These are the names of some of the 3,637 people whose lives and violent deaths are recorded in an extraordinary new book co-authored by The Independent's award-winning Ireland correspondent. Their story is the story of The Troubles, and a timely reminder

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RUC Constable Jim Seymour was shot in 1973. For 22 years he lay in a hospital bed, an IRA bullet lodged in his head, apparently conscious but unable to move or to speak; and on every day of those 22 years he was visited by his wife. He died, aged 55, in 1995, bringing the vigil of two decades to a close. The strain and anguish suffered by him and his family can only be imagined. As with so many families, the scars may never heal.

RUC Constable Jim Seymour was shot in 1973. For 22 years he lay in a hospital bed, an IRA bullet lodged in his head, apparently conscious but unable to move or to speak; and on every day of those 22 years he was visited by his wife. He died, aged 55, in 1995, bringing the vigil of two decades to a close. The strain and anguish suffered by him and his family can only be imagined. As with so many families, the scars may never heal.

Although the Seymour family has suffered particularly severely, their protracted tragedy is only one of many terrible stories to arise from a quarter-century of death and destruction. More than 3,600 people have died in the Troubles, and among the wounded are many in wheelchairs or confined to bed, or who have suffered brain damage. Some are in constant pain. One senior policeman continued to serve in the RUC despite losing an arm, a leg and an eye in an explosion. Another officer has no arms. One IRA volunteer was emasculated in a premature blast.

The horror that a bomb can cause was summed up in this report of an explosion at the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast in the 1970s: "One girl has lost both legs, an arm and an eye. Her sister has lost both legs. A male victim lost two legs, and a female lost one leg and one arm. Another female lost one limb, and three of the injured have lost eyes."

So many people have been treated unkindly by fate. At least two women have lost two life-partners, both killed years apart. One woman survived a shooting but lost her unborn child who was buried in a tiny, light-blue coffin in unconsecrated ground, next to a graveyard only a few yards from her home.

Over and over again the "wrong" people died. A nine-year-old boy, playing cowboys with his brother, upset a tripwire and set off a bomb which killed him. A man burst into a house in Belfast, shot dead the occupant and then exclaimed: "Christ, I'm in the wrong house."

A man was issued with a personal protection weapon after receiving threats from loyalists: within a few hours it went off by accident and killed him. A dying man said to his wife: "The bastards, why did they shoot me? I'm not in anything." A bullet fired by a soldier during a fight in a public house passed through the arm of a loyalist activist and killed a man having a quiet drink in a corner. A bullet fired by a republican passed through the arm of a policeman on traffic duty and killed a woman motorist.

The senselessness of many of the killings is accentuated by the character of some of the killers. A loyalist who was jailed for four murders had been drinking two bottles of gin a day which had resulted in brain damage. He gave himself up to police after twice trying to commit suicide.

One woman lost first her son, shot dead by loyalists, and then her husband, who collapsed and died when he heard the news. When a father of four was shot dead in Co Armagh, his widow and her sister had to be carried into church for the funeral: both suffered from multiple sclerosis. A man who had been drinking followed his wife to a police station where he became involved in an altercation with a sentry and was shot dead.

There are hundreds more stories like these of terrible deaths and terrible injuries, of shattered lives and shattered families, of widows and orphans whose suffering will go on. It has taken us eight years, and almost a million words, to attempt to do justice to all this. Our original aim was simply to compile a list of those who had died, since at that point no accurate inventory existed of Troubles' victims. But that grew into descriptions of the people themselves, and these evolved into a search for the many connections between different deaths.

Had we known how long this task would take, we probably would not have embarked on it. For many years we were unsure whether it could be published, for its sheer size meant that publication in the normal way was not a commercial proposition. In the end, publication was only made possible through generous funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Ireland Funds.

Those who have died in the Troubles include civilians; members of loyalist and republican groups; political figures; soldiers; joyriders; alleged drug dealers; judges and magistrates; prison officers; police officers; convicted killers; businessmen; alleged informers; hunger strikers; men; women; children; pensioners and unborn babies.

