tony donovan

Ardoyne, Belfast, N Ireland
Location: ivoryton, connecticut 06442
Nationality: usa
Biography:   Artist’s Statement     Photography in Ireland was my first work, made in a place called “Ardoyne”, a housing estate on a hillside in North Belfast.  Black and white film, Kodak Tri-X and a couple of... MORE
Public Story
Ardoyne, Belfast, N Ireland
Copyright Tony Donovan 2022
Updated Oct 2013
Topics Ardoyne, Belfast, 1971-1972, Community, Documentary, Irish, Irish Children, troubles in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Photography

Irish photographs were my first work, made in a place called "Ardoyne", a housing estate on a hillside  in North Belfast.  Kodak Tri-X, a couple of Ilford rolls, shot with a hand held Leica, mostly available light with the exception of one or two photographs.  It was a difficult place to take pictures, the people were on-edge, wary, suspicious of a stranger.  Street scenes, the friends I made, mostly children, 1971-1972.       


  2. I know an Irishman who lives in the Bronx now
  3.         he says
  4. that the people of his home county
  5.         now in 1974
  6. pay
  7. an English aristocrat
  8. for the right to fish, to lumber, and mine
  9. the grounds of their home,
  10. the Englishman lives in Rome
  11. he has never been to Ireland.
  13. Ardoyne is a Catholic parish
  14. in North Belfast
  15. eleven English machine guns
  16. hold lines of fire
  17. down into its streets.                                                                                                                                                                       
  • A common Belfast image is
  • the suffering children of violence
  • I found a different image
  • I have a different feeling,
  •   the children are tough
  • the city kids of working people
  • they fear the soldiers and the Protestants
  •   but within their Ardoyne
  • rarely leaving
  •   they have a strength of parents and grandparents
  • brothers and sisters, cousins and neighbors
  • they’ve known since childhood
  • and will know until they die.
  • Once
  • in a sprinkling Ardoyne afternoon
  • a small boy came up to me
  • "Heh, mister”, he said
  • “have you ever noticed how
  • whenver somebody dies here
  • two more die right after
  • and every time somebody dies
  • a baby is born,
  • that’s how it is in Ardoyne
  • every time somebody dies,
  • somebody’s born.
  • The people of Ardoyne
  • call their army the boys
  • the boys are volunteers
  • they are born to the streets they fight on,
  • some of the best men
  • in Ardoyne
  • belong to this Irish Republican Army.
  • I was taken in roughed up
  • and told to stop filming by this army
  •   understand
  • secrecy means survival.
  • This man
  • a retarded man
  • befriended me in Ardoyne
  • his name is Paddy,
  • because Paddy is not IRA
  • exactly because he was not given a nail bomb
  • he was free to be my friend. 
  • The English
  • held Paddy
  • as a weak link in Ardoyne’s chain of community,
  •   they took him
  • to break him.
  • There is one witness against him
  • an English soldier
  • never available to testify,
  • every two weeks now
  • for a year
  • Paddy, his father, and a Catholic lawyer
  • have had to leave their work
  • travel through Protestant areas
  • to appear in court
  •   only to be put back again
  • another two weeks.
  • In Ardoyne
  • chapel bells ring
  • all day long
  • I thought to value the act
  • of leaving
  • or staying in Ireland
  • during the last 200 year of her trouble
  •   my American thought
  • that those who left are best
  • is gone
  • knowing these people
  •   loving their home and their past
  • just
  • needing their home and their past.
  • Today
  • Ardoyne’s men are building barricades
  • some of the boys
  • some the Citizens Defence Committee
  • some the Catholics Ex-Servicemen’s Association
  •   using rusty iron from the fence around their athletic club
  • hot water tanks from burned out homes
  • and cheap cement
  •   building barricades
  • sometimes manned
  • and sometimes not
  • barricades
  • the English destroy in minutes
  • with their armor plated bulldozer.
  • This work
  • seemed a farce to me
  • like much of the time in Ardoyne
  • just ordinary, 
  • and then
  • a Protestant shoots his challenge
  • and the ordinary leaves Ardoyne
  • for a time.
  • This man
  • feeling so helpless
  • is not a IRA
  • he doesn’t even belong to a club
  • a rare man for Ardoyone
  • a loner.
  • Yesterday
  • a shot came into Ardoyne
  • today
  • a bomb goes out in answer,
  • a bomb for a shot
  • a gun battle for a bomb
  • an English soldier dies
  •   and Ireland
  • comes closer to her final war
  • to resolve
  • this question of conquest
  • begun so long ago,
  • having little
  • to do with Gods
  • having more to do
  • with Irish blood
  • and Irish earth.
  • For the people of Ardoyne
  • God is real
  • he is the Father
  • the Son
  • and the Holy Ghost
  • an IRA son
  • shot
  • dying in the street
  • needs a priest for his soul.
  • Some old women
  • some little girls
  • come here every evening to pray for peace
  • to talk
  • and some to the women
  • take snuff.
  • It’s funny
  • to talk to these English soldiers
  • and have them tell you
  • how much
  • they enjoyed their training there
  • in Colorado
  •   strange
  • as an American
  •   to hear
  • that their cs gas is tested in California
  • that their rubber bullets are made in Ohio.
  • Deaf Thomas
  • reads gun catalogues from America with his brothers.
  •   Deaf Thomas
  • was arrested carrying petrol for his motorcycle.
  • Deaf Thomas
  • saw these men riot at the jail just outside Ardoyne.
  • Thomas
  • talks with his hands.
  • Thomas
  • has an IRA friend whose hand was shot away by an English bullet.
  • Thomas had a neighbor tortured and killed by Protestants.
  • Thomas
  • has had his home ripped apart by English
  • soldiers
  • so
  • many
  • times.
  • Whistles in Ardoyne
  • mean the English are raiding
  • coming
  • to take
  • the men.
  • The girls of Ardoyne
  • wear the color purple
  • and black shoes
  • and white stockings
  • and take their neighbor’s baby for a turn in the carriage
  • on Saturday afternoon.
  • Once
  • standing outside my home there
  • a girl with red hair came pushing a carriage by
  • an IRA man on either side
  • they were all nervous,
  •   minutes
  • later
  • a shot
  • fired
  • and the three came back
  • trying to walk a normal pace
  • red faced
  • and breathing hard.
  • I say
  • it’s not as if
  • time is
  • and will be only
  • time
  • was
  • these Irish men
  • and Irish women
  • are owed
  • a debt.
























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Ardoyne, Belfast, N Ireland by Tony Donovan
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