Here’s Jon’s piece from the Greenbelt event:
‘Fuck Your Story’
Jon Hatch, Ikon, Greenbelt 2011
Yes, stories… We all have a story.
Our stories are living parts of who we are as individuals and communities. They give us birth, they help us grow, they help us discover, explain and heal.
Everyone has a story.
Ann Travers has a story:
It involves her father, Tom Travers (a judge, the primary target) being seriously wounded in a gun attack in 1984, her mother being alive because a second shooter’s gun jammed, and her 23 year-old sister shot dead.
Mary McArdle has a story:
It involves her deeply-held conviction that never has a nation been, for centuries, more wastefully, stupidly and cruelly mismanaged than Ireland by the British Crown, that Tom Travers was an intrinsic part of that mismanagement, that her part in his attempted murder was an act of war, and the murder of his daughter was (and I quote) ‘a mistake’.
McArdle was imprisoned for her role in Travers’ shooting. She was released as part of the Good Friday Agreement and is now a special advisor to the Minister of Culture in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Her appointment has horrified Ann Travers and other members of the Travers family.
What do we do when story becomes rupture, when there is no way to go back or forward?
What do we do when our stories are so divergent, there is no way to tell them together?
Sinn Féin assembly member Jennifer McCann has a story:
In 2008, she booked the Long Gallery inside the NI Assembly Buildings for a reception for International Women’s Day dedicated to Mairead Farrell, one of three IRA volunteers shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988. Unionists were outraged that public government facilities were being used to honour a woman they branded a terrorist, but McCann said that the event was not intended to offend unionists, nor did she expect them to support her plans or, indeed, to even attend the event.
“It’s not about agreeing,” she said. “I’m not asking anyone to agree with what I am doing, but I am saying they should respect it. (Government buildings are) a shared space and that’s the way it has to be seen. We have a right to hold the celebration there. I would never, ever say to unionists… that they should or should not be doing something. It’s International Women’s Day and we’re celebrating the life of Mairead Farrell. I don’t think that should offend anyone.”
Well, perhaps needless to say, McCann’s Unionist rival Jeffrey Donaldson, has a story:
Days after McCann’s announcement, he booked the Long Gallery to host an event in honour of the SAS who shot Farrell dead in Gibraltar. “I believe we should celebrate the lives of role models”, he said, “and it is right and proper that we should celebrate and commemorate our armed forces who stood against terrorists such as Farrell.”
This style of political dis-engagement, depressingly familiar in my part of this dis-United Kingdom, leaves us perpetually with the question: is this all to which we will ever reasonably aspire: to tell our stories separately; remember separately, in different rooms, out of sight, sound and mind of each other? Equal and alone?
What do we do when our stories are irreconcilable?
What do we do when your narrative of heroism is my narrative of grief?
What do we do when your story of strategic national interest and foreign policy is, for another, a story of an errant thousand-pound missile dropped on their home?
When your story of fiscal responsibility and the need for spending cuts is, for me, a story of a severed lifeline?
When your biblical story is my inability to stand in my Church and marry the person I love?
What do we do when the only commentary I can give to your story is ‘Fuck your story’?