Former Belfast Firefighter and Lothian and Borders Firemaster Brian Allaway reports on serving on the frontline during the ‘Troubles’ from extracts of his book, Firefighters of Belfast: The Fire Service During the Troubles.
Over three thousand, six hundred and sixty people were killed as a result of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and many more were injured, some terribly. One thousand, five hundred of the deaths occurred in Belfast. Just let that sink in a little – over 3,666 people were killed as a result of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
Even though Northern Ireland has a history of sporadic sectarian violence that dates back to the early 1800’s – the earliest reference to Fire Service involvement I could find was in 1824 when the Fire Service was paid £12 to deal with fires started by rioters – it is generally agreed that the current ‘Troubles’ started in 1969(ish) and the first lasting ceasefires were in 1994.2 Those years were horrendous for the people of Northern Ireland, and their firefighters were attacked, stoned, petrol bombed, hijacked and occasionally shot at while carrying out their duties. Even so the Fire Service continued to deliver an effective emergency service to all of their communities, without fear or favour. Despite the unrelenting pressure they faced, they delivered a dedicated service with humanity and humour. As the Irish News put it ‘the selfless and quiet heroism with which they carried out their duty’.
Read the full article on our digital issue, pages 21-23.