Battle for Ulster

A Study of Internal Security

Tom F. Baldy

National Defense University Press
Washington, DC


Attention to the conflict in Northern Ireland is often preempted in North America by such other international problems as worldwide terrorism, eruptions in the Middle East, and insurgencies in Latin America. The Irish “troubles” seem to catch our attention primarily as headline events, such as the 1981 hunger strikes or the 1983 Christmas bombing of Harrod’s department store. Yet the protracted violence in Northern Ireland doesn’t cease between spectacular and heavily reported incidents-the violence continues daily. Indeed, since 1969, terrorist violence has killed more than 2,500 people and injured another 29,000.

As Tom F. Baldy points out in this study, the British government’s internal security operation has sought for years to control the violence in Northern Ireland. To explain the existing situation, Mr. Baldy reviews the historical roots of the conflict, identifies its major factions, and outlines various options for its resolution. Baldy contends the British have managed, with their internal security operation, to limit open violence, but have failed to attain the ultimate objective: a workable, mutually acceptable political solution. Keeping that British goal in mind, Baldy speculates on Northern Ireland’s future.

The “troubles” in Northern Ireland pose a continuing challenge to one of the United States’ most reliable and closest allies. The unique local issues aside, Britain’s effort to resolve the conflict within the United Kingdom nevertheless provides insights for people and governments confronting terrorism and guerrilla warfare in many other areas of the world, and reminds all of the dangers of factionalism for free governments.

Bradley C. Hosmer
Lieutenant General, US Air Force
President, National Defense University


I wish to thank the many people without whose help this book would not have been possible: In Northern Ireland, Sam Bartlett and Cliff Tighe of the American Consulate; Con O’Leary and Adrian Guelke of Queen’s University, Belfast; numerous individuals in the Northern Ireland Office, the RUC, the UDA, Sinn Fein, all of whom were most gracious and cooperative; my Belfast street friends, Martin, Jasi, and Rita. In Scotland, Paul Wilkinson of the University of Aberdeen. At the Air Force Academy, Erv Rokke, Mary Payrow-Olia, Al Maurer, Jim Keagle, Paul Viotti. At the National Defense University, Fred Kiley, Don Anderson, Tom Gill. Special thanks to Donna for giving me faith, and to my family for life.


This book examines Britain’s internal security operation in Northern Ireland. I view the British operation in the province as unique, not as an evolutionary step in Britain’s counterinsurgency efforts refined in areas such as Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, and Aden, for it deliberately de-emphasizes, and at times even contradicts, classic military counterinsurgency doctrine. This contradiction is caused by a British refusal to characterize the violence in Ireland as symptomatic of a genuine national liberation movement. Rather, they define it as a civil disturbance, albeit with complicating sectarian overtones.1 Given this orientation, British strategy consists of maintaining law and order through a blending of the military, civil authority, and police, while seeking accommodation between the Protestant and Catholic communities through political initiatives which to date have been unsuccessful.2

This unique approach has developed over the years because of unavoidable realities. The proximity of Northern Ireland to Britain and British media restricts use of methods acceptable in more distant areas like Malaya or Kenya. The province’s inclusion in the “democratic” United Kingdom also is a restraint. Arid when over 53 percent of British citizens want the troops out of a struggle they see as expensive and increasingly none of their concern, a lower military profile is demanded.3 (Imagine American public opinion if, years after their introduction, soldiers still remained in Little Rock.) In addition, the complex social, economic historical, and political aspects of the problem elude a classic military solution while the urban setting of much of the violence also militates against use of the Army, whose skills in patrolling, quick reaction, and search are best adapted to rural areas. Within the close quarters of an urban environment like West Belfast, the military is visible and provocative, though still needed to protect policemen.4

There is also the necessity of denying legitimacy to a Republican movement fundamentally hostile to both Britain and the Irish Republic. A more conventional campaign would elevate the status of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, whose increasingly radical tendencies arouse British fears of a united, leftist Irish state on their western flank. Finally, a leaked British intelligence memorandum in 1979 admitted that the Army could not defeat the Provisional IRA in the near future and concluded that the campaign of violence would continue as long as the British remained in Northern Ireland.5 All these concerns make internal security a complex, frustrating, and ultimately elusive objective.

The first section of this book is a discussion of the internal security operation as it is presently constituted: a cooperative of military, police, and civil authorities whose aim is to limit violence and return the province to conditions as nearly normal as possible. Roughly paralleling this effort is the continuing attempt to find a political solution, an important exercise given the lack of hope for a military victory. The British strategy is impossible to evaluate without the two sections that follow. The first of these is a brief historical interpretation that outlines not only the divisions between the communities in Northern Ireland, but also the fundamental mistrust with which both view Britain. What then follows is an examination of the various actors Britain must contend with in bringing peace to the province: paramilitary groups, both republican and loyalist; the political parties; and the government of the Irish Republic, that sometimes silent and mistrusted player essential to any eventual solution.

An understanding of the present, the past, and the players reveals telling flaws in a strategy which treats the violence in Northern Ireland as a civil disturbance with sectarian overtones and whose key premise is movement toward moderation when in fact polarization is the present and continuing norm; a strategy that underestimates the nationalistic impulse in Northern Ireland and the loyalism which confronts it two historically irreconcilable forces, which will never accommodate one another without trauma or violence, or both.


The “battle for the hearts and minds” of a population is not an unknown exercise to the British, who have refined techniques in fifty odd counterinsurgency struggles since World War II. Their latest and most protracted campaign is in Northern Ireland, where they have abandoned classic counterinsurgency tactics, instead waging an internal security operation unlike any before.

Some of the unique constraints that have shaped Britain’s policy have already been outlined. There are, however, additional considerations that fit a more general picture of terrorism.6 Seeing no prospect of achieving their aims within the normal conventions of democratic government and perceiving therms;elves to be in a position of weakness vis-a-vis the government forces, groups and individuals sometimes resort to terrorism. Although weak relative to conventional forces, terrorists can wreak great damage when operating within fairly open democracies. This damage can be not only physical, but political and social as well. For example, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, two pieces of emergency legislation designed to deal with the violence in Northern Ireland, clearly demonstrate the capacity of paramilitaries to disrupt social and political patterns.

In the view of a Northern Ireland Office spokesman, terrorism cannot survive for long in any society without some degree of community support and sympathy. Further support blossoms if either the security forces or the general population are provoked into a backlash against the paramilitaries’ host community. Thus, in Northern Ireland the Provisional Irish Republican Army benefits if the security forces or the Protestant population is goaded into violence against the Catholic minority. Much of a terrorist’ success or failure is determined by the government’s reaction to his activities.

Terrorists also succeed in their political aims by convincing the government that it will fail in suppressing violence, or by convincing the population that peace, no matter its cost in terms of loss of freedom, is preferable to continuing mayhem. Therefore, if the Provisionals can bleed Britain and sap the British will, they may force a withdrawal. For both sides, it is a long struggle requiring great patience.

If they are to resist terrorism, governments must seek to erode whatever support or sympathy terrorists have in the community, while attempting to convince the terrorists that they cannot achieve their aims. The government must also persuade the population that violence can be defeated by proper and constitutional means. Govern ments therefore must ensure that their counter terrorist actions are effective and precise effective so as to convince terrorists and the public of the will and capacity of the government to defeat violence; precise (counteraction directed solely against the paramilitaries and their sup porters) so as not to antagonize the “host population” from which these groups spring.

Regardless of how effective their security measures are, governments must also seek to erode support for the paramilitaries by political and economic means. Nothing erodes support for terrorism faster than political changes which render the terrorists’ aims irrelevant or outdated.7

Trial and error in the many years of battling paramilitary factions in Northern Ireland has taught these complex lessons. Internal security has, at times, ignored them. The costs of deviating from this torturously narrow path are still being measured in the province in terms of lives and materiel lost.


Britain’s two pronged plan of security force operations and political initiatives developed in direct response to the changing terrorist threat.8 (Appendix A gives a chronology of major events in Northern Ireland.) In the early 1970s, both loyalist and republican paramilitaries thrived in the far reaching civil disorder. They received widespread support from within and outside Northern Ireland, aid coming particularly from the United States. In terms of both materiel and manpower, this support provided ample resources for attacks on the security forces and public. Because of the widespread support, and the paramilitaries’ ability to intimidate those portions of the public not in general sympathy with their aims, the police found themselves without witnesses or evidence with which to prosecute. Normal legal processes proved inadequate for coping with the developing threat; Therefore, the Army was introduced into Northern Ireland to deal with the violence and disorder, and because of lirnited and often inaccurate intelligence, internment was instituted.

The Army’s broad based measures sometimes were counterproductive. Internment and blanket house searches alienated the population, particularly minority Catholics who initially were sympathetic to the Army. Alienation and’disenchantment led, in turn, to increased support for the paramilitaries.9But the security situation gradually came under control and intelligence gathering and assessment improved, making Army support less necessary. The police moved once more into the forefront, resuming their traditional role. Meanwhile, political initiatives were introduced, designed to eliminate grievances that spawned the violence. Internal security had been born.


To limit the violence and create a sense of normalcy while still operating within the constraints posed by Northern Ireland, the British have followed a policy of “criminalization.” Criminalization means the British legal code will not distinguish between offenses on the basis of motive; whether for commercial or political gain, offenses are still criminal acts subject to sanction.10 In the words of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “A crime is a crime is a crime.” Terrorists’ offenses, categorized as robbery, murder, and other crimes, are dealt with by the police and prosecuted in the courts.

The assumption is that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom with a serious crime problem, complicated by some sectarian violence. Thus, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is primarily responsible for security operations, with the Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment playing support roles.11 (Appendix B describes briefly the major security forces, paramilitary groups, and political parties in Northern Ireland.) The following figures reflect the Army’s declining role since peak involvement in 1972-73.12
Criminalization, like internal security, is a carefully crafted term, coined because the British government cannot acknowledge fighting a counterinsurgency campaign within the United Kingdom. That acknowledgment would be politically unacceptable, as are soldiers in a sustained internal role. Police keep order within a democracy, the Army defends the nation from external threat. If soldiers are younger, less educated, less adaptable, police are more mature, better educated, more sophisticated in dealing with complex societal problems at the root of the violence in Northern Ireland.

Dealing with political violence in the context of an apparently normal criminal justice system (although modified by special legislation, courts, and rules of evidence) further soothes public concerns about appearing democratic. Certainly, declaring politically motivated acts to be ordinary crimes does not make them so, but it does shift the burden of proof to the men of violence and forces them to establish legitimacy with the population. Even advocates of turning the military loose on the republican paramilitaries acknowledge inherent differences between police and the Army. Mr. Enoch Powell of the Official Unionist Party states,

The role of the Army in aid of the civil power. is not to replace the police. It is not to deploy armament which the police do not possess. It is to act as a killing machine at the moment when authority in the State judges that order can no longer be maintained or restored by any other means.13

As criminalization gradually evolves and as police supplant the Army, block searches and internment yield to a need for precise intelligence to ensure adequate evidence for arrest. Special legislation and courts are needed to revitalize prosecution and conviction. To achieve criminalization, Britain has erected an apparatus of intelligence gathering, special legislation, and modified courts, making Northern Ireland one of the most policed societies in the free world.14


Intelligence forms the bedrock of criminalization and all internal security operations. It enables the police to focus their evidence gathering capabilities precisely rather than dissipating their energies in general trawling operations. Searches and ambush operations can be accurately targeted, not only increasing the police’s prospect of success but also minimizing the disruption and aggravation to the innocent public. Offenders are isolated and removed from their positions of influence within the community.

In addition to helping the police do their job, good intelligence makes possible accurate threat assessment, which saves money. Threat assessment allows the security forces to screen and then to defend those targets, out of the many available to Irish paramilitaries, that are most valuable, thus eliminating the need to field large numbers of officers. Good intelligence also contributes to a more normal society. When information indicates the Provisionals are shifting from disruption of Belfast’s commerce to attacks in rural south Armagh, soldiers can be removed from city patrol, blunting the paramilitaries’ contention that the government needs soldiers to rule.

A lightened atmosphere also breeds confidence, helping to attract investment, which is crucial in a province where a 21 percent unemployment rate contributes to the violence. In addition, a relaxation of security relieves some of the siege atmosphere and dissipates fear that inhibits the free choice essential to a democracy.15 And by allowing preemptive action, intelligence and threat assessment help the security forces to retain the initiative. Security is in place one week before an attack on a target, not afterward in a continuing spasm of reaction.


With the Army and police sharing information since 1981, today’s comprehensive intelligence system is markedly unlike the antiquated files of 1969. The security forces use a variety of means for gathering intelligence. One is house searches, ostensibly made to uncover arms caches, but designed also to determine the age and occupation of inhabitants and interior details of room arrangement, wall color, and type of furnishing. This type of information can be used later to test suspects claiming to live in particular residences. So comprehensive is this method that in 1973, 75,000 homes, one fifth the number in Northern Ireland, were searched.16 Through the years, as better intelligence has pinpointed locations, block searches have given way to searches of individual homes, thus alienating fewer members of the population.

Undercover operations also gather information, but they are hazardous. The “Four Square Laundry” conducted an apparently normal commercial service in West Belfast in 1972. In reality, the driver and laundress collected intelligence from casual conversations, while individuals hiding in a compartment built into the laundry van took pictures. Gunmen of the IRA subsequently attacked and killed the driver and the two concealed operatives.17 In 1975, Captain Robert Nairac, a British Army officer operating undercover in communities of south Armagh, was captured and executed by the Provisionals.

