I have lived in the Short Strand all my life. I'm in my 60s. I've been an Irish Republican all my life. At the moment, I am not affiliated to any organization. I have grown up through the conflict. I have been interned without trial, in the 1970s. A lot of my friends have died as a result of the conflict and family members including my father have been killed.
To me, at present, I can't see much of a change other than there's been less violence, but other than that politically, to me, there hasn't been much movement in my ideology or my ideas of a 32 county socialist republic. That was the main aim of the conflict in my mind, and it hasn't been established. As you know that Ireland is still partitioned and that's long-term business that has to be concluded at some stage.
I think in some places, we have moved further towards that, but in the other aspects, I don't think we have in terms of we still have the British presence in the North of Ireland. We still have special powers in the statute books, which still can intern people and people are now being held without trial, only it's not called internment. Some of the laws that we fought against in 1969, which the Civil Rights fought against, the Special Powers Act, they're still in here now at the moment with the Tory government.
It looks like what's happening in England and in Britain, that these things will be brought to the fore again, only this time more so for people of an Asian background and of the Islamic faith to harass and to crawl these people into something that we actually experienced in Ireland because of our beliefs. The Middle East is not dissimilar in some parts of it to the conflict we have in Ireland in terms of a foreign-occupying force in their land, which they're trying to get rid of.
Other conflicts like Palestine and stuff like that so we have similarities and we're in those types of conflicts. That's basically where I'm coming from. Well, I think I'd say that what we're now seeing is in Dublin there's arrests being made at the moment. They've been coming come under a certain amount of pressure from Britain because we work closely with them on security aspects.
I think that if they escalate these things in the South of Ireland that it can only bring more trouble for them. Then, there are other things that are pretty quiet. Appointing one of the guys who was shot dead in London, had identification that said that he lived in the Republic of Ireland, South of Ireland. There seemed to be acquiescence, Britain's acquiesce as to harden their attitude towards the Islamic people, which I think will be counterproductive.
I don't think that the people in the South of Ireland or the majority of the people in the North of Ireland would want that to be the case. I also believe that these conflicts abroad are caused by occupational forces like America, Britain, and France. The reason that they're in these conflicts is purely for selfish strategic reasons and political reasons. It has got nothing to do with bringing down governments because they are abusing the people of their country.
It's more to do with the politics that America and Britain share the imperialist's politics that they have. They're in these countries for their own self-gratification and whatever they can make out of it. It has to do with the whole changing of the world order that the imperialist powers rule the planet. Anybody who fights against them for their rights is demonized as being, what you say, terrorists, the word that they commonly use now, when in a lot of these conflicts I see the terrorists as being British and American forces who come in and blow the shit out of these people: men, women, children.
They don't give a damn when they drop bombs if they take out what they call "the target", they will just wipe these people out. In comparison to what they're retaliating and doing in Britain and America, it's not on the same scale as what they're doing in those countries. In my opinion, they shouldn't be in those countries in the first place. We've known conflict. All of my life, I've known conflict.
Ireland's history is full of conflict and full of conquest of different nations. Some of the people who conquered Ireland 2000 years ago, were the Celts who left their language and left their culture, that the indigenous people of Ireland then bought into, spoke their own language. Then, we had the Vikings, and they assimilated into the Irish culture. People who came off that, the Normans who came over, they come from England and the Ireland. They assimilated into the Irish culture to the extent that they were banned from Ireland by the government in England at that time.
They were banned from Ireland and the Irish families because they began to wear the kilt, the Irish native dress, and they spoke Gaelic language. We have seen conflict from then until the British army occupied this part of Ireland, and since, they're still here. There's 5000 troops still stationed in the North of Ireland. Although they're not patrolling the streets, they're stationed here.
To me, the police service, or police force, because I don't think it's a police service, they are still continuing on their intelligence work against Republicans who would not be, let's say, in the mainstream republican camp, but who would be labelled as dissidents simply because they want the British to leave their country. They would be targeted and harassed in different parts of Belfast and The Six Counties. Nothing much has changed, only the nature of the conflict has changed a bit, but the conflict is still there. I don't believe there'll ever be peace in Ireland until the British leave our country.
Well, my father was killed in a sectarian bomb attack where he worked in a bar. The loyalists here working on behalf of the British put a bomb in it and killed six people, and my father was one of them. All my life, I've been harassed by the so-called security forces, British army, and IUC. I've been interned, I've been taken on hold in centres and held for seven days and incommunicado without being able to get a solicitor.
I've been harassed in the street. My family has been harassed, my children have been harassed, not so much now, but 20 odd years before the ceasefires and not so much now, but they're still carrying on this policy of harassment to Republicans who don't agree with the status quo who are not members of the mainstream Sinn Fein movement.
So this is still being carried out in Belfast and farther afield. This is my home. Short Strand has been here for hundreds of years. It's a small community on the edge of which is now Belfast City Centre. My family go back generations and I have grandchildren now, and they are here. I don't see why I would have to leave one part of Ireland own to another part of Ireland.
What I want to do is see that the time where the country is united as one, and we have our own legislators and our own laws, and we have no interference from outside contributors, lets say, like Britain or anyone else. This is my home, and I'll not leaving.
On a positive side, in terms of this community, we have been building bridges between the Protestant community since the inception of this community centre, which is about 25– let's see, 1992, that's 27 years, and I've been working here for about 23 years. We have always had good relations. Now there are times of strife, when rats and stuff happened when the communities sort of polarize from each other, but lately, in the last few years, there's a lot of cross-community work being done with working class people from the other side of the community.
We are actually a small republican community which is about 2500 people, surrounded by a population of 60,000 Protestant unionist people. We have always been a community under siege or felt under siege, and in most cases, we are under siege. As far back as 2002, where this area was saturated with rats, bus bombs, shootings, we were isolated on our own here. The REC done absolutely nothing to protect the people here.
The EER, they weren't bonded that time. They were still operating and they were collecting information on local Catholics and some Republicans, and giving it to loyalist paramilitaries. That was going on through right until a few years back when they were actually disbanded and put in as a regiment in the British army.
We've always got that sort of threat there that if anything changes, that we will be on the receiving end of it. I do not trust either the British government or any forces that they employ, whether it be the PSNI or whoever they put in in times of conflict that we are always on the receiving end. I think it will be like that for the rest of my days, so anyway, I can't say any different. I do not think the PSNI have been reformed, regardless, so you might have other opinions on that. You can have a lot of other opinions, but in my opinion, they haven't changed. They do not serve as a police service; they do not police the area. There's drugs in this area now, where there wasn't drugs 15 20 years ago. There's always been drugs, but now, it's just blatant that these people are selling drugs openly. They're selling heroin, which has never been known in this small community. I don't see any way that they're being targeted by the so-called police service. To me, it's a police force, and it's only there to enforce British rule in this part of Ireland.