Altnagelvin nurses talk of life as a nurse in Northern Ireland during the worst of the Troubles

Ursula Clifford.
Ursula Clifford.

A Derry nurse who worked during the worst of the Troubles has revealed that after Bloody Sunday it took weeks for her to start sleeping properly again.

Ursula Clifford who worked in the operating theatre and former councillor and nurses Annie Courtney will speak in the BBC documentary ‘Nurses on the Frontline’ to be broadcast tonight at 9 p.m.

The film reveals the moving and powerful story of nurses across more than three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Ursula Clifford said that back in 1972 there was no counselling for medical staff.

“The first time we got counselling was after Greysteel,” she said. “But I learned to put things into little pockets in my brain.”

She said that the scene in Altnagelvin after Bloody Sunday was chaotic.

“People were going round with lists and we were not sure who we were going to get next in the operating theatre and what their injuries would be.

“As the years went on we knew exactly who was coming next.”

The Derry nurse also revealed how on Bloody Sunday she and her elderly aunt had stripped sheets from the beds from her flat in Glenfada Park to cover the dead.

“I passed the soldiers and I asked them ‘why did you do it’,” she said.

She also revealed how she had gone into the house where Gerard Donaghey was lying.

“There were no nail bombs,” she said. “He was wearing tight, tight jeans. I gave evidence about that and I’m angry that Saville didn’t believe me. I was with an anaesthetist. There’s no way a doctor and a nurse could have missed that

Tonight the film hears first-hand accounts from many nurses who dedicated their lives to nursing and tended to the injured in the wake of Bloody Sunday and Bloody Friday and nursed those in need after the Abercorn, Enniskillen, Shankill and Omagh Bombs.

Counselling as we know it today was unheard of then and the film reveals how the nurses supported each other through the dark times and how they learned to deal with the daily atrocities.

The film also hears their concerns as paramilitaries and army personnel flanked the hospital grounds and how they coped with danger beyond the barricades as they performed their duties in the community often working within extraordinary circumstances.

Produced and directed by Moore Sinnerton, Nurses On The Frontline is a Doubleband/ Chistera co-production for BBC Northern Ireland, to be shown on Monday 02 November on BBC One Northern Ireland at 9pm.