Surveillance, used principally by the Army, is also a valuable intelligence source. Soldiers concealed in observation posts within unused buildings routinely observe and photograph hundreds of individuals. Catalogued and marked with dates and times, these pictures can be matched with terrorist incidents. Photos are also taken of marches, riots, demonstrations, and funerals. Helicopters monitor troublesome neighborhoods daily and record activity, while in rural areas, hidden soldiers watch arms caches for individuals making a pick-up. Border areas are surveyed for infiltration by portable radar, buried sensors, and infrared detectors. Units of the Special Air Service assist with long range reconnaissance patrols.18

Another source of intelligence is vehicle checkpoints which collect data on motorists. Soldiers or policemen radio in details, and through a computer determine if the driver has been stopped before, and whether he can be linked to past incidents. Although checks are sometimes random, checkpoints frequently search for a particular registration number or color and make of vehicle.19

Interrogation of suspects, an obvious means of gathering information, has been controversial in Northern Ireland. Interrogation in depth, which Included wall standing, food and sleep deprivation, hooding, incessant noise, and beatings over a five day period, was abandoned in March 1972 by recommendation of the Gardiner Committee. Other irregularities, surfacing in 1979, were criticized by Amnesty International and the Bennett Report, leading to further reforms, including the recording of “interviews,” medical supervision, and use of closed circuit television monitors in interrogation rooms.20

Still in force are the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1973 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The security forces may arrest and. hold for up to three or seven days, respectively, anyone reasonably suspected of an offense under these acts. The consequence has been improved low level intelligence gathering. The Baker Review of the 1973 Emergency Provisions Act reported that only about one-fourth of those held are actually charged. The remainder were presumably questioned about general terrorist activity and released. Under this act, seven people were held in June 1985 in connection with the planned bombings of twelve English coastal resorts.

All collected intelligence is collated by a centralized bank of computers: one file stores data on vehicles for information needed at checkpoints; the other runs personnel checks on individuals to verify identity, maintain dossiers, and record terrorist movements. Computers cross reference, index, and file data, processing bits of disparate information and passing it back in usable form to the operating agencies.


To transform intelligence into usable threat assessment is the work of a triumvirate of military, police, and civil authorities.21 With the police playing the primary tole since 1977, the focal points for much of the intelligence gathering are the desk officers in d!e Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch, the organization most responsible for intelligence collection.

Within the Intelligence Section of the Special Branch are the “Desks”: Green, concerned with republican paramilitaries (PIRA, INLA); Orange, loyalists (UDA, UVF, UFF); and Red, left and right wing groups, such as the National Front. Each of these Desks is organized geographically, slicing up the province into manageable areas (North, South, Greater Belfast). The desk officer responsible for certain groups within his specific geographical area is a central point for collection and dissemination of intelligence data. He receives daily intelligence from RUC field operatives, compiled in the daily intelligence notation folder. Source reports from informers, graded for reliability, make up much of the package.22 Other information might be low-level intelligence gathered by policemen on the street, passed to their station representatives and thence upward. Information also comes from Army intelligence. Combined with possible inputs from the Garda (Irish police), Scotland Yard (appendix C outlines threat assessment in Scotland Yard), or the FBI, this information gives a broad picture of possible terrorist activity.

In constant contact with his sources and with peers in the military and the Northern Ireland Office, the desk officer develops an expertise and a broad back cloth to judge data against. He can begin to draw together individual threads of intelligence, feeding them higher and weaving together the overall fabric of the threat.23 He is in a position to interpret the data and both to pass accurate assessments upward and to advise lower-level units in his region on areas requiring security emphasis.24

To draft threat assessments, the desk officer meets with his counterparts in the military and the Northern Ireland Office to collate information, argue conflicting interpretations, and determine the significance of data. After their report is revised at the department level of the three agencies, a final branch level assessment is drawn. This information is revised and collated within the Northern Ireland Office and then the~normal national security machinery before finally being presented to senior ministers and officials.

At each level there is compromise, and as the assessment goes upward, a continuous interactive process operates. Pieces of information are gradually drawn together from many sources and fed higher to be fit together into a whole. This collectivist approach balances tendencies toward parochialism and organizational mindset.25 Another benefit is that, because the Northern Ireland Office and British Army staffs are rotated regularly while RUC positions are more fixed, there is a blend of new and old approaches. This interactive process lends credence and gives more weight to assessments. It also filters emotive findings as higher levels become more detached from operational pressures. Thus, senior officials can be confident that assessments have been well tested and scrutinized.

Another feature of the tiered system is that it allows decentralized decision-making. Assessments that need go no higher can be acted upon. The mechanism is a gradual collation of thought made possible through informality and a physical closeness of the participants an “osmosis” of ideas, in the words of one official.26


Once intelligence is gathered and arrests made, a policy of criminalization requires convictions. Northern Ireland has a history of legislation intended to curb violence and to facilitate convictions. The security forces’ right to arrest and hold individuals under the Emergency Provisions Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act has been mentioned. Of the numerous other legislative actions, two merit specific mention: the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act of 1922 and the institution of Diplock courts.

The Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act of 1922 empowered the government to hold people without charge or trial (internment), to conduct searches and, arrests without Warrant, and to impose curfews. The rather crude mass-arrests and sweep searches of internment, introduced in 1971 under this act, contrast markedly with the ideal of precise intelligence and police work embodied in criminalization. The act effectively suspends the right of habeas corpus, allowing individuals to be arrested without warrant and held indefinitely without trial.

Unionist politicians traditionally invoked internment to suppress republicans in the north. Its use by unionists in August 1971 was an act of desperation driven by the newly formed Provisional IRA’s sporadic attacks on the Army and by the outdated intelligence files of the RUG. Internment caused widespread unrest and alienated large portions of the Catholic community.27 Indiscriminate and sectarian (detaining more than 2,000 Catholics but only one Protestant between August 1971 and December 1972), internment was everything criminalization is meant not to be.28 Such a broad based tactic can unite the population and paramilitaries in a war against the government.


In a move to further “criminalize” internal security, the government scuttled internment in 1975 and instituted Diplock courts. Lord Diplock’s commission first recommended trial without jury for those accused of terrorist (scheduled) offenses because juries could be intimidated by paramilitaries or biased by sectarian prejudice, precluding a fair trial.29 The Diplock recommendations, codified in The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1973, included not only jury-less trials but also restrictions on bail, wider powers for arrest and detention, and expanded authority to search and seize.

Diplock courts lend an air of extra legality, and thus controversy, to the judicial system. Witnesses were less forthcoming as they became the targets of intimidation, increasing pressure on the authorities to extract confessions. This pressure, plus the extended period granted for holding suspects on remand, encouraged the abuses in interrogation mentioned earlier.


Complicating this situation is the use of the “supergrass,” or informer, to obtain evidence.30 Frustrated by the Provisional IRA’s cell system, the security forces use convicted terrorists to obtain names of accomplices. “Grasses” are given freedom, new identities, and different homes to discourage retaliation.31 In 1982 and 1983, fifty-eight convictions were obtained on the basis of super-grass testimony, with charges against another eighty-two defendants dropped after withdrawal of testimony. As of January 1984, 202 individuals were being held on the basis of informants’ statements.32 That this tactic has yielded so many names and convictions is an indication of the incompleteness of the IRA’s move to a classic cell structure.

The super-grass system, combined with Diplock courts, means individuals are convicted without a jury on the basis of uncorroborated evidence, a policy again necessitated by insufficient intelligence and hard evidence to convict terrorists. It puts a strain on the legal system of a society already burdened by injustice and extra legal means, and it demonstrates poignantly the need for solid intelligence and police work. Paddy McGrory, a criminal solicitor in Belfast, emphasizes this point:

A system of criminal justice must be kept as pure as is humanly possible. it is in the public interest to do so, more than it is in the public interest merely to secure conviction for crime. Because we live in terrible times, it is necessary not to dilute the protection of the individual against the state apparatus but to strengthen it.33


The move to criminalization was well underway by 1976. Special legislation, Diplock courts, and conscious efforts at due process had replaced internment; the RUC had been reorganized and revitalized; Yet, in that year, criminalization sparked the hunger strikes: a series of protests that brought the policy its sternest test, marked the resurgence of Sinn Fein, arid increased political polarization.

In 1972, before criminalization, William Whitelaw, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, acceded to demands for specida category status by loyalist and republican prisoners on hunger strike.34 The right to associate freely, be segregated from “ordinary” criminals, wear civilian clothing, refuse work details, and receive unlimited mail gave these prisoners what amounted to political status. They achieved freedom within the prison and respectability without. Recognized as a mistake from both a political and a security standpoint, this policy was revoked in March 1976 on recommendation of the Gardiner Committee.35 Republican prisoners began the “blanket protests,” refusing to wear prison clothing, and eventually fouling their cell walls with. excrement (“dirty protests”), as authorities denied routine privileges.

With Britain holding steadfastly to criminalization, new hunger strikes began in 1980, only to be called off when an apparent agreement was reached in December of that year. Three months later, republican prisoners resumed the strikes; citing government treachery. Twenty-two prisoners, beginning their strikes at intervals to create maximum pressure on the government, fasted in the next six months. It became a test of wills over criminalization, the British government refusing demands for what amounted to political status for the prisoners. Ten strikers starved to death, including Bobby Sands, who was elected a member of the British Parliament while on strike.

The strikes were abandoned in the face of government intransigence, The British government had won, keeping intact its polity of criminalization; yet the victory brought costs. The deaths initially galvanized both local and worldwide public opinion, bringing attention to the Irish problem. More than twenty-three nations sent television crews, with American networks alone assigning sixteen. Over 400 journalists were present. It was, for the IRA and Sinn Fein, a propaganda coup. The Times of London reported, “General European impression ranges from pigheaded Thatcher obstinacy, through scandalous misgovernment to outright genocide.” From opinion surveys, the Times concluded, “the hunger strikes have rekindled a flagging interest in Ulster and its problems; as a result, world opinion has begun to shift away from the British government and in favor of the IRA.”36 The strikes initially increased contributions to NORAID (the Irish National Northern Aid Committee, an American fundraising organization) and other IRA support organizations, although this effect decreased over time. (Americans have become less sympathetic to IRA violence, conceivably as a result of their own increasing vulnerability to terrorist tactics worldwide.)

However, long term effects of the hunger strikes remain. While preserving criminalization and the security track, Britain set in motion events which further polarized the community and stymied political initiatives. The hunger strikes marked the beginning of Sinn Fein’s unexpected political rise. The support among the nationalist Catholic population for this party’s radical republican politics has made any accommodation with the Protestant population exceedingly difficult. And an accommodation is what the British need, to give Catholics a stake in the province, encourage moderation, bring a rejection of the paramilitaries, and achieve eventual political rapprochement between communities.


Since the hunger strikes, Provisional Sinn Fein has made steady gains among the Catholic nationalist population. The community support for violence that these gains suggest (taking power with an “Armalite in one hand and ballot box in the other”) raises enormous security concerns, for it indicates an abundant sea in which the guerrilla fish may swim.37 British authorities maintain that the resurgence is based on intimidation and “personation” (vote fraud).38 In reality, Sinn Fein has seized on popular issues and public disenchantment, outflanking the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and threatening to erode that group’s core of nationalist support.

This trend was reinforced by Britain’s unenthusiastic response and Unionists’ hostility to the 1984 New Ireland Forum report, upon which the SDLP had staked its prestige.39 This report acknowledged, “Political action is urgently required to halt disillusionment with democratic politics and the slide toward further violence.”40

Yet politics in Northern Ireland is polarized and growing more so. The two communities face each other over a seemingly intractable gulf of suspicion and mutual recrimination. Political parties desire a “clear cut victory.” Loyalists insist on majority rule and are unsympathetic to a nationalist minority they believe is disloyal and hostile to the existence of Northern Ireland. They see any accommodation with Catholic (and in their eyes, republican) elements as the first step to reunification and the disappearance of their own distinct religious, social, and cultural identity.41 The Northern Ireland Constitution Act of 1973, the British government’s unilateral guarantee that Northern Ireland should remain a part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority desires, impedes a solution. It has not sufficiently reassured loyalists of British resolve, but has allowed and encouraged loyalist intransigence. Britain simply has no leverage.

Catholics will have no part of majority rule. It has not in the past protected their rights. Certainly, they don’t all desire reunification; a 1981 Economist poll found that 58 percent favored either integration or federalism.42 Only an initiative guaranteeing Catholics security and equal status with Protestants is acceptable. The options for achieving those guarantees are varied.

Reunification. The ultimate goal of the Provisional IRA and other republican groups, such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and the SDLP, is reunification. Reunification covers a continuum of options, running from, at one extreme, a 32 county unitary state is governed by one government in Dublin to, at the other, a North-South confederation ruled from Dublin, with wide local powers for a loyalist assembly. Because this option would mean withdrawal of the British Army, it would require some consensus to prevent widespread violence.

Suggestions for a unitary state ignore the political realities that brought partition in the first place. Loyalist intransigence has not diminished, and Protestants, given Britain’s guarantee to respect the will of the majority, can veto any constitutional initiative suggesting reunification, They also have a practical veto, demonstrated by the Ulster Worker’s Council strike of 1974 that helped torpedo the Sunningdale (power sharing) executive. Northern Catholics, who enjoy considerable economic benefits as British citizens, are not even fully committed to reunification. Yet their increased electoral support for Sinn Fein may indicate a radicalizing trend, wrought by fatigue over the endless wrangling and lack of political progress.

Publicly, the South supports reunification with loyalist consent. Yet, privately, the Irish Republic has been less than enthusiastic, given estimates it would require 350 pounds per year from every Irish citizen to match the current British subvention to Northern Ireland.43 Absorbing a hostile Protestant and radicalized Catholic population ‘is an overwhelming prospect. Yet Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald recognizes the threat to stability presented by an increasingly radical Irish Republican Army and is eager for a political settlement that will undercut its support.44

Independence. Another settlement option is independence for Northern Ireland. This initiative, designed to outflank loyalists and republicans mired in a Violent stalemate, hinges on both communities’ recognition of the uniqueness of the Northern Irish, whether Pro testant or Catholic. Its attractiveness lies in the required sacrifice by both communities of their patron states: republicans, Ireland, and loyalists, Britain A new constitution and bill of rights would protect all citizens.

The problems for an independent state would be enormous. Economically, it would not be viable without large amounts of outside aid., Living standards would drop drastically and government subsidized industries would falter, only increasing the current 21 percent unemployment rate. Catholics would almost certainly oppose a unilateral declaration of independence as a return to Stormont rule, which clearly is less palatable than direct rule by Britain. Most important, this initiative would be unacceptable to republicans, raising the possibility of civil war first between paramilitaries, and ultimately involving the whole population.

