Return to Killybegs

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Authors: Sorj Chalandon, Ursula Meany Scott
Tags: Betrayal, Journalism, Northern Ireland, Belfast, traitor, Troubles, Good Friday Agreement
handed me back to the IRA. During the interrogation, I wasn’t tied up, I wasn’t blindfolded. I could look them in the eye. They were always unarmed, their faces uncovered. I knew they weren’t going to execute me, but I repeated it to myself over and over. Across from me was Mike O’Doyle, who was now acting as judge. An older guy with a Dublin accent was standing next to Mike behind the table. Mike called me Tyrone, the other just called me Meehan. It was at that point that I understood. First I had lost my country, and now I had also lost my Christian name, my fraternal identity. I was alone.
    —What information did you hand over to the enemy, Meehan? the stranger asked.
    A camera was watching me, and I decided not to respond. Not another word.

    That’s the way the older Irish guard had just addressed me – frostily, like an IRA man. My first name still hovered timidly on the younger man’s lips, but the older man was already throwing my surname at me like an insult. I was no longer of this land, or this village, either. Padraig Meehan had given Killybegs a traitor. After the monstrous father came the disgraceful son. Our line was cursed. This guard would turn a blind eye when death came looking for me. He’d show death the way through the forest, open my door for it, point me out with a jerk of his chin. I disgusted him. He knew that I knew it. My silence clearly told him as much. The younger guy asked me three more feeble questions and the older man’s eyes never left me. He listened to my eyes, not my responses.
    —What’s your name?
    I asked him, just like that. My fear forgotten in the face of his contempt.
    —Seánie, the guard answered softly.
    —That’s my brother’s name.
    He smiled. A real one, a lovely smile.
    Then he handed me a folded piece of paper.
    —Here’s the telephone number where you can reach us any time.
    And all my impressions were turned on their head. His face was no longer the same, his brow looked troubled. He was worrying about me, quite simply. A gallant keeper of the peace, a country guard, harmless, genuine, wanting to get home to his loved ones. I had got it wrong. After so much lying I no longer knew how to read men.
    —Be careful, Tyrone, Seánie said.
    Everything lurched around me. My chin trembled slightly, barely noticeable. Just a leaf shaking on the end of a branch.
    I went back in and locked the door behind me, pushed the latch across, habitual gestures. The fire was dying. I poured myself a large glass of vodka. The light was fading behind my curtains. I looked at my hands, I don’t know why. They were ruined after too much life. Battered, gnarled, rough and stiff. I feared time.
    —With fingers like that, you’d be better off holding a gun than a violin!
    I smiled. I thought of Antoine, the Parisian violin-maker I had met in Belfast thirty years before, that silent Frenchman who had one day declared himself an Irish Republican. He thought like us, lived like us, dressed like us and fought to make a place for himself between our dignity and our courage.
    On Saturday, Sheila told me that he had called her. He asked her if he could meet me. What did the wee Frenchie want? To judge me? To understand me? Or to claim his portion of the treason?

6
    Killybegs, Tuesday, 26 December 2006
    The owner of Mullin’s had never been well disposed towards me. Since the gardaí’s visit, though, he has become hostile. Yesterday, after I left, he moved the round table where my father always sat and placed a coat stand in its place. The pub was packed when I went in this evening. The heads turned towards me, silently, the barman pulled an ugly, disgusted face. His crossed arms told me that this spot no longer belonged to me. My survival was at stake. This dark and sour chapel was Padraig Meehan’s final Station of the Cross. His last sanctum while still living. It was from here that he’d left to die in winter. If the sea had taken him, this dark corner would have been his

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