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Where you are tender you speak your plural

Where you are tender, you speak your plural.

Roland Barthes

Last month I went to an early afternoon debate at Duncairn Arts Centre.

The panel were Danny Morrison, Conall Parr, Rosemary Jenkinson, Laurence McKeown, chaired by BBC journalist Tori Watson.

The Arts of War was an outreach special as part of Feile.

The Arts of War

Jamie Bryson was in the audience too. He was quick and straight to the point, commenting to Laurence McKeown that loyalists need their own version of McKeown’s perceptive and moving account of republican prisoners’ rationale, in their own words:

Nor Meekly Serve My Time: The H-block Struggle 1976-1981.

Bryson, not for the first time, had hit the nail on the head. He complained that former loyalist participants had been marginalised.

McKeown agreed. But when he gave Bryson his advice, he didn’t miss and hit the wall. In words as economic as they were effective, he told him that the best thing he could do was to start writing. No-one else would do it for him. Or could, in fact.

As I said to Bryson at the end, he was dead right.

The more stories people write for themselves, the better.

Few journalists make the effort to empathise with our interviewees. Very few of us.

Although there are exceptions.

Susan McKay and Martin Dillon. William Crawley and Stephen Nolan at their best.

Over the last few years as I’ve been dealing with grief of my own, I’ve been wondering how I and other journalists may have contributed to the traumatization and re-traumatization of victims.

This crystallized with the death of my friend Lyra McKee.

Lyra was no mere *victim*. She was a living, breathing, warped, wonderful and beautiful friend, colleague, daughter, sister, great aunt, aunt, loving partner to Sara and so much, much more.

I’ve just started an online PgDip in Trauma Studies with University College Cork. WAVE Trauma are delivering it with UCC.

Yes, I have a deep and abiding interest in the vicarious trauma of journalists and others, but I’m coming at this one from the other side.

Poacher turned gamekeeper.

Writing with love, honesty and compassion should be part of the essential toolkit of every journalist.

Where you are tender, you speak your plural.

As Northern Irish poet Louis McNeice wrote in Snow:

World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.

There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses - Louis MacNeice

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