Re-partition. Re-partition has also been suggested, as if republicans can be removed with surgical precision from the new province. Unfortunately, nowhere is the population neatly divided, so re-partition would not likely remove recalcitrants nor solve the sectarian differences. One approach is to offer resettlement grants to republicans, resulting in a larger proportion of loyalists in Northern Ireland and, theoretically, excluding from the province those who do not at least give tacit recognition to its legitimacy. Re-partition, in all likelihood, would result in violence.

Devolution. Another option is devolution, a restoration of some control to local politicians and institutions in the province Of the various possible forms of devolution, one is a return to pre-1972 Stormont rule, in which the prime minister and his cabinet are chosen from the majority party, presumably the Unionists; Stormont would be responsible for the internal affairs of the province, with Britain taking care of external matters. In all likelihood, this course would mean a hard line approach to security. Given the abuses of Unionist regimes of the past, Catholics are opposed to this solution.

Another variation of devolution is Protestant-Catholic power sharing, in which the minority are represented at every level of government to guarantee their civil rights; In a Sunday Times poll, 53 percent of Protestants and 77 percent of Catholics supported power sharing in principle.45 The mechanism by which to implement it is more elusive. The rule of the majority is compromised by concessions to the minority, a fact particularly galling to loyalists who see Catholics as disloyal. Moreover, power sharing has failed in the past. The Sunningdale “executive” was doomed by Protestants’ suspicion of the South and fears for their own security.

In fact, criminalization and its reliance on the RUC for security demonstrates the concept of devolution and power sharing in practice: the ideal of impartial local forces maintaining security for both communities. That Catholics frequently do not see the RUC as impartial demonstrates the difficulty of power sharing in a society where the two sides are: so bitterly at odds. One attraction of devolution is the possibility that, when again given responsibility for local affairs, some of the participants might become more conciliatory and pragmatic. The zero sum mentality might give way to compromise as the two sides mature in the exercise of power.

Integration. A less likely option, which would make Northern Ireland as much a part of the United Kingdom as portions of mainland Britain, is integration. It would anger republicans by ignoring the “Irishness” of the province and would not solve the terrorism problem. Some loyalists oppose its denial of regional autonomy. It in fact would reverse the normal British policy of granting some autonomy and local government to minority nationalists such as the Scots and the Welsh. Britain, wishing to extricate itself from the problems of the province, would be unlikely to want to assume more responsibility. Integration proposals ignore reality as much as the proposal for a unitary state.

Joint Authority. The concept of joint authority, raised by the Forum report, advocates equal responsibility for Dublin and London in the governing of Northern Ireland. Loyalists retain their link to Britain while nationalists maintain theirrish identity. Such a proposal offers a wealth of options, including trade cooperation, joint citizenship, and collaboration in energy development, agriculture, tourism, and security. Already, Ireland and the province cooperate in cross border security, yet, the full range of possibilities has been only partially explored. Dublin’s rapid extradition of INLA gunman Dominic McGlinchey to the province suggested the Republic’s renewed willingness to cooperate.46 Although politically sensitive, proposals include joint interrogation by the RUC and Garda, cross border hot pursuit, joint Diplock courts for terrorist offenses, and possibly joint patrolling of Catholic neighborhoods.47

Joint authority is a risky proposition, though one that could as easily incite violence as quell it. Loyalists prefer the ideal of Unionist rule from Stormont and a crushing of recalcitrant republicans, while republican paramilitaries have not been unwilling to kill Catholics, particularly those associated with the British regime, in pursuing their goal of one Ireland.48 Joint patrolling could bring Southerners and Northerners into violent confrontation; The political payoff for success is high, yet the Republic’s politicians must weigh the likely reaction in their country as Irish policemen and soldiers begin to die in the North.

The variations of joint authority are as endless as the possibilities. One such variation is the new Anglo-Irish accord, signed in November 1985, which is perhaps the most important political initiative in the province since 1921. The agreement, ratified in Belfast’s Hillsborough Castle by Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, established an Intergovernmental Conference, chaired jointly by the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland and the Republic’s minister for foreign affairs.

Staffed by a permanent secretariat of civil servants from both the Republic and Britain, the Conference will provide a consultative role for Irish civil servants in administering Northern Ireland’s security, political, economic, cultural, and legal affairs. The agreement seeks to promote cross border cooperation.49 More deeply, while the Republic has recognized the legitimacy of Northern Ireland (though still not formally in its constitution), Britain has acknowledged the minority nationalist communities’ ties to the South, agreeing to confer with the Republic on all matters affecting minority Catholics in the province. By this agreement, Britain has reaffirmed to loyalists that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority desires.

In security matters, the agreement appears to reduce the authority of the Ulster Defence Regiment, calling for a police presence in all dealings with the community, thus affirming police primacy. Irish civil servants, meanwhile, would be allowed to express views on the composition and activities of the security forces. Also discussed is a code of conduct for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and armed forces, requiring an even handed approach to both loyalist and nationalist identities and traditions. In return, the Republic promises increased cross border security cooperation.

In judicial matters, efforts will be made to restore nationalists’ confidence in the administration of justice. Attempts will be made to harmonize criminal law in the North and South, and possibly to create mixed courts for the trial of certain offenses. For the present, no changes to Diplock courts or emergency legislation are contemplated. In addition, the Republic has signed the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, while the British seem ready to repeal the Flags and Emblems Act, which prohibits the flying of the Republic’s flag in the province.50

The Intergovernmental (or Ministerial) Conference is “intended to mean something more than consultation and something less than involvement in executive action or decision-making.”51 Differences are to be resolved by consensus, the gamut of means running from consultation to an informal joint authority over Northern Irish affairs. The United States is expected to buttress this agreement with a “mini Marshall Plan” of nearly $250 million in aid.52 This aid would include direct financial assistance and incentives for Us investment.

The agreement represents a bold gamble by both countries to break a deadly stalemate, and reverses Mrs. Thatcher’s hard line rejection of joint authority in September 1984. The initiative outflanks the rival factions in Northern Ireland, intending to induce Unionists to cooperate in power-sharing with the SDLP. Any powers that are devolved and shared between the two communities will cease to be under the jurisdiction of the Anglo-Irish Conference. In the words of one observer, “Unless the Protestant community can agree to a power sharing devolution formula acceptable to Catholics, the rights of the minority community will be represented at the direct rule table by southern politicians and officials.”53 A process which internal arrangements have been unable to establish is being imposed externally.

The South’s position in the fifteen months of secret negotiations leading to the agreement was to persuade Britain that until the Republic has a role in the governing of minority Catholics, there would be no end to Catholic alienation from the existing government and the security and judicial structures. Implicit in acceptance of this fact is an acknowledgment by Britain of the discrimination which has continued to alienate Catholics and increase support for republican paramilitaries.

The agreement hopes to bring an end to nationalist alienation, with the effect of improving security, reducing the influence of Sinn Fein and the support for paramilitaries, strengthening moderates like the SDLP, and ultimately establishing political institutions which allow the two communities to work together on the basis of equality and peace. Thatcher claims the arrangement was signed “to defeat the men of violence and to bring peace and stability. . . . We shall do everything to make it succeed. . . .”54

To unionist eyes, the agreement is a sellout, an attempt to allow administration of the province by British and Southern Irish representatives. Britain apparently has rejected the traditional unionist premise that the Republic is a hostile foreign power, in favor of the view that it is, in fact, a viable partner in any solution.

While various forms of these settlement options have been under discussion since 1969, both the violence and the internal security operation it has necessitated have continued. Criminalization contains the violence, while political initiatives give hope for a solution that will end it. If, indeed, the rise of Sinn Fein is relatively sustained, bringing with it the reactionary views of the loyalist population, then a peaceful solution becomes more elusive, and the threat confronting the security forces looms larger. Widespread violence, born of frustration and a rejection of moderate means, could mean an end to criminalization and a return to a society policed by soldiers.


Carefully examined, the conflict in Northern Ireland reveals certain patterns which are important in understanding Britain’s latest attempt at internal security. One such pattern is that Britain is so deeply mired in the “troubles” of Northrn Ireland that it is frustrated in its efforts to play honest broker between republicans and loyalists.55 Another inescapable configuration is the deep antagonism between the two populations, who have never been able to reconcile their conflicting identities. Indeed, the most visible designs in the historical milieu appear to be the implacable opposition of the forces of republicanism and loyalism, and the suspicion in which Britain is held by both groups. That concessions, granted in the past to alleviate the deprivation of Catholics in Ireland, have not quelled nationalist aspirations is also true. The dream of a united Ireland has survived repression, reform, apathy, and the weight of years.

The Irish character is the product of invading Celts, Gaels, Vikings, and Normans being assimilated by the native population, which first settled in Ireland around 6000 B.C.56 This blending of peoples, the introduction of Christianity in the fifth century, and a golden age of art contributed to Irish pride, tradition, and culture distinct from any others in Europe.


In 1171, Henry II, jealous of independent Irish barons, successfully established a feudal system which allowed his Anglo-Norman barons to seize Irish land and drive out the native Gaelic aristocracy. Britain’s colonization of Ireland had begun. British influence predominated near Dublin, remaining largely ineffective elsewhere. Other distractions kept Britain from asserting its authority, and gradually the intermarriage of Anglo-Normans and Gaels created an Anglo-Irish aristocracy merged with an Irish cultural identity.

Two events, however Britain transformation into a modern nation state and the Reformation fostered the rise of an alien population in Ireland. Britain’s evolution from a semi-autonomous feudal state had enormous implications for Ireland. The creation of a sophisticated bureaucracy, deployment of a large, relatively well armed standing army, and the resulting ability to collect taxes and effectively administer colonies made the Tudor and Stuart conquests of Ireland unprecedented in their scope, reaching well beyond the Dublin pale of the twelfth century.57

The Reformation helped motivate these conquests. It had social and political implications far beyond the obvious religious ones, representing a time of tremendous societal upheaval. Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses transformed religious codes, shook political foundations, and encouraged sovereigns to reject Papal authority and seize power over their secular affairs. Those revolting against the Church embraced Protestantism, some not solely for its religious principles but for political advantages as well.

As one result of the Reformation, a political and religious cleavage appeared between the newly Protestant countries of Britain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia and the Catholic countries of Ireland, Spain, France, and Italy. England’s Tudor dynasty feared an alliance of Catholic Ireland with either Spain or France, and use of Ireland by these powerful political military rivals as an invasion platform against England’s budding Protestantism. Consequently, Britain began a systematic colonization of Ireland.

The power of the centralized nation state, coupled with the zeal of the Reformation, led to increasing British intrusion into Irish affairs. It also introduced the passions of religious fervor into English-Irish relations. An Irish rebellion in 1534 was crushed, and by 1583, Elizabeth I had installed a system of military governors to control over three-quarters of Ireland. British fears of a Spanish invasion were eased somewhat by Drake’s 1588 defeat of the Armada, but in 1598, Ulster, one of four ancient Irish provinces, sparked a revolt throughout Ireland. The rising lasted five years, with Spain aiding the rebels. Britain’s subsequent victory brought the whole of Ireland under its control.

In 1609, James I, faced with a periodically rebellious province, implemented a system of plantations in Ulster to instill loyalty, eliminating the need and expense of garrisoning troops. Land was taken from recalcitrant Catholic natives and given to Scottish Presbyterians. These landlords in turn brought in Scottish and English colonists, encouraging the unsponsored immigration of additional Scots who introduced Protestantism on a mass scale.58 The native Irish were displaced to the worst and most infertile land, with some remaining as laborers for the new tenant farmers. A foreign presence, with different culture, language, laws, and customs, prospered. Within Gaelic Ireland two distinct identities, one Catholic and Irish, the other Protestant and British, existed side by side.


During the reign of Charles I, when civil war threatened Britain, Irish republicans set a pattern they were to follow numerous times through history to rebel when Britain was weakened by internal or external crisis. A revolt began in Dungannon, Charlemont, and Newry in 1641. Protestants fled into fortified towns, claiming Catholic atrocities. Cromwell, brought to power by the execution of Charles I, invaded Ireland in 1649, intent on subjugating the dissident natives and protecting the Protestant loyalists. Cromwell killed thousands of Irishmen and established concentration camps for priests. By 1652, 504,000 of Ireland’s 1.5 million people a third of the population had been killed and 100,000 deported.59

More Irish land was confiscated and given to British soldiers, further solidifying Protestant control and the loyalist link to Britain. Those Irish remaining were left the poorest farmland, suitable only for subsistence living. The memory of Cromwell and English cruelty cuts deeply through Irish history.

Protestant fears of Church domination and “Rome-rule” arose again in 1685 when James II sought to reestablish Catholicism in England, raising the hopes of beleaguered Irish Catholics. James was deposed by the Protestant William of Orange and fled to Ireland to fight for his throne. In 1690, Irish hopes were crushed with James’ defeat at the Battle of the Boyne.60

A series of Penal Laws excluding Catholics from voting, holding office, carrying firearms, or receiving an education followed. These laws also forbade inheriting by primogeniture, thus causing Catholic estates to fragment.61 This discrimination alienated Catholics and, in fact, set another pattern in Irish history that of a vicious circle of discrimination, Catholic hostility, and renewed Protestant resolve to hold the repressed majority in check.

Gradually, Protestants began to assume an Irish identity, distinct from their mainland heritage. The American Revolution inspired Irish republicans, both Protestant and Catholic. Protestant landlords, perceiving economic exploitation and high tariffs, demanded and ; received greater autonomy for the Dublin Parliament from a preoccupied Britain in 1782. The dissatisfaction lingered, however, until the French Revolution inspired the Protestant, Wolfe Tone, to unsuccessfully demand a break with Britain, Catholic emancipation, and parliamentary reform.62 Ironically, Irish republicanism had been invigorated by Protestant radicals.

Britain strengthened its control with the Act of Union of 1800, imposing direct rule and including Ireland in the newly created United Kingdom. The republican movement now faced a formidable obstacle, that of empire. British politicians were to resist any threatened dissolution of the new status quo.

