Twenty-one years after the Troubles officially ended with the Good Friday agreement, echoes of violence still linger. Wounds are unhealed, and questions remain unanswered. The decision last week by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service to charge one former British paratrooper — Soldier F — with the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday underlines the fact that this conflict stubbornly refuses to move into the past.
The Ghost Factory, the debut novel by the journalist Jenny McCartney, a frequent contributor to The Sunday Times, is set in Belfast at the end of the Troubles. Growing up in the city in the 1970s and 1980s, McCartney was “attuned to the political weather”: her father, the barrister Robert McCartney QC, set up the small, short-lived UK Unionist Party and was a member of the Northern Ireland assembly. The attitude in their house was “not easily stereotyped” because her father was pro-Union but anti-sectarian.
The families of the 13 people killed during a civil rights march on January 30, 1972, have described the decision to charge only one British veteran as a “terrible disappointment”, but for McCartney it suits the complexity of the situation.
“I support the desire of the families to find out exactly what happened and hold individuals accountable,” she says. “But there are many, many people with information on paramilitary killings, for example, who are now in positions of political power and are not divulging that information. So I think if we are going to have a truthful investigation of the past, then, in all conscience, those people should also speak out and bring closure to other relatives.”
McCartney’s book focuses on the vigilante justice meted out by paramilitaries during the Troubles, a subject she covered as a journalist in the 1990s. Youths were beaten and shot by republican and loyalist groups that “policed” working-class areas. She was horrified: “The victim is left with all these injuries and feelings — and what do they do with it?”
READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE SUNDAY TIMES: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ghost-factory-bloodshed-and-banter-on-the-streets-of-belfast-s0wx07wv9