Of the images found in ABOVE THE GROUND: A True Story of The Troubles in Northern Ireland,
the photograph that grabs me is of Peter Heathwood. He was the innocent landlord who was renting an apartment to Artt on the Antrim Road in Belfast. He got shot by Loyalist thugs who mistook him for Artt in 1979. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since.
In 2019, when he picked me up at the bus station so we could go to his house for an interview, he cheerfully refused assistance in getting his wheelchair in and out of his car. He seemed not to have a trace of any bitterness or anger about him. A lot of his friends were killed during the Troubles. Their framed photographs fill a whole wall off of his living room. For ten years after the Good Friday Agreement, Peter sat on the board of a victims’ and survivors’ forum. He made VHS recordings of television broadcasts of memorial services of victims of paramilitary and police killings, edited them, and gave them to the victims’ families at no charge. In the photo of him in the book, he’s sitting in the studio where hundreds of copies of the tapes sit. He’s surrounded by them. The British government paid him a large financial settlement after he sued them for shooting him. But, to this day, no one has ever told him who shot him, and no one has ever owned up to shooting him or ordering the shooting to be done. They don’t want to tell the truth about their dirty war, Peter told me. It’s just as true of the British government and former IRA men today. No one in the British government wants to tell the truth about their dirty war. And the former IRA men who do are scarce indeed. They don’t like doing interviews.