Between 1823 and 1829, Catholics petitioned London for political liberties. As Catholics won the right to vote and hold seats in Parliament, some of the ills began to be redressed. Emancipation was granted in 1829. Attempting to narrow the wide economic gulf between landlord and tenant, Prime Minister Gladstone introduced further reform with the 1870 Land Act. Subsequent land acts made significant reform, so that between 1903 and 1920, 9 million of Ireland’s 22 million total acres were transferred from landlord to tenant, reversing many of the English seizures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.63 Yet reform did not bring peace, just as it has not in the more recent “troubles.” Abuses by absentee landlords and stubborn Irish nationalism kept the island in unrest.


Anti-British feeling was intensified by the potato crop failures, the first of which occurred in 1845. In four years of famine, one million Irish died and one million emigrated. From 1841 to 1851 the Irish population decreased from 8.2 million to 5 million. 64 In this same period, wheat, barley, cattle, sheep, and pigs continued to be exported to Britain. The famines marked the Irish character, embittering nationalists and intensifying opposition to British rule. In 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood formed, forerunner to the Irish Republican Army.

While famine further impoverished rural Catholics, industrialization, particularly in shipbuilding, rope spinning, and linen weaving, was bringing prosperity to heavily Protestant urban areas in the north. Catholics came north for jobs. The economic gulf widened political and religious differences, as Catholic motions for repeal of the Act of Union went unsupported by more prosperous Ulster Protestants. Resentful Catholics swelled republican ranks. Each wave of nationalism was met with a Protestant backlash and deepening segregation.


Confronting this republican, primarily Catholic population that affirmed its nationalism and right to self determination were the Anglo-Irish Protestants, living predominantly in the ancient nine county province of Ulster. Originally settled under the protection of Britain, they viewed their privileges and even survival as contingent on the continuing link to the crown. So, though they had evolved an Irish identity, they steadfastly maintained their Britishness.

By removing the Dublin Parliament, the Act of Union in 1800 further linked loyalists’ fate to British goodwill. Protestant sacrifice sought to guarantee continued British protection. In World War I, during the Battle of the Somme, the 36th (Ulster) Division suffered 5,500 troops killed or wounded in only the first two days of fighting. During World War II, Belfast supplied troops, built ships and aircraft, and sent nearly all its antiaircraft guns for the defense of Britain. Spring 1940 saw German air raids reach Belfast, killing 942 people and damaging 56,000 homes.65 In return for their commitment, loyalists expect British support and brook no hints to the contrary. It is a “conditional” loyalism, which is fervently supportive of any British government that endorses the status quo and avidly rebellious against those which do not. The home rule debate of 1912 spawned the 100,000 strong Ulster Volunteer Force, which threatened armed resistance to any weakening of British ties. Although home rule passed in 1914, this threat of resistance demonstrated the potential veto power of loyalists, and helped ensure eventual partition.


The Orange Order has also contributed to sectarianism. Formed in 1795 into lodges to defend Protestant privilege, the Orange Order is synonymous with fundamentalist Protestantism and the Unionist Party. So entrenched did the Order become in Northern Irish society that by the early twentieth century, two-thirds of adult male Protestants Were members. This hierarchy of orders, layered throughout Ulster life, overcame even class identity, providing a bond between laborers and white collar Protestants.

This pervasive interest group affected both education and employment. The Education Act of 1923 guaranteed a Protestant flavor to schooling. This legislation, coupled with the Catholic Church’s insistence on private education, created segregated schools and diminished prospects for inter-community understanding and accommodation. Political leaders and prominent citizens, who coincidentally were also Orangemen, could use influence and rhetoric to secure jobs for Protestants.66 In times of depression and high unemployment, this practice caused great hardship and unrest among Catholics.


Republicanism, like loyalism, escalated sharply in the early twentieth century. Sinn Fein (which means, Ourselves), formed in 1905, sought Irish independence. James Connolly organized labor and formed the Citizen’s Army. The nationalists (Iri3h Republican Brotherhood) and the socialists (Citizen’s Army) united in the Easter Rising of 1916, proclaiming “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefensible.” The British overwhelmed the insurgents. Jeered on the way to prison by citizens of Dublin, the rebels became nationalist martyrs after several were executed. The modern republican struggle was born.

By 1919, Michael Collins had formed the Irish Republican Army and begun a classic guerrilla campaign against the British Black and Tans, leading in 1921 to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This treaty established dominion status for the overwhelmingly Catholic southern twenty-six counties, while Protestants in the north vetoed a united Ireland, choosing to retain their link to Britain in a six county partition that gave them a 2 to 1 majority over Catholics.67 Each Ireland had its own Parliament, linked by Common Council to administer the island until the two sides could settle their differences. Ulster’s locally elected Parliament retained representation at Westminster. In the South, Collins accepted dominion status, conceding the necessity of economic and political ties to Britain. He judged the North would prove economically un-viable and ultimately join the South. Britain also considered the partition a short term expedient. Both governments underestimated the resolve of loyalists. The division has proven to be an inherently unstable, enormous political liability.

Irregulars, led by Eamon de Valera, condemned partition and continued the IRA struggle for one Ireland. The Free State enacted harsh emergency measures, including special military courts with power to enact the death penalty. In six months of civil war, there were nearly twice as many executions as had occurred between 1916 and 1921 under British rule.68 Overwhelming Free State superiority and lack of popular support for the Irregulars led to their defeat in 1923, removing any effective opposition to the new border, though the IRA fought on sporadically for its goal.

De Valera ultimately rejected violence, forming the Fianna Fail Party, which came to power in 1932. By 1949, the Republic had become a reality. An economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s brought prosperity to Ireland. As the Republic’s agriculture and industry became tied to Britain’s, there was considerable political and financial liability in supporting the IRA. The IRA campaign of 1956-62 folded principally because de Valera instituted, in conjunction with the North, internment of IRA men. .9T he South has demonstrated, since its inception, its willingness to combat internal threats posed by republicans.


Following the 1921 partition, loyalists solidified control in the North. Determined to retain their identity, they never agreed to anything other than a permanent division. Failing to achieve full integration with Britain, loyalists set about establishing tight political control of the province through the Unionist Party and Orange Order. Though a majority in Ulster, they feared becoming a minority within a larger Ireland. This fear remains a major factor in the “troubles,” amounting to a near siege mentality among some Protestants.

Perceiving Catholics within the North as fundamentally disloyal, loyalists began abuses in employment, housing, and elections, further alienating Catholics and making the view that Catholics were disloyal a self fulfilling prophecy.70 Catholics worsened the situation by first refusing to take seats in Stormont, then declining to contest elections in a state they deemed illegitimate. These actions confirmed Protestant suspicions of disloyalty. while the Catholics’ political impotence made the Protestants insensitive to any hint of reform.71

Declines in major industries, such as linen, shipbuilding, and tourism, have made unemployment in Northern Ireland consistently the highest in the United Kingdom, leading some to point to deprivation as the cause of violence. Working class Protestants have suffered with Catholics; yet they hold a disproportionate share of jobs, leaving the Catholic community particularly bedeviled.72 The province since 1921 has been heavily subsidized by Britain, developing into a welfare state distinctly different from the Republic.73 This social reality complicates the political differences between North and South and makes reunification more difficult.


Reforms in the North did improve the status of some Catholics in the 1950s and early 1960s, creating a substantial middle class. Yet in February 1967, old frustration led to the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Calling for one man, one vote in local elections, this movement sought an end to discrimination, a more equitable housing allocation, and repeal of the Special Powers Act.74 Gradually, it attracted student leftist and nationalist elements.75 Though initially a peaceful movement, rising Catholic expectations, student agitation, and reactionary Protestantism combined to produce violence. The Ulster Volunteer Force emerged in 1966, bombing and terrorizing Catholics, while the Ulster Constitutional Defence Committee preached anti-Catholic sentinent among the working class. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was inadequate in numbers, equipment, or sophistication to quell disturbances, and violence spread.76

In August 1969, rioting erupted in Derry and Belfast, with Protestants assaulting Catholic areas.77 Protestant “B Specials,” part of the RUC, were implicated in some of the attacks.78 Catholics barricaded themselves in “no-go” areas, from which they excluded security forces and the Protestant population. The Unionists in Stormont, overwhelmed by the level of violence, called on London for assistance. The British Army reinforced its normal garrison, swelling it to 8,000 troops by Fall 1969.79 The battle for internal security had begun.


Placing Britain’s internal security operation in perspective requires describing the various actors it must deal with. (See appendix B for capsule descriptions.) First are its primary antagonists, the republican, paramilitaries (Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army) and their loyalist counterparts (Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Freedom Force).80 These organizations provide the greatest challenge to law and order and inhibit any return to normalcy in Northern Ireland.

To achieve political accommodation in the province, the second track of its internal security plan, Britain must deal with political actors that are as much a challenge as the paramilitaries. Most important of these are the Unionist Parties, both Official and Democratic (loyalist), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (nationalist), and Sinn Fein (republican). Beside these actors within Northern Ireland, there is the Irish Republic, which could be the key to any political solution. For the half-million Catholics of the province, the South represents a state within whose borders they would be a protected majority. Yet to loyalists, Ireland epitomizes religious intolerance and backwardness, a world in which they, not the Catholics, would be a disadvantaged minority.81 It is the Republic’s initiatives and willingness to compromise that are the unknown variables in what until now has been Britain’s insoluble problem.


Britain’s major military antagonists are the republican and loyalist paramilitary organizations, which have been nurtured since the late 1960s in the violence and disruption of the province. In terms of known terrorist activity, republicans constitute the biggest threat (see append D). The most important of these republican groups, in tenacity and level of violence, is the Provisionals, formed in December 1969 as the result of disagreement over the future direction of the IRA.82

Following its 1962 defeat, the IRA disarmed and embraced political action designed to prepare the working classes for revolution. Though not formally active in the civil rights movement, the IRA supported the movement’s goals as a means of bridging the divide between working class Protestants and Catholics, who would form the basis of its new All Ireland Socialist Republic. Consistent with this new political, orientation, the IRA broke the long tradition of “abstentionism,” backing the candidacy of Bernadette Devlin in the Westminster parliamentary elections of 1969.83 More traditional members disagreed with this increasingly political orientation and with policies that had left Catholics unarmed and under attack from the Protestant backlash to the civil rights movement. This violence convinced dissidents within the IRA of the need for armed resistance. In December 1969, the Provisionals formed, embracing armed struggle, while the Officials, misreading the mood of the population, continued their predominantly Marxist political track, an ideology essentially alien to the Irish.84

Goals. The Provisionals view the conflict in Northern Ireland as an anti-colonial war, designed to drive Britain from the province. They state their aims in An Phoblacht as,

to end foreign rule in,1reland; to establish a 32 county Democratic Socialist Republic based on the Proclamation of 1916, to restore the Irish language and culture to a position, of strength, and to promote a social order based on justice and Christian principles which will give everyone a just share of the fnation’s wealth.85

Painting their struggle in such stark terms has great advantages for the Provisionals. It casts them as legitimate heirs of the long and honored republican tradition, encouraging support from the Irish population and from the Irish-American, community. The simplicity of this goal also attracts volunteers from a population frustrated by poverty and discrimination. It ignores, however, the enormous problem of integrating one million loyalists who want nothing of a 32 county Republic and are, in fact, the real impediment to any solution.

Loyalists judge the removal of Britain’s Army and economic interests and the disbanding of the RUC and UDR as tantamount to their own elimination. The Provisionals sidestep this issue. They believe that since Ireland is the victim of British colonialism, the sectarian division can only disappear in an island united and free of Britain. Ironically, it is the sectarian conflict which sustains the Provisionals, for the IRA is guaranteed support as long as Catholics believe that Protestants wish to attack them and that security forces are tools of loyalist repression,

The Catholic population provides the IRA with an ample supply of volunteers. Marked by despair, many of these people are, in the words of one author, “damaged by unemployment, by the long years they spent in confinement, by the sheer hopelessness of their vision of life in Belfast.”86 As demonstrated by the hunger strikers in 1981, they possess elements of “true believers.”87 These individuals contend that by destroying property and attacking the security forces they can make the province ungovernable, sap the will of the British government and public, and provoke extreme countermeasures that will further alienate the Catholic community from existing institutions, It is a strategy with precedents. The Zionist Irgun’s campaign in Palestine prompted a British withdrawal from an area occupied by two irreconcilable groups.88 Yet the key difference is that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, a fact that has until now motivated Britain to remain despite casualties, a steady economic drain, and majority mainland opinion to the contrary.

Development. This latest and longest campaign, begun in 1969, is a contest of will between the IRA and the security forces and British government. Following their split from the Officials, the Provisionals spent the greater part of 1970 gathering weapons and training. Sweep searches and arms seizures by the security forces, designed to disrupt this activity, prompted an aggressive bombing campaign by the IRA to drive the security forces from Provo strongholds and create economic pressure by destroying commercial property. This opening offensive, which included car bombs in crowded shopping districts, resulted inevitably in civilian deaths, some by design, others by accident because of technical incompetence.89

Though potentially damaging to their support, these IRA actions actually succeeded in provoking the frustrated British Army into confrontation with the Catholic population. Provo snipers hammered home this wedge between the army and the population, and internment cemented it, as thousands of Catholics were rounded up and held without charge or trial. “Bloody Sundays and the deaths of thirteen Catholic demonstrators at the hands of British paratroopers in Derry marked a low point in community relations. The IRA’s subsequent reprisal against thirteen soldiers was accepted by the Catholic community in the face of British violence. Security policies only confirmed Catholics’ perception of government injustice and the need for the IRA.

The Stormont government’s inability to deal with the mounting turmoil led to the suspension of the Unionist administration in 1972. Rule now came directly from Westminster through a secretary of state for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, who de-emphasized military confrontation in favor of political tactics. Whitelaw arranged a series of short lived truces with the IRA, which sparked indiscriminate killings of Catholics by loyalist paramilitaries angered by the negotiations. The Provisionals response in kind led to a dramatic rise in sectarian murders.

