No whitewash as Dirty Linen captures reality of the Troubles

A new book offers a real and harrowing personal insight into the darkest years of the North’s Troubles. Ahead of it’s Galway launch this weekend, author Martin Doyle tells JUDY MURPHY of the reality of life growing up in the shadow of the gunmen.

“I want people in the South to appreciate that we are absolutely the same as you,” says Down man Martin Doyle whose new book, Dirty Linen: The Troubles in My Home Place, offers a unique insight into the conflict in Northern Ireland and the devastating impact it had on one rural community – his own.

“A minority went out and did terrible things but most people did normal things and they looked out for each other.”

Beautifully written, and weaving personal stories with broader historic events, Dirty Linen brings the reader on a journey where darkness, deceit and hatred are countered by courage, compassion and resilience.

There are no rose-tinted glasses, though. Through interviews with his former neighbours, Martin captures the psychological wounds inflicted on people whose family members were killed by bombs and bullets.

In some cases, on top of losing loved ones so violently, the bereaved had to deal with the possibility that their neighbours were enemies, involved in these killings.

And nor does he forget two young British soldiers, not local, who were blown up in a booby trap in 1972.

“Sometimes the most difficult stories are also the most important ones to tell,” says Martin who is coming West this Friday, November 3, for the book’s Galway launch, which will take place in Kennys’ Bookshop in the city’s Liosbán Retail Park.

If his Wexford-born father, John, had followed through on an interview for a job in Galway in 1976, Martin might have been reared here, but despite the destruction around them, the Doyle family – especially the children – were deeply attached to their home place, and they stayed.

They, like many of their neighbours in their native Tullylish Parish saw beyond religious and political differences, but Northern Ireland was a place where bigotry against Catholics went back generations – as is captured in the book’s title – and that had an impact on his own family.

Tullylish was renowned for its linen industry in the 19th and early 20th century and Martin’s maternal grandfather, Arthur Pat, and grand-aunt, Lizzie, worked in a local linen mill as youngsters. However, heightened tensions during the War of Independence led to them losing their jobs, despite having no involvement in that war. Lizzie emigrated, ending up in New York.

Brother and sister never met again.

Then, in the late 20th century, the violence erupted again.

From the beginning of ‘the Troubles’ in the late 1960s to the last killing in Tullylish, in 1993, Martin writes of neighbours, Catholic and Protestant, whose lives were blighted by Northern Ireland’s dysfunctional governments and by the actions of extremists from both sides.

Pictured: The Miami Showband, victims of the infamous Glenanne Gang (from left) Tony Geraghty, Fran O’Toole, Ray Millar, Des McAlea (Des Lee), Brain McCory and Stephen Travers.


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