Death of a Hero

Last week I finished a thorough investigation into the history and notable figures of Ravenna, a key city in the Roman Empire.

Perhaps I’ll review that later, but here’s a book about more recent times that I raced through in a matter of hours.

On the surface the two books couldn’t be more different. “The Cast” of the former are introduced over several pages, has no need of a crib sheet.

John Parker wrote this book 22 years ago, but even so today’s reader will find easy to acclimatise to situation which faced Harold Wilson and Ted Heath back in 1960’s and 70’s.

Much of understanding of these years came from reading the Newspapers I delivered 7 days a week from 1970 -1976. As I was pedalling the streets of suburban Surrey you can imagine these reports were skewed from an English perspective.

Parker sets out his stall with far wider terms of reference.

The bottom line being that the Irish have suffered at the hands of Westminster for generations, and a simplistic view of Northern Ireland’s violence would have you believe it was simply a war between Catholics and Protestants.

In truth the root causes go far deeper. The Roman Catholics in the North were rarely afforded the same treatment as Protestants, and had far fewer opportunities.

As a teenager I naively imagined the IRA were the bad guys, and the UDF were simply defending the people of Ulster from outrageous bombings and kneecappings.

Reading all the papers didn’t prepare me for the extraordinary scenes on the streets of Belfast when I went there on business in the early 90’s. The RUC were there to enforce law and order, and the Army were there in support crouched behind walls and seemingly on every street corner.

It took me some time to acclimatise, but 17 years earlier things were even worse. In 1975 some 246 people were murdered as “The Troubles” escalated.

During these difficult years Captain Robert Nairac a Grenadier Guard with a Protestant Father and Catholic Mother sought to understand those around him, and ingratiate himself to the locals.

As the book unfolds I couldn’t stop thinking of “Maverick” in Top Gun. Nairac somehow managed to fight “his war” with a minimal regard for the rules.

Eventually his self belief, and casual routine got the better of him.

It’s a story well worth reading, but as I finished the tragic story I couldn’t help reflecting on the similarities here with Judith Herrin’s book on Ravenna.

During the pomp and decline of The Roman Empire factions would think nothing of beheading someone who had a different slant on the truth.

Out in Ireland injustice spurred different Christian traditions to take the law into their own hands.

None of these lives should have been lost!

All people the world over deserve justice, and equal opportunities. If that’s not possible they at least deserve respect.

Jesus implored his followers;

“‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

Surely this transcends denominational opinion!

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