Political reforms proceeded with the Constitutional Act of 1973; which created a Northern Irish Assembly and Executive (Sunningdale) and institutionalized power sharing between Protestants and Catholics. Representation was mandated for minority parties, marking the first time a group other than the Unionists had a role in governing. To mollify Unionist opinion, Britain reiterated its guarantee that Northern Ireland would remain linked to the United Kingdom as long as the majority desired such a link. Extremists from both sides including the IRA refused to support the reforms, and a Protestant led strike precipitated the collapse of the Executive and an end to this brief home rule.

This rapidly evolving British policy created fresh challenges for the IRA. The proposed break-up of Protestant hegemony and the possibility of power sharing for Catholics meant that the minority community had a legitimate opportunity for political representation and a serious alternative to violence, through moderate groups like the SDLP. In addition, British recognition of the economic deprivation that contributed to the overall problem resulted in attempts to revitalize the crippled economy, endangering an IRA strategy that had relied almost exclusively on force and ignored the pressing needs of the population.

At the same time, the British Army’s lower profile through criminalization, and improved tactics and intelligence, removed some of the irritants within the community, eroding support for the Provisionals. The British seem also to concede “an acceptable level of violence.” As Max Hastings observed at the time, “In effect the British officials are saying that four or five deaths a week for the next decade are politically less alarming than the several hundred deaths that might well take place in a matter of months if the British government attempted to impose any drastic solution on Ulster.”90 The British Army was in Northern Ireland to stay, a dispiriting realization for the IRA.

Reorganization. The Provisionals, recognizing that these initiatives could undercut their movement, reorganized in 1977 along two distinct lines. They first articulated the “long way,” conceding that their struggle to drive the British from Ireland would take decades. This admission, and the effectiveness of British infiltration of their organization, prompted a revamping of the more traditional but vulnerable brigade and battalion army structure. The result was a reorganization into four or five man tells (active service units) responsible first to local commands and ultimately to an autonomous Northern Command centered in Belfast.

The use of cells has had profound consequences. Their greater efficiency dropped active IRA membership from perhaps 1,500-2,000 volunteers to a hard core force of around 300, supported by as many as 3,000 active sympathizers.91 While allowing greater selectivity in recruiting, this reduced contact with the population has not seered4o damage the IRA’s popularity. But the reorganization has created problems for both sides. Nearly autonomous cells tend to operate independently of the Belfast central command, resulting in politically embarrassing incidents like the Harrod’s bombing at Christmas 1983 (for which the IRA apologized). This diminished control also introduces a degree of unpredictability that makes prevention by the security forces even more difficult

Coupled with the Provisionals’ proclamation of the “long way” and the use of cells, the second line of reorganization in 1977 was the creation of an “open” IRA to pursue the political struggle and to offer people an alternative to violence. Funds now must be used not only fbr arms but also for Provisional Sinn Fein, which, since the hunger strikes, has gained dramatically in electoral strength among the Catholic community at the expense of the more moderate SDLP.92 This shift by the Provisionals to a political front is not without risks. The Official IRA suffered two separate revolts because of its political orientation, first in 1969 with the formation of the Provisionals, and again in 1975 with the defection of the Irish National Liberation Army. Some militant Provo members have joined the more violent INLA, though not in significant numbers.

This reorganization into cells and adoption of an open political front, master minded by Gerry Adams and the more radical Belfast faction of the IRA, demonstrates a flexibility and political sophistication that can only alarm the security forces.

Targets. In the 1970s, the Provisionals became involved in bitter factional rivalry with the Officials and the INLA, and engaged in sectarian war prompted by Protestant paramilitary attacks on Catholics. Since then, however, the trend has been to resist these impulses and instead to attack, the security forces. This approach has reduced civilian casualties and lowered the level of violence in the province.

The Provisionals now focus on four principal targets.93 One is off duty security forces, principally, members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Ulster Constabulary.94 These “soft targets” are poorly defended and extremely susceptible to attack, consequently putting the Provos at less risk. In March 1985, police Sergeant Hugh McCormac was shot to death by a lone gunman as he went to Mass in Enniskillen. Killings have included even former security men, only magnifying security personnel’s vulnerabilities and the advantages of the IRA.

On duty security forces constitute the second target. Policemen responding to staged domestic disturbances have been gunned down. Even police patrols with Army escorts have come under fire, the gunmen escaping in waiting cars. Command-detonated bombs killed eighteen soldiers at Warrenpoint in 1979, the most successful IRA attack to date. The “trigger-men” were believed to be across the border in the Republic, safe from hot pursuit.

Prominent government officials are a third target. Examples of these selective assassination attempts are the December 1983 shooting of Official Unionist Party Assembly member Edgar Graham at Queen’s University and the near fatal wounding of Magistrate Thomas Travers in March 1984.

Finally, commercial life and the normal routine of the population and the security forces are targets for disruption through bomb and incendiary attacks.95 In October 1985, 300 pounds of explosives loaded in a van injured thirty people and wrecked three buildings on Castle Street, a main thoroughfare in Derry.96 Hoax devices can achieve exactly the same police response without expending resources. A suspicious package left in front of a post office disrupts traffic for over an hour while bomb disposal experts check for explosives.

Bombings have not been restricted to the province. The “Birmingham Pub Bombing” in 1974 inspired passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, an attempt by Britain to keep the violence of Northern Ireland within =the province. The rationale for IRA attacks on the mainland is the desire to bring the “troubles” home to the British and create disillusionment among British citizens. The Regents Park bombing of bandsmen and the nail bomb attack on the Queen’s Horse Guard in Hyde-Park, the work of one active service unit, prompted worldwide press coverage and British revulsion. In the words of a Scotland Yard detective inspector, “One death in London is worth twenty in Belfast.”97

Armament. To attack these targets, the IRA uses an array of weapons. Its armament has included American made Armalite rifles, M-1 carbines, the M-3 grease-gun, M-60 and Browning machineguns, Remington Woodmaster sniping rifles and Soviet Kalashnikovs (AK-47s), SAM-7s, and RPG-7s (rocket-propelled grenades).98 In September 1984, the IRA’s most ambitious gun running attempt in ten years was spoiled by Irish authorities who seized 160 weapons, including three Browning heavy machine-guns with 1,000 rounds of armor piercing ammunition and 71,000 rounds of rifle and handgun ammunition bound for Ireland from the United States.99

The IRA’s bomb making expertise, second to none in the world, further magnifies the challenge to security forces. A four tier group of volunteers designs, produces, and plants the explosives. Tactical experts determine where, when, and why a device is to be deployed. Scientists and electronic engineers (“backroom boys”) operating in the Republic then design the needed equipment for lab technicians, who actually construct the devices. Finally, mechanics plant and initiate the bombs (the hazards involved making these individuals the only expendable portion of the chain).

The devices range from sophisticated to deadly simple, including culvert, incendiary, and petrol bombs with mercury-tilt, pressure-pad, remote-controlled, and command-wire detonators.100 Strict British controls on explosives have forced use of home made materials such as ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, and ammonium nitrate and nitro benzine (‘Annie”). Even a simple one-gallon petrol bomb can unleash a fireball fifteen feet in diameter. These devices have deadly effect. Blast incendiary devices killed the soldiers at Warrenpoint in August 1979. In February 1985, the IRA, using home made Mark 10 mortars, attacked the Newry RUG station, killing nine and wounding thirty-seven, the costliest blow to the RUC since the “troubles” began.101

Funding. For the Provisionals to pursue their military and political strategy, the British Army estimated 1985 IRA expenditures of 3 million pounds.102 Thene funds come from various sources, including bank and post office robberies, rackets, “front” organizations (like the Falls Taxi Association), protection money from West Belfast businessmen, and oversea contributions (especially from NORAID).103 Bank robberies in Northern Ireland netted 300,000 pounds in 1983.104 The Sunday Times of London estimated the proceeds of bar and casino rackets to be 500,000 to 750,000 pounds a year, while a syndicate of pubs turns a profit of 300,000 pounds a year.105 In February 1985, Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald seized the equivalent of over $1.6 million in suspected IRA bank assets thought to have been obtained through racketeering and ransom demands.106

Intimidation. The criminal aspect of the Provisionals’ activity is something strongly denied by Sinn Fein, for it suggests the possibility of coercion in place of a movement with purely popular support. In fact, support of the IRA is both genuine and coerced, opinions of the actual ratios naturally varying between IRA spokesmen and the security forces. Allegations of IRA intimidation are widespread. Certainly, the organization touches the lives of many, particularly those in urban areas.

In a society in which the police have only marginal influence, and that backed by a large escort of soldiers, ample opportunity exists for criminal activities. Both loyalist and republican groups have resorted to punishment of lawbreakers within their populations. Civil Administration (Provo justice) metes out punishment to residents engaged in criminal activity like armed robbery, “joy-riding,” and breaking and entering. Knee-capping, hooding, and tar-and-feathering serve as means of vigilante justice and coercive control.107

Foreign Links. Assertions abound that the IRA is linked with foreign terrorist organizations. At best, these links are tenuous, although evidence suggests some IRA men have received military and political training in Libya, South Yemen, and Lebanon. The Palestine Liberation Organization has broken its arms link with the IRA in return for recognition of its cause by Dublin and the European Economic Community, while ties with Mohammar Qadaffi, broken in 1975, could be restored. Qadaffi expressed a willingness to renew contact after Britain severed diplomatic relations with Libya in May 1984 in response to the killing of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher by Libyan diplomats in London.

Undoubtedly, the Provisional IRA is the biggest obstacle to Britain’s internal security operation in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the best assessment of its strength came from Brigadier James Glover, in then secret Document 37, which stated,

The Provisional IRA has the dedication and the sinews of war to raise violence intermittently to at least the level of 1978, certainly for the foreseeable future…. Any peace will be superficial and brittle. A new campaign may well erupt in the years ahead.

Of the IRA’s 300,odd members, he said,

evidence…. does not support the view that they are merely mindless hooligans drawn from the unemployed and unemployable. The Provisional IRA now trains and uses its members with some care. The Active Service Units (ASUs) are for the most part manned by terrorists tempered by up to ten years operational service.108

Years after this was written, the Provisional IRA, dedicated to the “long way” of driving out the British, continues the struggle.


Small in numbers (perhaps fifty members), the Irish National Liberation Army was formed in 1975, the result of a bloody split from the Official IRA. Its Marxist ideology distinguishes it from the more traditional Provisionals, while its extreme violence demonstrates its members’ dissatisfaction with the political goals of both IRA wings. Their radicalism awes even the Provos, who call them “wild-men.” The INLA was responsible for the murder of Airey Neave on the grounds of Parliament in April 1979, using a mercury-tilt detonated car bomb.

The INLA, which is traditionally financed by bank and post office robberies in the Republic, is increasingly using a Provisional tactic: extortion of businessmen in West Belfast.109 The demand for already scarce funds threatens to bring direct conflict with the Provos, who are suffering from a drop in American donations, police success in infiltration, and the cost of their political effort. Other evidence suggests that the two groups operate at cross purposes. Before the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in 1982, the INLA seriously wounded a 61 year old headmaster and former member of the UDR, bombed the headquarters of the Official Unionist Party in Belfast, and attempted a bomb attack on OUP leader James Molyneaux, leading to speculation that the INLA’s violence was an, attempt to damage Sinn Fein’s performance at the polls.110

The INLA also has a political arm, the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), which aims its appeal at the Protestant and Catholic working class population. The IRSP claims the sectarian divide is deliberately provoked by Britain in a traditional policy of “divide and rule.” The Party has attracted little support, yet it effectively prevents any further moderation by Provos afraid of being outflanked. Because the INLA espouses worldwide revolution, it has more contacts abroad than the Provisionals, including links with groups in West Germany, Holland, and Italy.


The loyalist paramilitaries the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) are almost exclusively right-wing reactionary groups. They all oppose a united Ireland or any weakening of loyalist prerogative. These groups follow the tradition of armed resistance that resulted from the home rule debate of 1912-14. Then, the enemy was the British Army; today, it is the republican paramilitaries and occasionally innocent Catholics.

Ulster Defence Association. The UDA (membership, 10,000) is a legal organization of primarily working-class Protestants, formed in 1969.111 Like Provisional Sinn Fein, it has escaped proscription by not claiming responsibility for violent acts. It describes itself as a counter-terrorist organization and has in recent years operated as a “moderating” loyalist force, sponsoring political activity through the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party.112 Possessing not only military strength, but political and commercial might as well, the UDA is the best financed, organized, And armed of the loyalist paramilitaries. Somewhat discredited by gangsterism and racketeering, it has a criminal element as pervasive and as troublesome to the RUC as the Provisionals. Like all the paramilitary groups, it has also been troubled by internecine feuding.

The shock of the Hillsborough Agreement in November 1985 pushed the relatively moderate UDA into calls for possible large scale paramilitary actions in the province. A bank robbery in South Antrim to secure funds presages events to come, as the RUG braces for a new and more violent UDA strategy to undermine the agreement.113 The UDA is by no means united in this new strategy, with some members believing the accord will fall under just the weight of legal loyalist opposition.

Ulster Freedom Fighters. Formed in June 1973 with the intent of combating the IRA and defending loyalist areas, the UFF is considered to be the UDA’s “terrorist proxy.” Guilty of sectarian killings, it becomes most active in times of high tension such as followed the hunger strikes in 1981. This was the group that was responsible for the abortive attempt on the life of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in April 1984. The UFF has vowed to assassinate members of the new Anglo-Irish Secretariat, any collaborators with the Hillsborough Agreement, and Southern Irish who venture into the province.114

Ulster Volunteer Force. Constituted in 1966, the UVF also has proven active in sectarian killings. Its effectiveness in the mid-seventies persuaded the Provisionals to suspend attacks against off duty UDR personnel in return for an end to UVF car bombings and assassinations. Decimated by supergrass testimony, the group pledges even more violence.

Both the UDA and UVF have established authority over certain city districts by sponsoring “people’s taxis” that compete with public transportation. In the early seventies, they came into direct conflict with security forces after creating “no-go” areas in imitation of the Provisionals. Because they have claimed responsibility for assassinations, the UVF and UFF are illegal in Northern Ireland.

