When people who were your contemporaries when you were young and fit start to pop off, then it is time to get worried. I knew Ciaran McKeown quite well when we were both students at QUB, he the president of the Students’ Union and me a first year undergraduate who did some work for the university paper Gown.
So his death yesterday is a reminder of one’s own mortality. He is of course best known for his part in the creation in 1976 of the Peace People along with Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty vision but even back then it was clear that the naivete and contradictions inherent in the Peace People, essentially that only the IRA was to blame for the violence, would be the movement’s undoing.
Ciaran had left The Irish Press to start the Peace People so when the movement finally disintegrated he had no job and was essentially unemployable. The last time I saw him was when, as Northern Editor of The Irish Times, I hired him to transcribe the tape recording of Ian Paisley’s famous Kincora press conference at the Martyr’s Memorial church in east Belfast.
By chance I recently came across the clip of a news broadcast dated from August 1969 showing Ciaran urging the Irish government to invade the North in the wake of Loyalist attacks on Nationalist areas. What crazy days they were: