By Len A.Hynds

The killing of a young police constable in Northern Ireland, by placing a bomb under his car, by mindless thugs, as he was leaving to go to work appals me. We all thought that peace had come at last to that troubled province. During the 'troubles' one of the biggest complaints by the catholic part of the population was that the police force was nearly all protestant.

As part of the peace process the old force was disbanded, and thousands of Catholics joined the new force, and this young man was one of them, but he has been killed by men of his own faith, who want the troubles to continue. They are a tiny splinter group of the old IRA, whose leaders are now members of the Northern Ireland Parliament, and who condemn such actions.

It is all so pointless, and I see religious conflict in every part of the world, or used as an excuse for conflict, but when you come down to it, there is very little difference between them, and if asked, very few people could tell you what those differences are. The trouble is that this supposed difference is used to inflame people to commit the most appalling acts of cruelty and savagery.

As a child I was taught, "When in Rome, you act as a Roman." Unfortunately in these days of the mass movement of people, this is no longer true, and many races refuse to assimilate with the host nations that have taken them in.

When I was a young Police Constable in London after the 2nd World War, this difference in religion was brought home to me most forcibly. There was an area in South London, which had been wiped out early in the war, and a huge underground air raid shelter was built in the site, with long passages with rooms off, covering a large area. After the war all the ground level entrances had been boarded up, but tramps or meth drinkers had broken open one entrance, and got inside, lighting fires, and the whole area was rubble strewn, with shattered glass, and a fire blackened hell hole. Very few PCs I knew would venture deep into the depths, with the vermin scurrying about, but when I was on that beat, I felt it my duty to check at least once a night. On two occasions I found old tramps very ill, who would have died unless I had found them, and got them into hospital.

On this particular night, I was going to give it a miss as I had other things to do, but as I passed an alleyway leading to an entrance, I saw a man wearing an anorak with a white streak, standing just outside, and I shouted to him to come out, but when he turned and entered the place going down the steep concrete stairs, I cursed him for being a fool, and followed him to get him out. It was pitch black down there, and I could not hear him stumbling along in the dark, and every blackened room I passed I shone my torch in to try and locate him without success.

I had searched a great deal of the place when I found him, in one of the rooms. He was lying on the floor with his arms around a young girl, and they were both dead. They had been dead for some time, laying in that fond embrace, with two empty bottles of aspirins beside them. They had committed suicide. I found letters from both of them to their families saying how sorry they were to have done this, but he was a protestant from Ireland, and she was a Catholic. Both families were new immigrants and they had met and fallen in love, but there was no chance of either family accepting this, and to make matters worse, the poor young girl was pregnant.

I am convinced that it was an act of love on his part, that he drew me into that hell hole, to have their bodies both removed. He was wearing that anorak with the white streak.

Religion has a lot to answer for.

Lovers embracing