Although all too adept at criminal activity, loyalist groups are generally disorganized on the political and military front. The Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party’s (UDA’s) lobby for an independent Northern Ireland has generated little enthusiasm. Selling its “side” to the world has been a mixed success, a fact admitted by UDA leadership. Certainly, it does not engender the sort of foreign support enjoyed by the Provisional IRA.

Poorly armed with mostly handguns, the loyalists are ill equipped tactically and logistically to defeat the IRA. A conscious effort is being made to redress this imbalance by forming an “Ulster Defence Force” designed for a “doomsday situation” sparked by British Army withdrawal. This force could resist British government efforts to force loyalists into a united Ireland. This attempt also demonstrates the reactive nature of loyalist paramilitaries, who subside into periods of quiet when they are satisfied the security forces are successfully limiting the republicans.115 The loyalists are willing to attack the security forces, the UDA actually declaring war on the British Army in 1972. A unified, radicalized loyalist population would seriously threaten the security forces and bring anarchy to the province.


Although the paramilitaries present the greatest threat to British attempts at limiting violence in the province, it is the absence of a political solution that keeps the pot boiling in Northern Ireland. Successful initiatives start and end with the major political players the political parties in Northern Ireland, and the Irish Republic. The principal parties in Northern Ireland are the Official and Democratic Unionist Parties representing the majority of loyalists, the Social Democratic and Labour Party of relatively moderate nationalists, and Sinn Fein composed of the republicans.

Unionist Democratic and Official. The Unionist Party’s monolithic rule lasted until 1969, when its coalition was strained by the civil rights movement. The in-built majority, enhanced by bloc voting among Protestants, the simple plurality electoral system, and gerrymandering, meant that for nearly fifty years Unionists were firmly in control of government in Stormont and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain had effectively opted out of any restraining political influence by granting home rule and virtual autonomy to the Unionist government. This complete control of political power in the province made Unionists increasingly insensitive to nationalist sentiment or the Catholic vote.

Growing unrest, culminating in the civil rights movement in 1968, led to a split between Brian Faulkner’s more liberal Unionists, willing to grant minimal reforms, and hard-liners led by Ian Paisley, who demanded no concessions. Paisley shrewdly exploited the attitudes of working-class Protestants, who resented and feared concessions to Catholics. Deprived themselves by chronic unemployment and a declining economy, these Protestants took solace in their status above Catholics. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), formed in 1971, is based largely on the charismatic personality of Paisley, who combines fundamentalist Protestantism, anti-Catholicism, and uncompromising calls for Protestant supremacy to rally support. He reflects the anomaly of the word “loyalist,” on the one hand “being more British than the British,” and on the other threatening the violence of a “third force” against both republicans and the British if there is compromise (“sellout”).116

The force of this constituency and the collapse of the power sharing executive in 1975 further strained Faulkner’s Unionist Party. Today the Official Unionist Party (OUP) is split in opinion, with one lobby seeking home rule untainted by any power sharing, another desiring complete integration into the United Kingdom with greater local government powers for Northern Ireland. The imposition of direct rule from Westminster in 1972 was a considerable defeat for Unionists, as they made the transition from parties in power to opposition parties within Parliament. The Unionists believe they have lost control of their own destiny, and exaggerate this perception by their own in fighting. Despite this difficulty, their near complete ability to rally Protestant support gives the Unionists a potential veto of any political initiative in the province.117

Both James Molyneaux, OUP, and Ian Paisley, DUP, have denounced the Hillsborough Agreement. For the present, they seem committed to resistance within constitutional means. They, along with thirteen other members, resigned their Westminster seats in December 1985, to force a by-election and thereby a referendum by the Northern-Irish on the new accord. Unionists have refused to cooperate with Westminster by withdrawing from local authorities and administrative boards (housing, education, health, and supervisory). They also have vowed a boycott of district councils and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Because the Intergovernmental Conference is deliberative rather than executive, it does not require Northern Irish cooperation as Sunningdale did. Then, the loyalists were divided in their opposition to power sharing, while at present, they seem unanimous in opposition to Hillsborough. However, the loyalists are confronting an intransigent Margaret Thatcher, who faced down the hunger-strikers in 1981 and striking miners in 1984.

Social Democratic and Labour Party. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formed in Summer 1970, was initially nonsectarian, but its advocacy of a united Ireland quickly made it the dominant nationalist party. This organization rejects violence, pursuing goals through political accommodation. The SDLP reached the height of its success in the 1973-74 power sharing agreement it negotiated with Brian Faulkner and the Unionist Party. The collapse of this executive did nothing to tarnish what was a considerable political achievement. Never before had there been so serious an attempt at sharing power with minority Catholics. The relatively conciliatory SDLP revived hope for moderation and a peaceful solution to the “troubles.”

The Party’s success hinges on gauging the mood of the Catholic population. Failure to do so, as demonstrated by their opposition to the hunger strikes in 1981, brings a steady decline of support among the nationalist community. The SDLP rejects the present composition of the UDR because it over represents Protestants, and opposes the loyalist bias of the RUC. Both organizations are perceived to be loyalist tools to “reconquer” Catholic areas. The SDLP instead supports joint authority using Irish troops and police to patrol Catholic areas. The SDLP’s New Ireland Forum, which sought a nonpartisan approach to the problems of Northern Ireland, was boycotted by loyalists and Sinn Fein. Although demonstrating some breakthroughs, the Forum advocated reunification as its primary goal, thus ensuring rejection by loyalists and a chilly reception from Britain. It was a setback the SDLP could ill afford.

The Hillsborough Agreement could possibly pump new life into the SDLP. If it encourages the Unionists to share power, the SDLP will benefit, because Sinn Fein is sure to boycott any such arrangement. If, however, the Agreement further polarizes the community, the SDLP will suffer. They continue to be at odds with Sinn Fein, having refused an appeal for a nationalist-republican alliance in January 1986 by-elections.

Sinn Fein. The apparent political winner when the SDLP falters is Provisional Sinn Fein. A result of the open IRA strategy pursued with reorganization in 1977, Sinn Fein benefited greatly from the hunger strikes, which polarized public opinion and revitalized sympathy for nationalist aims. Capitalizing on apparent dissatisfaction among Catholics, Sinn Fein has steadily built its support.118 This radicalizing phenomenon has alarmed Northern-Irish, British, and-Irish politicians and is a major impetus behind-the Hillsborough Agreement.

Sinn Fein’s appeal is carefully cultivated at the grassroots level. Sinn Fein Advice Centers in West Belfast take complaints on broken plumbing, welfare problems, or vandalism to government authorities whose agencies are characteristically slow to respond because of violence in low income areas and bureaucratic inertia.119 If, indeed, Sinn Fein’s support has peaked at 90000 to 100,000 votes, as some observers suggest, the status quo is again secure. If, however, Sinn Fein continues its growth, the province faces the prospect of even more volatility and polarization. Sinn Fein has condemned the Hillsborough Agreement as a betrayal of the cause of Irish unity. Future elections will test the strength of this position and signify whether the nationalist population is continuing the drift to extremism or reversing toward moderation. Protestant violence prompted by Hillsborough will, at least initially, benefit Sinn Fein.


The Irish Republic’s relationship to the “troubles” in Northern Ireland has never been clear to Britain, to the province, or even Ireland itself. The British usually have relegatedthe South to a role directed by geography; soliciting assistance only in the extradition of terrorists or in border security, largely ignoring the Republic in the wider context of possible political contributions. Considering the “troubles” to be strictly internal, Britain has resisted Ireland’s efforts to raise the issue in the United Nations. Loyalists point to the Republic as a socially backward, religiously homogeneous nation that would absorb and eradicate their culture and tradition.120 Ireland’s ability to secularize its legislation and guarantee the rights of Protestants, along with the identification of one-half million Northern Irish Catholics, gives the South a potentially strong hand in any solution.121 However, the Republic in large measure has failed to come to terms with the realities of Northern Ireland, the result of a schizophrenic personality that calls on the one hand for a unitary 32 county state, while on the other evincing disinterest in what has become a socially and politically distinct six counties.

This on again off again attitude is based on the contradictions that emerged in;the South following the Black and Tan War and the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The history of, first, the Free State and, then, the Republic is one of compromise. The history of the IRA is one of intransigence. Collins, in 1921, recognized the cost of continuing the war, the reality of overwhelming British military superiority, and the enormous difficulty of including the Protestant dominated counties of the north in the deal. His pragmatism created the Free State. De Valera also deserted the IRA for the peaceful, politics of gradualism. The legacy of compromise was independence and prosperity for the majority of the island. Southern Irish came to accept the reality of two Irelands.

Stability, capital investment, and tourism solidified the dream of nationalism for three and a half million of the island’s five million inhabitants.122

But while Ireland has accepted. reality, the IRA has refused any vision short of a 32 county Republic free of British influence. Its bitter defeat in 1923 and the failure of subsequent campaigns leave the IRA opposed to both North and South. What is compromise to the South is co-optation to hard core republicans. Ireland can contemplate only with mixed satisfaction the absorption of an economically prostrate six counties with their radicalized Catholic population Arid one million hostile Protestants, particularly considering the Republic’s currently precarious economic situation. Ireland’s punt has halved in value against the dollar in five years. Its per capita foreign debt is three times that of Mexico, having risen from $161 million in 1970 to $8 billion (half the Irish GNP) in 1984.123 Also, for Ireland, the prospect of endorsing a terrorist movement whose ultimate aim is to dissolve not only the government of the North but that of the South as well poses a curious dilemma.

Yet, given the ideological split from hard core republicans, the reality of 26 county independence, and the enormous political and economic burdens to be shouldered with unification, there is still an attraction to a 32 county unitary state. The Republic’s 1937 Constitution states, “the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland.” Many in the South sympathize with Catholics living in a province they never wanted.

Though the IRA encountered internment during its 1956-62 campaign, the South’s attitude changed significantly when the IRA became protectors of the embattled Northern Catholics following the civil rights movement. Protestant hostility prompted overt and covert financial support from the Dublin government and business community.124 Illegal arms shipments arranged by Irish politicians created a government crisis in 1970.

Support again waned for the Provisionals following their bombing campaigns in Britain and the Republic and their sectarian killings of the mid-seventies. These events prompted antiterrorist legislation by Dublin that is as tough as or tougher than Britain’s. Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act prohibits interviews or even naming of members of proscribed organizations. Additionally, Special Criminal Courts, instituted in 1972 under the 1939 Offences Against the State Act, provide for a panel of three judges to deliberate without jury in terrorism cases. Following the IRA attack on the Newry RUC station in 1985, Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald pledged that his security forces would hunt for the attackers, who were presumed to have fled to the Republic.

Ireland recognizes the dangers of an increasingly radical IRA supported even conditionally by Northern Irish Catholics. The popular surge of Provisional Sinn Fein has convinced FitzGerald of the need to act. Yet political squabbling compromised the New Ireland Forum, while Thatcher claimed at the November 1984 Anglo-Irish summit that she did not want Irish unity. Irish nationalists were frustrated that Britain did not seem to grasp the peril of inaction.

The Hillsborough Agreement one year later seemed to suggest that Margaret Thatcher had transformed from a “passivist” to an “activist” in Irish affairs. The FitzGerald government made a strong effort to convince the British that a new initiative on Northern Ireland was critical. Its arguments centered on nationalist alienation from state institutions and the dangers that condition posed in terms of instability and violence to both North and South. The Anglo-Irish accord gives nationalists significantly less than they wanted in the New Ireland Forum, yet the Irish Dail (Parliament) passed the accord with a comfortable majority. An Irish Times poll showed 59 percent of the Republic approved the Hillsborough Agreement, 29 percent disapproved.125 The agreement demonstrates that the Republic has recognized the need to act, and that Britain has conceded the South a role in any future solution.


Statistics compiled by the RUC send mixed signals on the success oi internal security in the province. (See appendix D.) Deaths have declined, particularly since 1977 when police primacy took effect. Also, the proportion of civilians killed has dropped since the onset of the “troubles.” This smaller proportion of civilian deaths is probably attributable to improved security force personnel and tactics, fewer breakdowns in law and order (riots), and a turn away from sectarian killings by paramilitaries, with renewed emphasis on confrontations with security forces. (The proportion of security force deaths has increased since the early days.) Though police primacy took effect in 1977, the ratio of RUC deaths to Army deaths still has fluctuated widely. Certainly, regardless of criminalization, the British Army and the UDR are paying dearly for their involvement.

It does not take long on a visit to Northern Ireland to see that any gains have come with significant costs. It is true that improved intelligence, more thorough searches, a specially adapted set of laws and courts, and an overwhelming presence of soldiers and police have driven the terrorists underground, forcing them to be satisfied with pulling the occasional ace from the deck a brief victory, followed again by quiet. Yet, although the paramilitary threat seems frequently remote, the response it has produced is everywhere.

Jeeps routinely traverse Malone Road carrying British Army or UDR personnel to still another patrol of West Belfast. The soldiers in the rear are covered; only an SLR (special light rifle) pokes out the back. Bomb scares in the city center regularly reroute traffic and disrupt bus schedules, as no amount of law enforcement can stop hoaxes. The city center is still cordoned off by metal fences; searchers man entrances looking for bombs or weapons. Old men in shops and bookstores frisk patrons for incendiary devices. In West Belfast, Army patrols supporting the police fan through the streets, suspicious of everyone. It is urban warfare.

Does internal security work? It limits the violence, yet I see three problems with internal security as presently constituted. The first is with the very assumption upon which Britain bases its strategy. Sectarian differences are not a complicating irritant in an otherwise normal society. They are at the very core of the dilemma, an outgrowth of two conflicting nationalities that refuse to be reconciled. A second question arises concerning criminalization, the basis of security force operations. Republican and loyalist prisoners are not ordinary criminals, nor are they considered such by their respective populations. They are the products of an intractable division between republicans unwilling to live under British rule and loyalists adamantly opposed to life in a united Ireland. A third problem with internal security is that finding a political’solution (the key to Britain’s entire plan) hinges on a movement among the population toward a moderate position, when in fact polarization is the present trend.


