Documenting nationalist women's experiences

'strong about it all ...'
Rural and urban women's experiences of the security forces in Northern Ireland
  Edited by Helen Harris & Eileen Healey
N.W. Womens/Human Rights Project 2001, 144 pp, £9

Helen Harris and Eileen Healey are to be congratulated on this labour of love. For 7 years they have been working on this project which consists of series of interviews with 29 very different Nationalist women in rural Castlederg and urban Derry back in 1994 regarding their experiences with the 'security forces' over the years. Harassment, strip searches, raids, armed sexism, children, husbands, women friends, solidarity and everyday resistance – which takes many forms. The interviewees range in age from being in their 20s to their 70s.

Lovingly compiled the work produces a palimpset picture of hardship, sorrow and resentment and resignation from ordinary women who have been persecuted by abusive powers of the so called security forces. Interestingly, it emerges that the vast majority of the interviewees found the RUC to be worse than the British Army when it came to harassment. And screws do not emerge uncriticised. 'Mrs. Doherty' relates how after travelling all the way to Long Kesh only to be denied a visit to see her son Jim as she and the other women were returning they heard over the radio that a screw had been shot, somewhere in Belfast. 'God forgive', says Mrs. Doherty but I said 'God bless the finger on that trigger today'. 'And it turned out he was the Principal Officer who wouldn't let me see Jim. His name was Smith. Talk like being a ghoul, but I must admit I always look at the Belfast Telegraph every year to see if his anniversary is in and it is. Ach such a good lad. Ah!'

Fair play to you Mrs. Doherty.

This is an extremely limited edition. If you want one – and we suggest that any true collector will, it is obtainable from NW Womens/HR Project, 1, West End Park, Derry City, BT 48, N. Ireland. It retails for £9 plus £2 p&p.


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