meet her. I never want to hear her,

"I never want to see her," you know?

I felt utter shame I had Catholic
blood running through my veins.

I couldn't comprehend why my dad...

why would he go and marry
a Catholic?

He was a good loyalist,
he was in the UDA,

he's got a band. Why would he go
with a Catholic?

It was just all these things
overloading in my brain.

And also you had the Shankill
Butchers happening at this time.

This is all during the same period.

So when I heard I was a Catholic,
I'm thinking, fuck, you know,

the Shankill Butchers, if they
find out I'm a Catholic, they're

definitely going to come and get me
and cut me up. And they've only got

to trail me down the road cos I'm
right beside the community centre.

So all these conflicting emotions
are going through me.

You know what I mean? I had this
dirty little secret I had to keep.

I couldn't tell anyone.
I couldn't talk to anyone about it.

Where's my mother? Where's my
mother? You know? Who is she?

Why is she not here? Why did she
leave us? All these questions.

That is a brutal thing to live with.

Michael, do you have lots of
memories of your mum?

The only memory what really sticks
in my head was the night what

she was taken away.

And the last memories what I have
are when she was going out

the door with two women holding her
at each arm and she just turned

round and looked at us behind her.

And that's my last memory
of my mother.

Believe you me,
it's not a good memory to have.

The IRA came back with my mother's
purse and her wedding rings.

I sort of realised, although
I was only 11 years of age,

that my mother was dead.

All that I wanted all my life
was to have my mother's body back.

Not knowing where her body is,

you carry that out around with you
every day of your life.

The IRA was ashamed of
what they'd done.

That's why it was all in denial,

that they didn't do it.

That's why all those excuses was
made by them, saying my mother

had run off with a British Army...

Or our mother has living with
a UDA man up on Shankill Road.

All these stories, I've heard
all these stories before.

They had to put it out
that she was an informant.

Who said she was an informant?
That was coming from the IRA.

- They were saying that?
- Yeah.

So what the IRA was telling us
was lies.

We were told lies
for near enough 30 years.

[ARCHIVE]: In a surprise move tonight,
the IRA has told the BBC

that it has identified the graves
of nine people who were murdered

and buried in secret...

Over more than 30 years Jean
McConville's children have waited

for concrete evidence
about their mother's disappearance,

and today they believe
they've finally been given it.

No-one will ever know what happened.

Um, only the people that were there
know what happened.

And, um, we'd like to think
there was compassion shown,

but then again, there wouldn't
have been compassion shown.

You just feel scared for her,

because what else
would she have felt?

Me and my brothers and sisters
gave her a Christian burial,

which is deserved.

So we have a place where
we can go...

...say our prayers, talk to her.

It's as close as we're ever going
to be to our mother again, you know?

These things help you.

After 31 years
you know where she was buried.

It's not the first time
I says it was a sectarian murder.

It was. It was a Protestant woman
murdered by the IRA.

What more sectarian could you get?

I would like to say this and I
would... I would like it to stay in,

and I mean this, I mean this 100%.

See any person what was involved in

taking my mother away and
killing her, and everything else,

I wouldn't wish this here
on any of their family.

And I really mean that.

Because you know.

I wouldn't...
I wouldn't like to see another

human being going through
what I've been through in life.

Do paramilitaries lie in bed
at night and wonder

about what they did? Do they see
the faces of the dead people?

I kind of hope so.

I don't see how anybody can wake up
in the morning and kill anybody

for a political reason. Fuck!

I'm Greg Cowan. I'm 62 years of age.

I have seven of my own hair left.

I've got a life.

I've got a life that I never
imagined I would have

growing up first.

Am I hitting something here?
Yeah, that's the space-bar.



Och, no, I can't watch this!

I thought you going to show a clip
when I was pretty!

Apart from the recording studio,

the reality of Belfast's punk
rock scene is far removed

from the glamour and sensation
of the gossip columns.

Greg Cowan,
by day a contract painter,

by night he's a vocalist
with The Outcasts.

[MUSIC: "The Cops Are Coming" by The Outcasts]

# Well, I used to be
a cracked on you... #

The Outcasts were one
of my favourite bands

at The Harp Bar, so they were.

The Harp Bar was a dreadful bar.

The Official IRA used to drink

They had wire grilles outside,
and that was to stop people throwing

bombs at it,

where although you could go up
and hang a bomb on the wire grilles,

I never quite worked out that,
but it was just a really

run-down bar.

I remember going into town
to travel to The Harp Bar.

You had to navigate your way
from one side of town to the other

side of town.

There was hardly anybody about.
It was dark.

There would have been
security forces present,

whether that be the Army
or the police.

I might have felt a bit anxious,
just that kind of fear

that you might have felt that

you might have been
the target of something, because,

you know, there was a group of you.

But once you got to The Harp Bar
that was lifted off,

put at the door,
you walked in and, you know,

all those worries and things,

I mean, cos you knew
you were in a safe place.

I mean, it was a dump.

But it was our dump.

Your feet sticking to the floor
cos spilt drink all over the carpet.

Ashtrays that weren't emptied.

And the toilets, the toilets were
like something out of Trainspotting.

I mean, they were horrible,
so they were!


It was a madhouse,
an absolute madhouse.

This was not the modelly crowd.

This was guys from Belfast.

Guys, you know, who were turning
their back on their friends

who they'd run about with
for years

who might have been now joining
paramilitaries and stuff,

they were saying no
to all that there and moving on.

