Our Shadows Are Emeralds

Entry for the Feral Youth competition. Northern Ireland, 1981. HM Prison Maze. The height of "The Troubles". Noah O'Shea, accused of consorting with the IRA and being in possession of a hand-gun, now grapples with his conscience: does he continue with the hunger strike, a political retaliation of his mistreatment and eventually die or does he end it all, and live to see his family?


2. Things You Ought To Know

The character in this short story, Noah O'Shea is fictitious. However, the history behind it is very much real. During the early 1980s, there was a great deal of political violence in the Northern region of Ireland, referred to as Ulster. This conflict had carried on from the early 20th century, but was really ignited from the ethnic cleansing that Oliver Cromwell, a British-Puritan ruler, carried out on Catholic Ireland during the 1600s. Cromwell introduced Anglicanism to Ulster, thus slaughtering and driving out most of the Catholic population to the neighboring region of Connaught. The Irish had always suffered under the often brutal and negligent nature of British rule. The Protestants in the North supported the English mostly and wanted Ireland to become a part of Britain. Their ideas were "unionist"- they wanted unification between the two countries. The Catholics, however, suffered arguably more under British rule and had "loyalist" opinions. They wanted Ireland to remain a completely separate country, far away from British influence. The North of Ireland was generally populated by Protestants, who treated the Catholic minority with racial hatred. That it not to say that this was not returned, but with hardly any force because the Catholics had little power. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, the feud deepened. The Loyalist groups planted many bombs in a series of terrorist attacks. Those accused of consortion with terrorist activity were put in jail, like our wrongly-accused protagonist. 

Here is a dictionary of terms that you may find useful when reading the story:

Molly Malone= Sort of like the Irish equivalent of Robin Hood. The legend of a beautiful fishmonger's daughter, who died young of a fever. An emblem for Dublin, the capital of Ireland. The song link is included in the movella. 

Political Prisoner= Someone who is imprisoned because of the political views that they have/have demonstrated.

Hunger Strike=Many prisoners protested against the British through willingly starving themselves in order to gain publicity. Prisoners were sometimes even made to wear civilian clothes and when the government in Britain did not resolve this, the 1981 strike started. 

Maggie Thatcher (Margaret Thatcher)= First female British prime minister. Known for her alleged dislike of Irish culture, she refused to give hunger-strikers status as political-prisoners rather than terrorists, thus arguably letting them starve themselves to death. 

Mam (Mammy)= Mother

Da= Father

Ballymascanlon= A beach in Louth, North East Ireland

Proddy= Slang for a Protestant

Unko= Uncle 

Cat-lick= Slang for a Catholic

Druid do Bheal= "Shut Up" in Irish/Gaelic (NW region)

Taig= Meaning "Hero" but also used as derogatory slang by Loyalists

skin-heads/ska-kids= A music movement, popular in Europe and America during the late 70s and early 80s (see bands such as The Specials, The Beat, etc)

Fumblin'-Dublins= Slang for drunks

Twistin' the Hay= Causing trouble

Runners= trainers/sneakers

I.R.A (Irish Republican Army)= responsible for notable terrorist attacks during the Troubles. Supported by Catholics/Loyalists mostly. 

RUC (Royal Ulster Constbulary)= The Protestant police of Northern Ireland


Disclaimer: Although my family are Irish Catholics,  I accept that both sides did equal amounts of damage. The view point of the story is slightly biased towards the Catholics, but I do try to justify this. It is just a story, after all. 


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