On 15th August 1969, nine-year-old Patrick Rooney became the first child killed as a result of the ‘Troubles’ – one of 186 children who would die in the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Fifty years on, these young lives are honoured in a memorable book that spans a singular era.
From the teenage striker who scored two goals in a Belfast schools cup final, to the aspiring architect who promised to build his mother a house, to the five-year-old girl who wrote in her copy book on the day she died, ‘I am a good girl. I talk to God’, Children of the Troubles recounts the previously untold story of Northern Ireland’s lost children — and those who died in the Republic, the UK and as far afield as West Germany — and the lives that might have been.
Based on original interviews with almost one hundred families, as well as extensive archival research, this unique book includes many children who have never been publicly acknowledged as victims of the Troubles, and draws a compelling social and cultural picture of the era.
Based on original interviews with almost 100 families, as well as extensive archival research, this unique book includes children who have never been publicly acknowledged as victims of the Troubles, and draws a compelling social and cultural picture of the era.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Children of the Troubles by Joe Duffy and Freya McClements is published by Hachette Books Ireland, priced £24.99
PATRICK Rooney would have been 59 or maybe 60 now, a father possibly, perhaps a grandfather. Or perhaps not; his teacher said that he wanted to be a priest. Either way, a decent man, in all likelihood, still looked up to by his younger siblings. He was the first child to die in the Troubles, hit by a bullet fired from a machine gun mounted on an RUC armoured car as he climbed the stairs to bed, later than usual because there had been a good film on TV. That was August 1969, in Belfast. The last child killed was Michael McIlveen, a 15-year-old boy who was chased by a gang through Ballymena on his way home from the pictures and beaten with a baseball bat. That was May 2006. These are just two of the 186 children who died as a result of the Troubles. Boys and girls, Catholics and Protestants, in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Britain, West Germany, by bombs, bullets, and baseball bats. This book tells the story of each child, their brief lives and their tragic deaths, casting timeless shadows across families and communities. Although told in chronological order, you can open the book at any page and be forced into a compulsion to read. The details may sometimes be banal – he loved football, she loved fish and chips – but each record of stolen innocence is unique and extraordinary. Reading Children of the Troubles gives a sensation of a steady, rhythmic, incessant pounding, but the feeling of loss is never numbed, only sharpened with each story. With photographs and essays to illustrate the time covered, and each year introduced with a list of events from that time (Charles Love was killed the year Home Alone was a box-office smash), the book is written with clarity, precision, and cold-eyed compassion. Children of the Troubles, in whose foreword former president Mary McAleese describes the revised figure of 186 child deaths as “truly shocking”, acknowledges its debt to the definitive Lost Lives. Like that, it is a book that should be in every classroom and library, its lessons committed to memory, and put into practice.