Northern Ireland conflict survivor ‘cannot forget father’s murder’

Survivors of the Troubles cannot forget what happened, a woman whose father was killed by loyalists has said.

Eileen Fields, from west Belfast, created an artwork of a head covered in newspaper clippings about John Crawford’s murder.

She said his death “destroyed” her mental health, adding: “That is the traumatised head, everything that is on the outside is on the inside.”

Her furniture upholsterer father was killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1974 during the early years of the conflict.

She said: “Daddy went out to work and did not come home again.”

Her artwork is entitled Old Head on Young Shoulders. The title represents the moment she and her brothers and sisters suddenly had to grow up.

It is part of a Belfast city centre exhibition organised by the Wave Trauma Centre, Northern Ireland’s largest organisation supporting those bereaved by the Troubles.

The exhibition is entitled Through Our Eyes, and features the work of those bereaved.

Ms Fields said she and her siblings had to go to work, look after the house and their widowed mother.

“We lost a very good daddy. Life changed.

“There was no intervention or help then for anything, and people were very proud, they probably would not have taken the help anyway.

“We just got on with life without our daddy.”

She recalled wedding days, births and other special occasions.

“There was always an empty seat, mummy hated Christmas, probably because that happened in January.”

Her father was a good, hard-working family man, she said.

News reports claimed he had murdered someone and the personal impact was enormous.

Gesturing to one of the headlines on her artwork she said: “That is why this says ‘tell the truth’.”

An investigation years later by independent detectives from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) showed in “black and white” that the murder was inspired by anti-Catholic sectarianism.

She made her newspaper artwork from a subsequent apology.

“I wanted to tell people that I am not a victim, I am a survivor, but this happened and this destroyed the mental health of an awful lot of people – not just me, family, extended family. My childhood was taken really.

“When the public say ‘get on with it, get on with your lives, forget about it’ – it is not within our power to forget about it. It freezes your mind in time.”

Ms Fields, who has three children and a grandson, added: “I don’t live every day around this but in part of every day it comes into my head.”

Survivors, especially parents who want justice and truth about the loss of children, should not be told to get on with life, she added.

“I don’t expect it (justice) so that is OK, but I appreciate that there are a hell of a lot of people out there who do need it to move on.”

The exhibition at the ArtCetera Studio in Belfast runs until Saturday.

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