Soldiers on both sides discovered each other’s reasons for fighting – by Matt Florence.
Over two years ago in October 2014, a small group of members of the British Veterans organization called ‘Veterans For Peace UK’ (VFP-UK) went on a 4 day journey across Northern Ireland to meet the people and communities which the British army had previously been deployed against. These people included Republican prisoners of internment, ex members of the provisional IRA, and victims of family members killed by the British Army in the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre of the 30th January 1972. The 4 day journey was captured on camera and is available in the form of two 20 minute long videos on the ReelNews YouTube channel.
For an interview by the Guardian with the VFP-UK members of the tour click here:
The veterans on the tour included former Royal Engineer Kieran Devlin, former Royal Marine Les Gibbons, former SAS soldier Ben Griffin. former Scots Guard Mike “Spike” Pike, former soldier in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment Kenny Williams, and former paratrooper Gus Hales. All had a variety of different reasons for joining the tour and being prepared to meet the other side but the most common reasons included finding closure, trying to understanding of the war they fought in, and to find a lasting solution for peace in Ireland. “The idea is not to dwell too much in the past, for me it’s about moving forward” said former paratrooper Gus Hales.
The Derry and Belfast tours
The tour was split into two main cities, Derry and Belfast. The Derry tour included a tour of the Bloody Sunday museum, a meeting with relatives of civilians killed by the British Army on the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972, the site of the Battle of the Bogside, and interviews with civilians whose houses were raided by the British Army. The Belfast included a visit to see “Peace Line” barricades barricades which Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods from each other, interviews with Sinn Fein members and IRA veterans, and a visit and meeting at the hunger strikers museum.