The Northern Ireland Troubles, 4

THE THEFT OF THE DRAWINGSAt the time I was tendering for a large contract, worth enough to bring contractors over from the Mainland to consider pricing. The drawings for the job ran into two rolls of between thirty and forty drawings a roll, and these I permanently kept in the boot of the car so I could meet the contractors straight from the plane and take them to the site.
My daughtee borrowed the car to go to the Queen’s Film Society and while she was in the screening the car was stolen. We suspected it was the paramilitaries and this had me very worried because these drawings indicated where so much sensitive material was which was vital to the life blood of the area -the high pressure gas mains, high octane aeroplane fuel lines, telephone links and so on were all marked and described so the contractors would be able to price for the necessary precautions. This new eventuality had never been envisaged.
What to do? I thought long and hard for most of the night when I heard the news, and came to the conclusion that there was really nothing anyone could do but worry. It would have taken almost the whole of the British Army to have guarded everything depicted there and even then terror might have struck. I decided to keep the whole sorry story to myself and await developments.Within ten days the car was returned. There was no spare wheel, my golf clubs and other personal effects were gone, the engine had been tuned like a racer and the old valve was in the pocket to prove it. It had done a thousand miles in those ten days which said much for what it had carried and the drawings were lying flat in the boot, untouched, which in turn said something about the people who had stolen the car and the drawings!
ONE CAN BE PUSHED TOO FARPrior to the Troubles, to my mind, among the general public, there was a distinct easing of the tensions between the two factions in Northern Ireland. Whether this presented a threat to some people’s political aspirations, I shall never know, but I always have James’s theory of the grass in the Queen’s Road in my mind.
As the years went on, the Prods thought they were more and more under pressure both from the IRA and sources outside the country, coupled with the political and subversive interference of the Irish-American Lobby in what we considered British politics. Slowly many people, people who, like myself, were immigrants without the background of internecine hatred and who had no axe to grind, became both frustrated that no one seemed to see their side of the argument and no one seemed to care that we were trapped in a situation not of our making, year after bloody year.
There is no point in labouring the matter, it has been well documented but a comment on one aspect might stress what we, the common, apolitical man and woman in the street suffered and its reaction psychologically. At the time I was permitted to carry a Walter Automatic Pistol for personal protection and I soon discovered I could walk through body searches without it being uncovered, hence the body searches were a complete farce.
To cut a long story short, a searcher wanted to run his hands over me even though, because of a heat wave I was only wearing a thin nylon shirt, which was transparent more than translucent. What he thought I had concealed I can’t imagine. I hated being searched and when it was unnecessary, and the man clearly had no intention of searching my car, which could have contained anything, I lost my temper. At that time, around 1971 attrition was taking its toll and everyone was becoming tetchy. The barrage on body and mind had been going on long enough to become more an irritant.

Categorized as General

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