Paul Gallagher – A Survivors Story
The views and opinions expressed in this page and article are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.
This article is by Paul Gallagher , a survivor of the Northern Ireland conflict and a fellow blogger . His frank and wry account of the day the UFF came calling and changed his life forever struck a cord in me and reminded me of the silent victims of The Troubles , those that had lived through the sectarian slaughter and although alive , lived daily with the physical and emotional legacy of thirty years of slaughter on the streets and Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”
‘Injured On That Day’
When you hear many of the stories about shootings and killings in this country, they usually contain the line that the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. On 6th January 1994 I was in the right place at the right time. I was a 21 year old man in my home in Lenadoon about to sit down to my dinner.
A rap at the door. My 15 year old sister, Joanne, goes to answer it and is pushed aside by an intrusion of wooly faces brandishing their hardware. “We are the IRA and we are taking over this house.” When the IRA come into a house in Lenadoon you sit down and shut up. So that’s what my mother Mary Jane, my 18 year old brother Damien, my sister and I did.
The Crystal Maze was on TV but nobody was watching. Joanne was frightened. The fat, wooly face had his machine gun pointed at her. She was crying. I asked the black head to stop pointing the gun in her direction. After giving me a cold look out of his sweaty mask he pointed the muzzle to the floor.
After a long 20 minutes the front door knocked again. Another of the gunmen came down into the living room from upstairs. He instructed me to go to the door, open it and bring whoever it was into the living room where we were being held. “If you do anything stupid, I will shoot your family.”
There was no argument. I went out to the hall and opened the door to my father, Paul. He had a few drinks on him but noticed that there was something wrong. We walked into the living room and the door was closed behind him.
I sat down while he stood there in the middle of the room. “What the fuck is going on here? What are you all doing in my house? ”. The little, wiry monkey one pulled out a big black hand cannon and pointed it up to my da’s forehead. “If you value your life, you will sit down now.” Joanne was hysterical now. “Da, just sit down. It’s the Ra. They’ll be out of here soon.” I said. He sat down beside Joanne. We were all a lot more nervous now.
Ten minutes later the door knocked again. “Just bring them in here!” I got up and went out to the door. It was a few of Joanne’s friends. Wee girls. “Joanne’s already out with her other friends” says I. I was not bringing these wee girls into this situation. I closed the door and went back in. The white eyes in the black heads weren’t too happy, but unlucky! “You don’t need to bring those wee girls into this”. I sat down again.
They all left the room and closed the door behind them. We all looked at each other and just sat there. The door was kicked open. “Operation’s over,” was the shout. Then a loud crackle of bangs rang out and they were gone. “Is everybody alright?” asked my mum.
“I’m not alright” says I, to myself. “I’ve been shot here”. But nobody could hear me. Five bullets had pierced my body. My arm, my femoral artery, my lung, my spleen, my spine. I was in shutdown and melting into the sofa. A strong smell of cordite filled the air. “There’s something wrong with Paul here”, says Damien. Keep him awake. Phone an ambulance. Get a towel. Stop the bleeding. Keep him awake. Slap his face. Stay awake screams Dee. Stay with us. Where’s that ambulance. Pandemonium.
I was quite happy and content. An enormous sense of warmth was flowing through my body. But I was falling away and I knew it. Damien was pulling me back out, he had a tight grip on my arm, both in my mind and literally. Stay with us. I started to come round a bit but I was only running on adrenalin. “I’m ok, I’m here” I thought, but I could not open my eyes.
The ambulance came and the boys got on with their job. They got me in the back and it was away we go. “I’m alright, don’t be worrying yourselves, lads” says I. That must have been some strong gear they gave me because I was in the clouds. We arrived at the RVH and it was like a movie scene. The stretcher banging through the doors, the strip lights above. “Paul, would you please stop that chanting?” requested one of the doctors. “Ay ya hi ya, ay ya hi ya” was all I could shout for the previous five minutes. My inner shaman was keeping me awake. Then the anaesthesia kicked in and that was that.
I woke up many, many hours later and was told that I was in intensive care. I had a very long breathing tube down my throat and could not speak. I motioned to get a pen and paper and scrawled ‘Don’t worry, be happy. Jah Lives’. My inner Bob Marley was in control. Back to the morphine.
The week in that bed was a nightmare. The heat was oppressive and the pain was here to stay, for good. After a few days I was told by the surgeon that I would never walk again. I was paralysed from the waist down. It was hard to take and it was even harder to express this on an Alphabet card. That bloody tube.
The next few months in Musgrave Park Hospital Spinal Injuries Unit were long but I was able to meet many more people who, in my eyes, were worse off than me. I still had my arms and that breathing tube was gone. A wheelchair couldn’t be that bad. I still had my family and all of my friends with me.
By the way it wasn’t the IRA after all. Turns out, the UFF did it. Their intended target, a neighbour, didn’t arrive so ‘any Fenian will do!!’. Who knows? Who cares?
Visit Pauls Website: cutabegs.blogspot.co.uk