There was a lot of punks
whose fathers

were well-known paramilitaries,
or brothers were.

But when you went down
to The Harp Bar and you went

through that door,
religion went out the window.

I don't think I ever heard anybody
talk, certainly about religion

and what was going on out there.

In there
it was all about the music.

It was all about the fashion.

It was all about the bands.

And it was all about
who was playing that night.

For the first time you were meeting
people from a different area

and a different religion.

There's still people called each
other, you know, if you fell out

with someone, "You Fenian cunt,"
or something, you know,

like it wasn't, as I said,
everybody didn't just walk in,

Protestants on this side, hug all
the Catholics on the other side,

you know?
But it did, it broke barriers.

If punk breaks down the barrier
for one person,

then it's worthwhile,
like, isn't it?

I mean, one person,
it's only a tiny particle,

but it's going to create
for a better situation here.

And, like, punk's done that for me.

I kind of embraced that whole youth
culture and I started mixing

with Catholics and that, but that
was, like, an eye opener for me

because even though I'd grown up
hating them with a passion,

I didn't understand them.

But hanging out with them
and meeting them, I realised

that we weren't that different
from each other after all,

and we liked the same music
and the same style.

And we had so much in common.

And from that point onwards,
I started to change my attitude

towards Catholics and let go
of that entrenched prejudice

of my childhood.

You know, I was still dealing
with all the personal problems

in my life and all the madness
going on around me in Belfast.

So the music and the drugs, you
know, soothed the soul and offered

some escapism from the madness.

And don't forget, then, you know,
boys, girls are marrying.

I myself met my wife
in The Harp Bar.

He'll start telling you
I was a groupie and everything.

I was never a groupie.
You were a groupie!

I only started going out with him
cos he had a car

and it was a lift home.
That's also true!

- Did you ever know what religion I was?
- I always wanted to marry

a Catholic. I remember saying,

"That one there, she's quite
a pretty one, she'll do."

No, of course not!
You didn't discuss...

- You found that out afterwards.
- Yeah.

That's one of the points they made
about the whole thing, yeah.

- Yeah.
- Well, your eyes were always very close together

which was a bit of a giveaway!


Love conquers all.

Just really a lot of people
did not like what was going on.

I got threatened all the time from
both sides.

Why were they threatening you?

Cos we were bringing the kids
together and they didn't like it.

[ARCHIVE]: In a derelict side street
between Roman Catholic

and Protestant areas, three men were
found shot in the head.

Face down on the floor,

with this pitchfork
stuck in the back of her neck.

The only reason that I know why

our sons died... were because

they were Catholics.

Punks were very brave
because those kids lived in areas

which were controlled
by the paramilitaries.

To go down to The Harp Bar and mix
with the people from the other tribe

was not what they wanted.

They wanted division,
they wanted hatred

and they wanted to be able
to control it.

I mean,
I lived near the Armagh Road.

People used to call it Murder Mile.

And a friend of mine said,

"If you walked down the right-hand
side at night,

"it meant you were a Catholic.

"If you walked down
the left-hand side

"it meant you were a Protestant.

"But Terri Hooley
and his band of merry men

"always danced down
the middle of the road."

And that's what we tried to do,
dance down the middle of the road.

Ladies and gentlemen,
would you put your hands together

for Mr Terri Hooley?

I always wanted to be able to say
to my children when they said,

"Daddy, what did you do
during the Troubles?"

I wanted to say
that I partied a lot.

I drank, did drugs,

and had a good time,

and I didn't kill anybody.

What did sectarianism do
to your life, James?


Ultimately it destroyed my life.

Had you done things
you couldn't forgive yourself?



I can remember a guy that I was
in jail with and he told me

of how he was sent to kill
a shopkeeper.

They went into the shop,
the shopkeeper come out,

and he pulled out his gun
and shot the man.

A few seconds later, the door to the
dwelling opened again and in walked

the man's wife.

And he shot her as well.

She now falls down dead
on top of her husband.

He goes to walk away and the door
opens again and in walks their

eight-year-old daughter.

He tries to kill the daughter
and fires 10 or 12 shots.

I went away from him that day,
you know,

and I went back to my six-man cell

and I lay down and I thought...

"Can't do it, James.

"I can't be part of it.

"This is not...
I didn't sign up for us.

"Shooting a woman and a chil...
Fuck, this is not me."

And I made a deal with myself
that day.

I says, "Whatever's left of my
miserable life, I will never,

"ever, ever lift a gun again.

"That is me finished, out.

"Finite. No mas."

When you dumped your sectarianism,
did you shed it in one go?

Jesus, that's a hard question.

I think it faded away, you know.

We have a saying
in the country, you know,

like snow off a summer ditch.

The snow doesn't vanish in an hour,
but it slowly melts away

and then you turn around
and all of a sudden it's all gone.

You know?

Sorry. It's very personal.

I know you struggle with this.

But I really appreciate
you going back there.


Is that a...?

Yeah, cut.


- How are you getting on with your questions?
- Good.

How are you getting on
with your biscuit?

Very good.

We're political prisoners!

We'd put shit on the wall
and piss out the door.

We were doing something positive.

They've turned their violence
against themselves

through the prison hunger strike
to death.


I hated every minute of being
a prisoner's wife.

I never knew the word hate
until I got married,

until this happened.

To watch exclusive interviews about
the making of this series visit...

...and follow the links
to the Open University.