THE CLOSEST I have ever been to civil violence is about one kilometre. That is not very close, comparatively speaking. I happened to be in Dublin during the bombings of 1974, when three arteries out of the city were blown up during peak hour. Meanwhile, up the road in a country town just below the border with Northern Ireland, the same thing was happening at the same moment.
Like most writers, I wasn’t involved personally, but other people whose stories I knew were. The residential house where I lived, next door to a night shelter which my group of youthful do– gooders also manned, was the nearest thing to a home that my fellow inmates, a dozen winos and semiretired prostitutes, had. As fate would have it, there wasn’t a one of them lounging around that day. No, after jumping fresh from their beds at lunchtime or thereabouts, they’d all taken off for the city, up the Quays. So when the rumbling noise came down to us and was ignored, and when very soon after the news shouted in our ears – I have no memory of how, whether the radio was on or someone running in – that a bomb had gone off, adrenalin started pumping.
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