Even today of course the Daisy Hill Ambulance Crews cover all of South Armagh as well as of South Down.
This meant in the Troubles that they were frequently called out to investigate victims, and possible victims of violence even before the police were called to the scene.
Indeed the RUC was quick to summon the Ambulance Crews to suspect scenes where they considered it too dangerous for their own officers! This continuous abrogation of responsibility was often covered with the excuse that, ‘we have no available crew at the moment’. It’s difficult to imagine what incidents or accidents ranked of higher importance, to so divert the only available defenders of life and limb!
Consequently my husband and his fellow Ambulance officers were often first on the scene when hooded bodies were discovered lying on road verges throughout the lonely back roads of South Armagh – the most common fate of alleged ‘informers’.
I remember my husband telling me of one such incident at Edentubber. With less than precise information of the exact location offered, and it being a lonely and deserted road on a winter’s night, the crew were obliged to seek the assistance of the authorities in the other jurisdiction. Fortunately there was a Garda unit on patrol on the nearby border.
Giving precise directions, the Garda also offered the advice that the dead body might be booby-trapped – which it later was proved indeed to be the case. The man’s hands were tied with shoe-laces and he had been twice shot through the head.
Passing on the Garda advice to Control, the Ambulance crew was given permission in this case to return to base minus the ‘patient’.
There were multitudinous other similar incidents. However hardened former combatants may have become to these atrocities, it was not permitted to the emergency medical services to adopt such an attitude. Every one was a ‘patient’, some mother’s child, some woman’s husband, some child’s father.
By one means or another, these stalwart men and women, dedicated to their chosen job of service, laboured through the terrible decades of Troubles, until they were dealt the bitterest blow towards the very end, in the early 1990s ……
…. Final episode to follow ……..