This week saw the launch of a remarkable book. And some of the stories contained in it will go a long way towards increasing our understanding of what became known as, “the Troubles’.
‘Reporting the Troubles’ was the brainchild of Deric Anderson Jnr (og), a young man whose veteran news reporter dad Deric Snr walked every step of the way through 50 years of this defining period in our history.
Deric Jnr (og), suggested the time was now right for his father to lean on his many friends and colleagues in the world of journalism with a view to getting their Troubles-related stories on paper.
The result is ‘Reporting the Troubles’ – Journalists tell their stories of the North of Ireland conflict’ (pictured above) and I was privileged to be asked to contribute to it. Like his close friends Ivan McMichael and Raymond Managh, Deric Henderson cut his teeth as a young reporter on the Tyrone Constitution in his native Omagh. Deric, Raymond and Ivan changed journalism in the city. Their general high standards, commitment to detail and willingness to go the extra mile to produce good stories was obvious from the beginning.
And therefore when the calamity of the Troubles eventually exploded on the streets, the Tyrone trio were capable of reporting these dreadful events honestly and accurately.
It is widely known, but Raymond Managh is the man who in 1966 broke the shocking story of the Malvern Street shottings, which resulted in the death of a young Catholic barman called Peter Ward.
Malvern Street signalled the arrival of the mordern-day UVF on the streets.
The story was flashed around the globe on the BBC World Service. And in Reporting the Troubles, Raymond recalls how that happened. After leaving the busy Belfast Telegraph newsroom, Ivan McMichael- whizz-kid shorthand writer went on to become the doyen of court reporters, covering all major cases.
In this book, Ivan recounts the trial of a ruthless gang of loyalist paramilitaries convicted for murdering members of the hugely popular Miami Show band.
Deric Henderson headed-up the Belfast Desk of the Press Association for many years. He was the coalface throughout the Troubles and he has a mountain of good stories to tell. But in this book he has chosen to reveal a moving story relating to members of his own family. And he also recounts the day he managed to manipulate the daily news coverage at the end of the trial of the infamous Shankill Buthers.
Wendy Austin revisits the PIRA firebomb atrocity at the La Mon House Hotel. And Fermanagh reporter Denzil McDaniel delivers a moving account of the IRA Poppy Day bombing of Enniskillen, while Ivan Little – a co-editor of this book along with Deric – recounts the Sean Graham’s bookies shop shootings on Belfast’s Ormeau Road.
Some of the best Troubles coverage was done by reporters who had previous understanding of the problems which led to the outbreak of civic strife in the North of Ireland. And yet a number of them quickly grasped the nettle and were able to deliver incisive reports for Republic of Ireland, the UK as well as worldwide audiences.
In this regard, Kate Adie, Alex Thompson and Miriam O’Callahan all made notable contributions. And in this book also, Belfast Telegraph political editor Suzanne Green reaffirms her reputation as a superb recorder of the history of the Troubles. My old Sunday World colleagues Jim McDowell and Sam Smyth are also represented.
Sam provides a light-hearted break from the bleakness by recalling the amazing secret life of UDA leader Sammy Duddy, who at the height of the Troubles doubled as a cabaret drag artiste.
For my part, I documented the previously untold story of Short Strand woman Marie O’Hara. A mum of five daughters, Marie lost two husbands – both entirely innocent men – to UVF violence. It is a remarkable account of how resilient the human spirit can be when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and I was honoured to write it in Reporting the Troubles.
With many thanks to: Hugh Jordan and The Sunday World for the original story.
Follow this links to find out more: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/sammy-duddy-26326357.html