This time it’s a recent post by old time friend Tomo which sent me a bit down memory lane, into the archive but also to catch up with some reading about the recent death of the journalist Lyra McKee. Ms McKee, 29, was shot in the head on Thursday night, 18. April 2019 while observing rioting in Londonderry's Creggan estate. In a statement given to the press the New IRA offered "full and sincere apologies" to her family and friends.
The peace that has settled on Northern Ireland since 1998 remains a chilly one in the hearts of the former combatants. But peace it was, more or less. The border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, has become a flashpoint for the argument over Brexit within the ruling British Conservative Party, between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and among Catholics and Protestants in the north. Like everything else in the north, Brexit has become an issue separated along republican and loyalist lines, many things have become a green and orange issue again.
Tomo’s story is a glimpse of working in Northern Ireland as photojournalists 30 years ago. I don’t know where he got the thing about the tampered rubber bullet, I could not find any conformation for this, and if it was true, I am sure it would have been all over the Republican reporting about this case. Still, Seamus Duffy was only 15, his heart stopped beating because of the rubber Bullet. It’s true, we were there.
I am not sure how fitting the juxtaposition of the two deaths is. Tragic they both certainly are, and not only because of the young age of the two victims. However, the perpetrators couldn’t have been more different.
“The killing of 29 year old Irish Journalist Lyra Mckee reminded me to my own skirmish with death in Northern Ireland ... it was 1989, Thomas Kern and I traveled to Belfast to cover the 20th Anniversary of the British Occupation, they call it the Troubles. It was a glorious time for Photojournalism, we were kids, green behind the ears - ready to take on the world. Working alongside some of the most fascinating photographers of our time - I remember, just getting acknowledged by the likes of Chris Steele-Perkins and Gilles Perres walking down on Falls or Shankill Road, was such a fucking thrill - Thomas and I stayed at a Youth Hostel. Belfast was where we came to photograph Urban Warfare for the first time - I mean that's pretty much what happened between the IRA and the British Army, and it was a British Soldier, most likely bored out of his mind, who hollowed out a few rubber bullets and stuffed them with Batteries and razor blades - The Night of August 9th - there was heaving rioting going on up in the New Lodge - running battles between Irish Kids throwing Molotovs and the Brits in their Armored Cars creating mayhem - it was there close to a huge bonfire made out of car tires, where 15 yr. old Seamus Duffy got killed by a razor blade laced rubber bullet - the soldier most likely was just a few years older - we never found out ! It was the first time I saw death, in Seamus’ case : murder - In the coming days there were massive protests, and then there was Seamus’ funeral, His family was poor working class, by then Photographers and News Networks from all over the world descended onto Oldpark, to the house where Seamus’ wake was held. I remember the ruckus the media created when Seamus’ coffin was brought from the house into a waiting Hearst - the weather was depressing, damp dark clouds, the neighborhood still reeking of smoldering, burnt Car tires. I had a hard time focusing to photograph - it was just too overwhelming. It was that week, where I was photographing History in the making for the first time - I knew then, that I never would wanna do anything else in Life — Tomo”