Gunshots split the night air. People rushed for shelter. Explosions shook the ground. The Troubles in Ireland were beginning. Prejudices against different religious and political groups started this feud. The Loyalist paramilitary and the Republican paramilitary quickly opposed and fought each other. Two branches of the British army came in to quell the guerilla warfare. Sadly the murders caused by the Troubles affected the lives of three young men. 

The Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists were the two groups involved in the Troubles. The Unionists were the majority while the Nationalists, who were the minority, resented Protestant rule. The Republican paramilitary wished to overrun the British government, reunite Ireland, and form an Irish republic. The British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary ferociously and furiously fought against the two paramilitary groups. The Troubles turned out to be more than an argument. 

Soon, the argument grew into a fight, threatening to escalate into another civil war! Tensions increased, and although the British government claimed to be “neutral,” investigation proved that they also had committed horrific murders. Further complicating matters, the Irish government formed a deadlock by not coming to a satisfactory compromise. Finally, trying to elicit support, the British government firmly stated that they would let Ireland try to settle their own problems before intervening. This statement won the British government the support of the Nationalists and Republicans. In 1998, the Belfast Agreement was written and signed, but violence still continues because of ongoing strife between the Catholics and the Protestants, who are yet unsatisfied with the agreement terms. Many average citizens are yet affected by the Troubles-among them, three young men.

Tommy Sands immortalized The Troubles’ affect on him and his friends through a song called “There Were Roses.” Isaac Scott from Banagh lived just across the field from Tommy and Sean. Characteristically, Isaac loved to dance. Sean McDonald, who was Tommy’s other friend, was courting a young girl named Alice. The three friends often met on Ryan Road, where cheery laughter would fill the air. Although Sean and Tommy were Catholics while Isaac was Protestant, it made no difference to the three friends. 

Hearing the sound of gunfire, they would promise, “We won’t let these Troubles divide us; we will always be friends.” 

They remembered sadly friends who had died and hoped and prayed there would be no more violence. Then, one morning, news of another murder came; it had happened just outside Newry Town. Tommy and Sean knew that Isaac danced there because he liked the band. They waited anxiously for more news. When they heard that it was Isaac who had been killed, they were shocked and anguished. On a cold and dreary morning, they solemnly gathered around a grave, not understanding why Isaac had to die. Fear filled every heart, for they knew that a Catholic would be killed that night to even out the score. 

Bowing his head, the pastor prayed, “Lord, may there be no more revenge.” 

As the Catholics huddled fearfully in their houses, a car came prowling down Ryan Road. Who had they chosen? 

“No!” pleaded Sean McDonald as angry Protestants dragged him from his home. “Isaac was my friend!” 

But their revenge-stopped ears couldn’t hear him. Once again, Tommy, stricken and sad, stood by his last friend’s grave. 

The political and religious feuds in Ireland are tragic. Innocent people are killed because of centuries of prejudices. Friendships are broken. The story of these three young men is most significant. If all Ireland would follow their example, murders, tragically broken families, and severed friendships would all end. Otherwise, in the words of Tommy Sands, it will be “An eye for an eye, and an eye for an eye, until everyone is blind.”