Fatal Identities

Mari Fitzduff

Professor and Director of the MA Conflict and Coexistence Programme at Brandeis University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

One of the stories that most moves me, and every time I start to tell it I feel shivers up and down my spine or I begin to weep tears almost of hope or gratitude, is a particular time in Northern Ireland in the 80s when there was a coach stopped. A coach of workers coming home from work was held up by a group of paramilitaries and this group, I think it was about twelve men, stepped out, the paramilitaries said to them we want the Catholics to step forward. As it happened there was only one Catholic among them and his Protestant colleagues both kept a hold on his coattails so he would not step forward, wouldn't let him step forward because they knew what was going to happen, knew he was going to be shot. He, I still feel it down my spine, he however, felt if he didn't step forward the others would be shot. So he actually insisted on stepping out of the group, stepping forward.

Subsequently they said to him, you step over, and they shot the others. They'd made a mistake in the paramilitaries.

So, in other words, he had stepped forward to save these other eleven men, and in the end he's still alive and they shot the other eleven men because, in fact, it was a republican group and not a loyalist group. Does that make sense to you? They'd made a mistake. So there was heroism on both sides, the heroism of his colleagues who didn't want him to move forward, and then his heroism in thinking at least I can save my colleagues if I step forward and give up my life. They'd all made a mistake because of the way the demand had been given. I just thought that to me is a testimony of people's basic willingness and courage to actually, given a certain context, try and protect each other.