Barry’s dead. I don’t want to write a poem, I haven’t the skilled energy for a painting. He was murdered by “dissident republicans” in a city centre location. Like their paramilitary counter-parts “dissident loyalists”, people ask news agencies, “Why don’t you call them by their real name?” This isn’t a plea for divine powers, but to infer this is ‘the IRA’, ‘the UVF’ or whatever. Though it never was about that, never in thirty years of low intensity conflict. It wasn’t about protestant or catholic. It was about cocaine, heroin, ecstasy tablets, sullied weed even. It was about who could pull the biggest robberies, steal the green: the grass always greener if all sides are together. Circle, sphere.
So they murdered him, threw his girlfriend into the other room while they did it. Kieran McLaughlin knows something about it. There’s a hundred men out looking for him, but the internet will track him down. They’ve not had to deal with that before. I’ve never had to deal with this before. I’ve never lost someone dear. Sure, my childhood was spent terrified, my adolescence brimming with a nervous disorder. My school-bag was searched, was dad coming home? You couldn’t talk about some things in some places. I was just the same as everyone else. Part of this state of North Ireland that’s ninety years old now. I lived with it in my twenties too, the gun at my head, the senior citizens weeping for vengeance, frail and exhausted, and when I was old enough I left. I cried too. Not because I would miss everyone here, but because I knew I didn’t want to come back.
I did. I spent some time on the protests. They shot dead pizza boys. The MPs signed up house expenses and we got the letters into their offices. They joining the boards in clusters for consensual embezzlement motions, and our voices yelled at the windows. We saw them on the boards of one bank, two bank, three bank, and it’s okay, they said, it’s a very special deal, can’t fail. We can put this money into securing your future, they said. They had their favourites: the poetry arcade arsonist, Iraq’s Bridge End bombers. Too much writing, too much writing…
Gazebo in Writer’s Square was were Barry and I met, were we timed Occupy. With our slogans to remind. No to the bail-out. If you lose a billion pounds, you have to take responsibility for that. Mummy can’t come and get you. I enjoyed the time I spent with him: stoking the fire, talking about investment, long-term historical trends, government, drinking hot tea. Ah Jeez! The wind is blowing the smoke everywhere. can’t see a gorram thing. We explained gorram to him. He made welcome (and coffee) the people who came and sat with us, whether they be posh for an argument, riddle me this, or genuinely up for a chat. You tell me your story, I tell you mine. There were those that just came for the fags and coffee and we were okay: come out of the rain drip, come out of the rain drip.
“She said her son, who had ovrer 100 criminal convictions in the court, was “not the worst of the worst.” – Derry Daily
Barry told me the exact same thing, and I thought he was joking as you would. I couldn’t even see it in him. There were probably a few for protesting, for advancing the achievements of fairness and equality. Probably a few for genuine harmful crimes. And he fell from grace with some. When it got dark, Barry didn’t want the girls leaving too late. He’d give them fags or get someone to walk with them while he manned the camp. We’d talk about why ITV weren’t covering the city fraud, why the BBC weren’t spilling the lies calling criminals criminals and why Sky were hacking phones. Well now you know. Information dissemination. There wasn’t much reward in those days, but Barry knew and he shared, and people left us sandwiches. Chopstix saved the bins and donated our dinner. Often it rained and we fortified with board and rope. The torches swung on string from the ridge pole. Sometimes it was a half hour of treachery, like open seas deep in the city centre across from the cathedral steps.
The news said he was 35, naaah, I was older than that and he seemed older than me. It’s a week on from his murder nearly as I write this. I’m sad my friend is dead and worse, I don’t feel the gaping hole, the loss. I knew Barry for two months, about half of the week. He’s the first friend I’ve lost directly to this bullshit. I was saying last night I’ve been lucky never to have something about losing someone luckier than most. And now, I feel no different. Because this is the same crap that made me happy to leave my family, the same unity that said I could never be self-employed in Belfast. The same bullshit that covers our skies with sodden flags and burns down the streets of East Belfast, that injures our cops who have children, that murders our people who have children. As Dave Baillie put it, it’s an indiscriminate device. Sometimes a clergyman or a professor will talk about the sort of things we did. They’ll say that it’s wrong to laugh at Neanderthals. That by making fun of vicious thugs and by making ourselves laugh in the process, we’re ignoring the problems and provoking the situation.
A psychological misogynist has pushed me to make a reputation explosive this week. Four times, before I found out about Barry, I woke myself up crying. But what is the level of indecency that requires Kieran McLaughlin, a 58-year old with a past with guns, to engineer a manhunt for his information? We’ve been advised not to approach, to ring it in. They call this touting, but we called it information dissemination, education, keeping people informed, sharing with lovers. Not making up lies about causes, scapegoats: straw men are for farmers. The world doth turns and while one side pickets the other and makes their hell, Barry and I sit in the shack, trying to keep the leaflets dry and talking to people about the tyrannical classes. We will overcome. The scum-bags who keep us from evolving will fade into ashes and dust.