28 November 2005

Running riot!

Sunday Life

Toy soldier buffs are now re-enacting battles of the Troubles, complete with plastic mobs

By Bill Smyth
27 November 2005

THE battles on the Bogside, Shankill and Falls are being fought all over again - on dining room tables!

For just like Culloden and Waterloo, Ulster's riots are being recreated using models.

A Ballymena store is doing a roaring trade in miniature RUC officers, soldiers and rioters.

Army 'pigs' and Saracens, police Land Rovers and water cannon trucks are also flying out the door.

Kevin Irwin, owner of the recently opened Country Comes to Town store, says he's taking orders from across the world on his website.

"For years model buffs have re-fought famous battles in history using toy soldiers. This is the modern equivalent - with an obvious Ulster setting," said Kevin.

"The players sit for hours moving the models around just like chess players.

"And, of course, they can determine the outcome of the riot according to their views. That's their business and at least nobody suffers."

Added Kevin: "I am picking up orders all the time through our website from America, Canada and Australia. The French and Germans have started going for them too.

"I think it's part of the fascination with The Troubles, when images of our darkest moments were regularly flashed across the world's TV screens."

Kevin admits there is occasionally animosity shown to his merchandise by passers-by, when they spot the models in the window.

"Maybe some of them don't like to be reminded of the bad old days. Some may even have been involved in some way. To me the models are just reminders of what we all witnessed."

There is constant demand for new additions which are made in great detail by a company in England from photographs and drawings.

"The UDR recently joined us," said Kevin.

"And the Army bomb disposal unit turned up last week."

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