The assumption upon which criminalization is based that Northern Ireland possesses a serious crime problem, complicated by sctarian violence is wrong. More accurately, much of the crime is a direct result of the sectarian hatred that is created by the collision of two nationalities. The viciousness of “tit-for-tat” murders in the mid-1970s based on a victim’s religious beliefs underscores the intense hatred which surfaces from time to time.126 Seamus, a waiter from West Belfast, was twelve years old during the period of thtse random killings. H. remembers, “I walked down the street and wet my pants, afraid a car would drive up. My mother went crazy worrying.”

Whole communities have reconstituted on strictly religious lines. Within Belfast and Derry, “tribal maps” depict Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods down to specific streets. Lines are drawn by fear and intimidation. Paul, a twenty-eight year old Catholic, recalls,

I lived in East Belfast and Protestant gangs would stop me on the way home. They’d ask me my name, or where I was from, or ask me to say a prayer I didn’t know. I was beaten five times before I left. To this day I haven’t a Protestant friend.

From 1969 to 1973, 60,000 people in the province moved from their homes, some as part of government redevelopment schemes, others burnt out by mobs or intimidated by threats. This constituted the largest population displacement in Europe since World War II.127

Sectarianism is a division transcending religion, a gap between societies filled with misunderstanding of one another. Strict sectarian education inhibits understanding. Protestants go to public schools, Catholics to parochial. Mixed marriages are nearly taboo. Even in sports, Protestants tend toward soccer and rugby, Catholics play hurling and Gaelic football, Pauline, an executive secretary, says,

You know Divis [a housing area that you always hear Catholics complaining about? Well in Ballymacarrett [a Protestant community] the flats are as nice as the day they were built, with little gardens and the people caring for them. I don’t know how these people think. They call the Housing Executive to report their sewer’s blocked. And what have they done but put ashes, and rubbish, and food down the toilet just so they can complain. They have no education. There’s no solution. This will last forever.

Conflicting national aspirations heighten sectarianism. Catholics desire majority status in a united Ireland. Protestants wish to retain the status they enjoy in Northern Ireland. John McMichael, deputy head of the Ulster Defence Association, says,

How can I say this without sounding like a bigot? We must maintain our identity. At one time the population of the Republic was 11 percent Protestant. Now it’s only 3 percent because of intermarriage and Catholic birthrates. In a united Ireland we’ll disappear as a people.128

As loyalists demonstrated for nearly fifty years, sectarianism is spawned by the innate need of groups not only to survive but to dominate. Sectarian violence and prejudice exist throughout the society, as do social, economic, and cultural differences, all parts of the political question of how to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable communities.


The second difficulty inherent in Britain’s internal security operation is the attempt to criminalize activity that is considered legitimate by large portions of the Protestant and Catholic populations. Britain has attempted to make a potentially embarrassing use of force palatable to public opinion, demonstrating their democratic underpinnings by battling crime with police and legislation, a modified criminal justice system, and the appearance of compromise. Criminalization is a policy that does not come to grips with the core issues that spawn the violence in Ireland. It is a strategy filled with logic but little wisdom, for it ignores that what is criminal activity to the strong the loyalist majority in Northern Ireland, and the British government and people is acceptable and justifiable to the Catholic minority who be] ieve the British government that represents them does not understand.

Generic criminalization, stamped on Ireland like some cookie cutter, neglects the deep historical, social, economic, religious, and cultural strains in Northern Ireland. It is blind to the deep rooted sectarian hatred and insensitive to the centuries of violence. The following quotation from a Belfast newspaper suggests the timelessness of the conflict:

[T]he streets around Millfield, the Pound, Shankhill Road, and Falls Road were in a state of utter desolation ….everywhere pavements were torn up. In some streets barricades were erected and shops boarded up against attack. In every street which bordered on the Catholic and Protestant districts, pickets of armed police and soldiers stood guard….129

That was Belfast in 1872.

Britain is not even consistent. in judging terrorists as criminals. The debate over political status for republican and loyalist prisoners dates at least to the Easter Rising. Apparently, the 1976 decision to revoke “special category” status granted in 1972 marked an end to official waffling on the issue, yet ambiguity remains despite Prime Minister Thatcher’s adamant refusal to admit it. The state already has implicitly acknowledged that terrorists are not ordinary criminals by arresting them under special powers and trying them in Diplock courts on the basis of uncorroborated evidence.130

Ignoring the political dimensions of these crimes only invites protests like the hunger strikes, which, more than any other event in recent Northern Irish history, polarized Irish society. Stating that these men are criminals may be politically necessary. It is not, however, believed by the minority population. Fifty thousand people attended Bobby Sands’ funeral. Nine men followed him to death, refusing to submit to the government’s will The hunger strike, an honored and traditional form of protest against British rule, began with Terence MacSwiney, who, in 1920, became the first republican to choose starvation.131 As incomprehensible as they might be to those untouched by the “troubles,” the hunger strikes symbolize the prolonged and intense dissatisfaction of men absolutely convinced of the illegitimacy of British rule.

A curious ambiguity and moral ambivalence pervades Britain’s policy of criminalization. Sinn Fein and the UDA are legal in Northern Ireland because they do not take direct responsibility for violence; yet under Britain’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, Sinn Feiners like Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison, who walk the streets of Belfast, are considered terrorists by Britain and excluded from the mainland. Britain’s policy does not ring true. It becomes a game of words and legalisms; people rightly wonder what the government believes.

Having defined republican and loyalist prisoners as criminals, the government takes great pains to suggest that the Catholic and, Protestant populations are coerced into grudging support for paramilitaries. If only a wedge could be driven between the two, then society could function normally.The society, though, is-not normal and can not be made so by imposing a template upon it. Criminalization ignores the active and willing support given paramilitaries by the Catholic and Protestant populations. The Rome correspondent for the Sunday Times of London reported during the hunger strikes that

television coverage of the’ hunger-strikers’ funerals had brought home to many Italians the fact that the IRA was not the Ulster equivalent of the Red Brigade terrorists. No Red Brigade terrorist could make an appearance in public like the IRA men did at the hunger strikers’ funerals. For many Italians, the sight of those hooded gunmen bearing forbidden arms parading before television cameras in front of the whole world, relying on the protection of the crowd, meant that the writing was on the wall for the British in Ulster.132

Admittedly, some support is coerced, particularly for the rackets and other proliferating illegal activity. Yet Document 37, the Glover Intelligence Appraisal, stated in 1978,

There are still areas within the province, both rural and urban where the terrorists can base themselves with littie risk of betrayal and can count on active support in emergency.133

The success of the security forces, and of criminalization, hinges on their being accepted by the Catholic population. Yet Catholics distrust Protestants and, ultimately, the security forces whose purpose is to defend a state Catholics reject. Although great strides are made with community projects (RUC sponsored dances and playgrounds), they are seriously set back by breakdowns in police discipline like the August 1984 attack on a crowd gathered to hear NORAID activist Martin Galvin speak outside Sinn Fein headquarters. With a plastic bullet, the police shot and killed a man in full view of television cameras. Catholics perceive such acts, no matter how they are justified, as proof of the security forces’ hostility.

Although it is more selective in its recruitment than the disbanded B-Specials, the Ulster Defence Regiment still is overwhelmingly Protestant (less than 3 percent Catholic) and regarded by some Catholics as a Protestant “third force” designed to repress. In the words of a cab driver speaking after my friend and I were stopped and searched in West Belfast by a UDR patrol, “Now they’re UDR. Off-duty they’re UDA or UVF [Protestant paramilitaries].” Some truth underlies his belief. Seven UDR members were charged in the murder of a Catholic, Adrian Carroll, in November 1983. In another investiga tion centering on two towns, Armagh and Ballymena, thirteen active or former UDR members were charged in one three-month period in 1984 with terrorist offenses, including sectarian murder of Catholics.

Perceptions, however they are based, are important. In Spring 1984, three policemen charged with the murder of suspected turrorists were acquitted, raising an uproar in the Catholic community over an alieged “shoot-to-kill” policy. In rendering his decision, the judge publicly stated that the police were “absolutely blameless,” and praised their determination and courage “in bringing the three deceased men to justice, in this case to the final courts of Justice.” This prompted the American Consul General, Samuel Bartlett, to state,

a most important point is made yet again. . . . It is not enough that justice be done, it must be seen to be done. Many believe that the latter is not the case here, especially amiong the constitutional, nationalist cornmunity.134

The nationalist minority will support the Provisional IRA as long as they perceive the security forces and courts to be Anti-Catholic.

The British government must walk a fine line between communities. Its attempts at even handedness bring loud loyalist accusation and Protestant violence such as followed the unsuccessful Galvin arrest in August 1984. Attempts to increase Catholic representation in the security forces are frustrated by peer pressure within thecommunities. Police who do win the respect and confidence of their neighborhoods become potential targets of IRA violence. Ardent republicans base the legitimacy of this violence on the British presence in Northern Ireland. This attitude trickles downfand is held with widely varying degrees of intensity by Catholics, the most moderate of whom see the British Army as a necessary evil and a check on loyalist extremists. Policies and officiaL pronouncements cannot deny that, no matter how abhorrent its violence, the IRA carries with it the weight of Irish history and, like the Protestant paramilitaries, wraps itself in popular legitimacy.


A third difficulty with the British internal security program is that a political solution depends on a move ment among the population towardzmoderation, when, in fact, polarization is the present trend. The unexpected rise in the political fortune of Provisional Sinn Fein is perhaps the most telling blow to the internal security operation in Northern Ireland. Britain’s rationale for legalizing Sinn Fein and and other extremist parties is the hope that violence will diminish as these groups become part of the legal process aid moderate their behavior. In fact, Sinn Fein has successfully resisted this process, instead drawing the population to its radical republicanism. Danny Morrison states, “Not everyone can plant a bomb, but they can plant a vote.”

Sinn Fein is careful not to be outflanked by extremists like the Irish National Liberation Army Though internal strains with the IRA’s political route exist, they appear slight.135 Meanwhile, the SDLP increasingly is perceived as out of touch with the nationalist community, and Britain’s rejection of the SDLP’s New Ireland Forum report Weakened thePatty further, Moderate republicans question what the SDLP can offer or deliver.

Sinn Fein’s electoral success has heightenedloyalist extremism. The UDA’s leadership, which in recent years had become more moderate, seems to be abandoning its “wait and see” attitude. Andy Tyrie UDA leader, states, “It’s all right talking about compromise, but we can’t compromise, every move we make in the sense of compromise is a step nearer a united ireland.”136 His lieutenant, John McMichael, believes the UDA must “get down to the nuts and bolts of preparing the Ulster Protestant community for a head-on collision to decide whether in fact it will survive as a people on this island.” George Seawright of the Democratic Unionist Party believes that “provisionalism,” as represented by Sinn Fein and the IRA, is a radicalizing phenomenon that will force civil war. Provisionalism, he claims, demands

quite clearly that there can be no real accommodation for Protestants or for a people who wish to live as a separate entity on this island. . .and there is a. . . hard core from areas 1ike the Shankhill Road and East Belfast who Will fight a united Ireland to the death.138

A political solution within the province will be exceedingly difficult because of Sinn Fein’s success. Neither the Forum nor the Assembly attracted the opposing camp. These structures never truly came to grips with the political problems of Northern Ireland. The Forum’s recognition of the loyalists’ Britishness and Protestanism, and the province’s economic link to Britain, represented progress. Yet its preferred solution of creating a 32 county unitary state ignored the realities that brought partition in the first place. The Official Unionist Party’s “Way-Forward” document acknowledged the cultural and ethnic differences between communities and advised movement toward a political solution. Although that is a more moderate position than the DUPs insistence on a return to Stormont and the old status quo, it has not resulted in compromise. By boycotting the Assembly, the nationalists also squandered a means of establishing common ground.

Loyalists distrust the Republic and Britain, meting out wrath to both; Prime Minister FitzGerald’s March 1984 address to a joint session of the US Congress, urging a political solution to the troubles, was blasted by the Unionist daily, Newsletter: “Politicians in the south have continued to devise means by which they can gradually gain control of this province. They cannot win.”139 Northern Ireland’s former secretary of state, James Prior, though excluding the possibility of either a united Ireland or a federated state in a March 1984 address, did not preclude some joint authority. ian Paisley attacked the omission as “treacherous.”140 Britain’s guarantee of no change in the province’s constitutional status without majority consent mollifies some loyalist opposition, yet it also allows loyalist intransigence, delays a solution, and ignores the instability of partition.

Northern Ireland is complex. Loyalists and republicans bitterly oppose one another. They feud internally, and both distrust Britain and Ireland. Ironically enough, they share the same goal at present, which is to make the province ungovernable the loyalists so as to maintain the Union, the IRA to break it.”141

What is one to make of this? Given the problems I have cited, is internal security a failure? No, in the sense that the province has been spared civil war. And given the divide that in itself is an accomplisment. People live their lives and do so rather happily under unusual circumstances.

Though flawed, the general premise of internal security, which is to contain the violence while seeking to cut out the roots of the problem with a political solution, is a good one. Yet on all sides, pride, misunderstandihg, politics, passions seem always to conspire against theory. To solve the puzzle of Northern Ireland will require inordinate patience and an adherence to realities there, a recognition of the enigma in this uniquely Irish setting.

A cause for optimism is the Hillsborough Agreement. It represents, to me, a crucial step by the British. First, Britain is publicly recognizing the unique identities of nationalists and loyalists, and the ties of nationalists to an outside power (Ireland). Second, Britain is confronting the loyalist community, side-stepping their intransigence and attempting to force a compromise. Finally, I believe Hillsborough, despite reassurances to the contrary, is another in a series of British attempts to disengage from the province and ease the parties (by consent) into some form of union with Ireland. This, in my opinion, is the only feasible political solution.

Independence for the North will not work; integration is unacceptable to nearly everyone and Britain cannot countenance the slide into anarchy that will result if something rather dramatic isn’t done in Ulster. Under both the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and the Treaty of 1921, the implicit British assumption was that partition was temporary.142 No State could exist with so large a nationalist minority. Yet the province, thanks to subsidies, an armed police force, and sometimes questionable Unionist polities, did survive until things began to come apart in 1969. Now, half-way measures are no longer enough.

