‘Peter’, former paramilitary
“I feel within myself that I have a right to move on.”
Peter (not his real name) was 15 when he joined the Red Hand Commando paramilitary organisation, which was affiliated to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
He was first arrested at 16 for possession of explosives. Aged 17, he murdered a fellow loyalist paramilitary, and was given a life sentence. He was released, aged 34, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
In 2010, the father-of-three wrote a play, the culmination of an interest in writing first sparked in prison. Its performance attracted widespread media coverage, and resulted in him entering into mediation with the family of the man he murdered.
Although one of the family’s initial demands was for Peter to stop writing, by the end of mediation, they agreed he should be allowed to continue.
“The community is very insular and very low in confidence in general. The protestant working class community, particularly in Belfast, feel they’re being trodden upon, feel they’re being scapegoats, and feel they’re being blamed. They feel like they’re being cast as the baddies – which is not true.”
Peter believes that creativity and artistic expression are crucial for working-class post-conflict Protestant communities to build a sense of confidence and identity, so they can move on from the past.
Peter has now teamed up with other former paramilitaries to set up a creative writing group, named Etc. They have enlisted the help of community theatre producer Jo Egan, leading playwright Sarah Marie Jones, conflict research academic Katy Radford, and Rev Chris Hudson.
“We need some positives to come out of the working class protest community – there’s not enough of them. And I feel like this could be one of them.”
He is in the process of writing another play.
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