Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

do you like oranges? online

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In the 90s I wrote three loosely related short stories – each in some way connected to the issue of policing and repression.  I am adding each of these stories as PDFs to my site beginning with DO YOU LIKE ORANGES?

Do You Like Oranges? has been published a number of times, although never in Ireland.  In 1996 it was shortlisted for the Ian St James International Short Story Award and came runner-up to a winning entry by Michel Faber.

The idea for Do You Like Oranges? came from hearing about an incident that happened in Cork back in the early 80s.  At the time there was a lot of political repression.  Although mostly directed at ‘republicans’, many others were also getting caught in the net – intentionally, I imagine, in order to spread fear and intimidation.  I heard about an incident that went far beyond what you might consider ‘harrassment’.  If you place someone in a position where they perceive that they are facing imminent death – what is that?  I had heard of just such an incident.

I felt it was important to write about such a situation.  A lot of what the the Branch did back then – and still does when the ‘need’ arises – is legitimised for the public on the grounds of the ‘national good’ and the threat from ‘subversives’.   But the incident I had heard about – which incidentally is different to what happens in the story; that I made up – was serious and extremely worrying.  There was also at the time – and there still is  – an unwillingness to face up to the matter.  Torture is a problem for ‘elsewehre’, isn’t it?  Here in Ireland for example there has been little discussion about the so-called ‘Heavy Gang’ – a secretive and brutal section of the Irish Gardai charged with breaking suspect held in custody.  This ‘dark period’ in Irish history is usually glossed over and in any case there is the excuse that ‘a few bad apples’ just spoiled the barrel.  The reality of course is another matter entirely.  Torture orchastrated by the state comes from a clear stragegy decided from above; the torturers are often, literally, just followign orders.

In recent times the issue of torture – those who do and those who suffer it – has come back into the headlines.  We have had the exposure of state police activity around the so-called ‘rendition’ policy of Bush and Co – which has been aided and abetted by the state police in a number of other jurisdictions. The dreadful and shocking case of Binyam Mohamed comes to mind.  But Binyam is only one of a great number of people who have been grossly abused as part of the so-called ‘war on terror’.

Do You Like Oranges? follows a young man who returns to Ireland to stalk the man who tortured him many years before.  As he tracks the torturer he recalls what happened.  The story juxtaposes memory and action/ retribution (?) – although it is never clear if retribution either occurs or what it might entail.  As they say make your own mind up.

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