We differentiated between the categories of the dead, but we did not judge them. For the record, our statistics show that republicans were responsible for just over 2,000 deaths, loyalists for more than 1,000, and the security forces for 360. The dead included 1,200 Catholic civilians and some 700 Protestant civilians.

But these are mere statistics: what matters are the people themselves. Although the four authors are all hardened Belfast journalists, we were reduced to tears during the writing of the book. And what will stay with us for ever is not the numbers involved but the voices of those who have found out at first hand what violence can do to human beings. Voices like these...

"I saw a young boy crawling along the ground covered in blood. He looked up at me and said, 'Help me, mister, I'm hurt'."

 

"They say time is a great healer but it's not really true. We had planned to retire just a few months after she was killed. We had no children so it meant the end of my home and my family. I lost everything."

 

"When I planted that bomb I wasn't old enough to legally drink or vote. I was a schoolboy terrorist. Thirteen years of my life have been spent in jail. I will carry the memory of what happened until the day I die."

 

"All right, Prods to one side and Catholics to the other."

Words shouted by loyalist gunman before he killed five men in a Belfast bar

 

"Try to picture the scene at 4.30am on Saturday when two young girls were still waiting in vain for their parents to come home."

Protestant minister

 

"I knew in the first minute that this was so calamitous for me that I must either get over it in that minute or I was never going to get over it. We had not spent more than five days apart during 15 years."

Teenager whose twin brother was killed with Lord Mountbatten in 1979

 

"I took hold of the other Catholic and set myself up as judge, jury and executioner. I beat him to death with a breeze block in an alleyway off the Shankill."

 

"Nobody, nobody, has ever, ever, ever said to me, 'I'm sorry about your eldest son, your first-born son, I am sorry that I killed your son'."

Mother of Londonderry youth knocked down by an Army vehicle

 

"The despair would hurt you now and again. I'll never get rid of her name - she wrote it anywhere, inside the airing cupboard and on books. I was changing a pillowcase and she had written her name on the inside of it."

Mother of 14-year-old schoolgirl killed by a plastic bullet

 

"A common practice is when I go into a shop a gang of youths gather outside, and when I come out ask me if I have heard any explosions lately."

Fiancée of murdered part-time UDR soldier explaining why she was emigrating

 

"When I saw the white shirts through the glass door, I knew."

Police officer's wife describing how she learned of her husband's death

 

"I heard Michael's car coming in, then I heard the shots. The music was still on and the engine was still running. He was shot six times in the back. I remember screaming and screaming but no one came. Not one person came out of their homes. I couldn't get help for ages."

76-year-old widowed mother of part-time soldier

 

"When they killed my darling, they killed me too. Despite my outward appearance I am dead, so this seemed a sensible solution. Let me also tell you, Mum and Dad, how very much I love you and how very sorry I am for the pain I've caused."

Note left by girl who took her own life after loyalists killed her boyfriend

 

"As I bury my son, both of you bury your pride. I don't want any mother or father going through what my wife and I went through today. Please stop this. Bury your pride with my boy. To those who've done this, I and my family forgive you."

Father of Catholic man shot by loyalists

 

"For nearly a whole day none of the family knew it was my dad that was the anonymous soldier who was critically injured. It never crossed my mind it would be Dad."

Daughter of soldier fatally injured in Belfast

 

"My older son lifts his daddy's picture every day and kisses him. He says his daddy is up in the sky. He still has nightmares and sometimes I find him talking to himself. When I ask him who he is talking to, he says: 'Don't be silly, Mummy, I'm talking to my daddy.' It's strange, isn't it, for a boy of four to come off with things like that?"

 

"For the first six weeks, everyone is around trying to help, then the doors close and that's when your grieving really starts. No one knows how you feel. Part of your life is taken away."

Father of 15-year-old girl killed by an IRA bomb in London

 

"Tell my mummy that I love her."

Last words of 15-year-old schoolboy

 

"My poor child was only 15, he was only starting out in life."

The words of his mother, who died two years later. Her husband said of her: "She talked about James a lot, he was her life. She never really got over it. The bullet just travels on for years through time."

'Lost Lives - the stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles' by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton (Mainstream, £25)

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