Any change is going to be painful. Loyalist are fragmented on what to do: resigning seats, conductingreferendums, striking. No one seems to suggest Hillsborough can be overturned. It has been signed and ratified by two sovereign countries and filed with the United Nations. The best the loyalists can hope for issome retraction of its provisions, key among them the voice for Ireland in the Intergovernmental Conference, which gives the Republic a say in running the North. They will win some retrenchment, but the new dawning represented by the agreement will stay. Whether it succeeds depends on its effect in cutting IRA violence and on whether loyalists are able to mount an effective challenge. There will be armed confrontations with the security forces. Yet the loyalists, a proud and good people, will recognize reality. They’ll have to compromise, and Britain is going to have to help them along. A friend of mine from the province said, “Things here are going to get very nasty indeed.” Let’s hope not.


The “troubles” of Northern Ireland present a peculiar and intractable problem, one so very human in its poignancy and complexity. One can use labels and descriptions and catalogues, yet the people in Northern Ireland are no more quantifiable than any other. They have been born into the “troubles,” and they either struggle forward or backward for a solution, or else plant their feet, refusing to be moved. Like everyone, they confront evil and goodness daily; their contrasts, however, are generally more stark. They choose in gradations of good and evil. Ultimately, events move everyone along, whether willing or not.

The two communities seem to be sizing one another up in this latest round. The republicans cry that the loyalists are bluffing, that they have no stomach for a fight. The loyalists say, “Wait and see.” Two groups squared off against one another is depressingly familiar Christians and Moslems in Lebanon, Jews and Arabs in Israel, blacks and whites in South Africa. Who else would we fight if we didn’t have one another?

Enter the referee: Britain, the weary arbiter. It has a lot of experience solving thorny issues. In Northern Ireland, it has one of the finest armies in existence: professional, honed by years in the streets of Belfast, the fields of Armagh. Its civil servants are intelligent and sophisticated and know the province. Like all bureaucrats, they don’t always say publicly what they know. The home crowd wants an easy face on problems, so an easy face is what they get. The RUC draws its recruits carefully. They are brave, resourceful, and generally as fine a police force as can be found. In the coming showdown, they’ll need to be. Teamwork with the Army has improved. The slow squeeze has been put on the men of violence.

Why, then, doesn’t this trouble go away? “Stamp out terrorism,” concerned citizens say, as if enough force can eradicate anything. Northern Ireland is living proof to the contrary. Even with overwhelming force, good people, and years of experience, the British government can’t prevent the IRA and the other paramilitaries from keeping the province near boil. It’s a lesson with wide application when we want to wave a wand over Qadaffi or the Middle East or Latin America and make problems disappear or people behave. They won’t. Ask the British. What makes problems disappear is an acceptance of some harsh realities; that lines drawn years ago by politicians, wherever in the world, may not fit the wishes of the people in those areas. Increasingly those people will use violence to make their wishes known. And the world powers better listen or be willing to fight.

Britain apparently has decided to listen; There seems to be less of the black and white, “this is the will of the majority” attitude flying about. The British have recognized there’s a minority nationalist community that must begiven a voice.

Then there’s Ireland. If the Republic wasn’t willing to help before, it is now. And the rest of the players are starting to figure out that they can’t have the whole pie. Loyalists, nationalists, and republicans all are going to have to share and settle.

There is a certain inevitability in Northen Ireland a tidal pull that weighs inexorably, sagging the man made contrivances meant to hold it. Legalisms and legislation and frameworks pale against this force. Sinn Feiners seem to sense this when they tell me they’ll have their way at the end of the day. Loyalists seem to know it too even the ones who won’t admit it. I believe the harsh reality in Northern Ireland is that the province will ultimately revert to its larger whole, subsumed by the land from which it was carved. The province is an artificial contrivance a stillborn infant given life by Britain and sustained by British resources. The infant struggles, yet knows the outcome.

Britain will remain for now. Northern Ireland is part of its legacy. Britain will continue to bleed with the province, not only in treasury money, but also in the incalculable loss of sons and daughters. The trickle will dry up when Ireland is again one a time that is still some distance off into the future.



1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty partitions Ireland. Irish Free State set up, along with separate government in six northern counties where Unionists rule until 1972.
1925 Irish Free State government confirms border.
1931 IRA declared illegal in South.
1939 Brief IRA bombing campaign in UK.
1939-45 South neutral in Second World War.
1949 South becomes full republic.
1956-62 IRA border campaign.
1968 Civil rights marches in North end in violence.
1969 British Army in Derry and Belfast after widespread violence. Westminster pressures for reform. RUC reorganized. B-Specials disbanded.
1971 Internment without trial. Provisional IRA grows in strength.
1972 Edward Heath suspends Stormont, imposes direct Westminster rule.
July: Darlington conference on future political options.
1973 March: White Paper proposes assembly elected by proportional representation.
July: Assembly of 78-members-elected.
November: Stormont agreement on power sharing in North.
December Sunningdale conference agreement on British, Irish, and Northern Irish power-sharing executive.
1974 January: Executive takes office.
May: Executive collapses as Ulster strike paralyzes province. Direct rule reimposed.
1975-76 Constitutional convention. Local parties fail to agree on government.
1977 May: Second loyalist workers’ strike fails.
1980 January. Constitutional conference fails.
December: Haughey-Thatcher summit agrees to “joint studies” on range of topics.
1982 Prior unveils rolling devolution plan.
October: Northern Ireland Assembly of 78 members elected. Boycotted by SDLP.
1983 New Ireland Forum set up in Dublin.
1984 May: New Ireland Forum report suggests a unitary state, confederation, and joint authority.
November: Thatcher rejects all three options. Talks continue.
1985 November: Hillsborough Agreement is signed.

*Adapted from “Long history of violence and intimidation” The Times (London), 15 November 1985, p.5



Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)- Predominantly Catholic in membership, seeks to drive the British from Northemn Ireland and form a 32-county Socialist Republic. Split from the Official IRA in 1969.

Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)-Radical Marxist offshoot of the Official IRA. Though also republican, operates at times in competition with the Provisionals.

Official IRA – Parent to both the Provisionals and INLA, seeks a working-class revolution of both Protestants and Catholics. Has little political or military influence in Northern Ireland.


Ulster Defence Association (UDA) – Protestant working class organization formed in 1969 to counter the growing republican paramilitary threat.

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – Vigilante group formed in 1966 to suppress republicans.

Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) – Another Protestant organization that practices sectarian murder and selective assassination.


Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) – Majority nationalist party, advocates a united Ireland achieved through consent and peaceful means.

Provisional Sinn Fein – Political arm of the IRA, advocates violence to remove the British from Northern Ireland.

Official Unionist Party (OUP) – Original party that remained in power in Northern-Ireland for nearly 50 years before the current “troubles” led to internal splits and eventual direct rule of the province by Britain.

Democratic Unionist Pary (DUP) – More hard line and fundamentalist than the OUP, stridently anti-republican, rejects compromise.


Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) – Northern Ireland’s armed police force. After its collapse and reorganization in 1970 it has steadily taken a greater role in enforcing law and order, assuming primacy in 1977. Predominantly Protestant.

RUC Reserve (RVCR)-Part-timers who serve as auxiliary policemen.

Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) – Reserve component of the British Army made up of recruits from the province, primarily responsible for security check points, guard duty, and patrolling. Overwhelmingly Protestant.

British Army – Garrison battalions of regular British Army soldiers on 2 year tour and rotational units on 4 1/2 month tour from their usual NATO duties.

Garda Siochana – Republic of Ireland’s police force.


Special Branch, Scotland Yard, provides, threat assessments for all requesting British government agencies.144 Located within the Home Office, Special Branch is, in essence, the operating arm of MI5 (Security Service). Its basic organization appears below:

The Protection Squad provides security for government officials, foreign ambassadors and heads of state, and visiting VIPs considered at risk.” The Protection Squad, of course, regularly requests and receives threat assessments based on the intelligence gathered by the three squads in operations. The Irish Squad is responsible for all Irish republican groups (PIRA, INLA); the “Arab” Squad, all political groupings of non British origin (Palestinians, Israelis, Armenians, Libyans); and the “Left-Wing” Squad, all British based groups of both left and right orientations(CND, Trotskyites on the left; National Front, Black Power on the right).145


To provide threat assessments, the Irish Squad monitors intelligence from several sources. First is the republican news, paper, An Phoblacht. It is screened for po1icy statements of the Sinn Fein Executive Committee or Provisional IRA Council.146 The Irish Squad also receives information and threat assessments from the RUC in Northern Ireland, who have a variety of sources of information. The Squad also evaluates recent British government initiatives or policies likely to affect the Irish question, and from these infers possible paramilitary reaction.

Threat assessment is, of course, a continual process, yet an isolated example may illustrate how the various arms interact: The commander of the Police Uniform Branch in Scotland Yard requests a threat assessment of the annual “Trooping the Color” ceremony held, to commemorate the Queen’s birthday. He asks two questions of Special Branch. First, “What is the threat to the ceremony and individuals?” Second, “What is the threat to public order?” (The second question concerns possible demonstrations.) Each squad head is asked to provide an assessment based on his current intelligence and past experience. The head of the “Left Wing” Squad may ask, “What left wing groups have demonstrated in the past at this event?” The Irish Squad determines from RUC sources if any Provisional IRA active service units are reported en route to England, if the political climate is right for an IRA bombing on the mainland, or if the IRA would likely be interested in disrupting the event.

Based on the squads’ evaluations, a composite assessment is formed. The first is a preliminary one, three to four weeks before the event. A final report four to five days before might state, “There is no specific intelligence that this event is at risk from any political group.” If there is a risk or if a demonstration is likely, the head of the squad itemizes and gives details (i.e., 500 people will likely demonstrate). The final composite assessment is given a code number:

1 – a major specific risk
2 – a high threat
3 – a threat level slightly above the general threat
4 – a general threat
5 – subject to less threat than others considered to be at risk

The requesting commander of Police Uniform Branch then determines the amount of coverage needed in terms of uniformed police and support units from other districts, and prepares a contingency plan to brief and guide his units.147

Threat assessment in Scotland Yard contrasts with that performed in Northern Ireland and illustrates a point. Because the scale is so much larger in England with more agencies involved, the collectivist approach used in Northern Ireland is not feasible. Also, the sheer size of England means active service unit, can penetrate from a variety of areas, leaving Scotland Yard somewhat reactive and certainly less practiced than the RUC.

The Christmas 1983 Harrod’s bombing, which killed five people, was preceded by the IRA usual 40 minute warning. However, the Provisionals rang a humanitarian group, the Samaritans, who, unaccustomed to such an event, phoned a Fleet Street newspaper, which in turn passed the information to Scotland Yard. The IRA did not take into account the greater physical size of London or the volumes of traffic – in short, the time needed to react. The result in London was five dead, where in Belfast there would probably have been no loss of life. The attacks on Chelsea Barracks and Marine Commandant Pringle, the Regents and Hyde Park bombings, all by one Provisional IRA active service unit, underscore the vulnerability of England or any other open democratic society to terrorist attack.


Source: Richard Ford, “Road to summit took five years of diplomacy behind the scenes,” The Times (London), 15 November 1985, p. 5.

All quotations not specifically documented are from personal
interviews with residents of Belfast in June 1983 and June 1984.
1. At the first outbreak of violence in 1969, Ireland called for a neutral UN peacekeeping force in the province Britain refused. The situation was and still is consideteda problem purely internal to the UK.
2. Again, British emphasis is on sectarian conflict rather than the more fundamental split between identities suggested by the terms loyalist and republican. The November 1985 Hillsborough Agreement represents a growing and welcome public recognition by the British of the profound ideological split between communities.
3. Simon Jenkins, “The Trouble with Ulster,” the Economist, 2-8 june 1984, p. 39.
4. Up to twenty soldiers, organized in four-man “bricks,” accompany two RUC officers on their beat in West Belfast to protect them against ambush. The soldiers are trained to be aggressive. Their visibility is undesirable given the low key atmosphere required for criminalization.
5. This assessment was made by Brigadier James Glover of
the Defence Intelligence Staff in the formerly secret document, “Northern Ireland: Future Terrorist Trends.”
6. Terrorism is a word that evokes a strong emotional reaction in both supporters and opponents of groups that practice political violence. I view terrorism as a form of warfare that provides numerous advantages to weaker groups in a society. And acknowledging it is warfare provides a starting point for governments to combat it.
7. From an interview and correspondence with the Northern Ireland Office, June 1984 and April 1985.
8. These tracks move independent of one another. They are not coordinated in a precise and centrally administered strategy. Rather, there is a rough blend, with moves in security sometimes dictated by initiatives in the increasingly sophisticated tactical battle or spurred on the strategic front by the ebb and flow of political fortune. This is not to say careful thought doesn’t go into the dual strategy, but rather, that events are much too complex for any precise degree of predictability or control.
9. In his book Pig in the Middle Desmond Hamill describes deep opposition to internment among such notable British senior military commanders as Tuzo, Kitson, and Carver.
They believed such a measure would be a disaster unless it was truly selective and introduced only in conjunction with some concession to Catholics such as the abolition of Stormont.
Patrick Bishop, “The Irish crisis and the army crisis,” The Times (London), 12 May 1985, p. 45.
10. Based on an interview with Professor Paul Wilkinson, Professor of International Relations, University of Aberdeen, June 1984; Professor Wilkinson is one of the world’s foremost experts on terrorism.
11. The Ulster Defence Regiment, suggested in a government White Paper dated 13 October 1969, replaced the disbanded “B Specials.” The Regiment’s mission as stated in the paper was “to support the regular forces in Northern Ireland, should circumstances so require, in protecting the border and the State against armed attack and sabotage. It will fulfill its role by undertaking guard duties at key points And installations, by carrying out patrols and by establishing checkpoints and road blocks; … It is not the intention to employ the new force on crowd control or riot duties in cities.” The UDR performs a military function and is under military control.
12. Colonel Norman L. Dodd, “The Corporal’s War: internal Security Operations in Northern Ireland,”Military Review July 1976, p. 58. More recent figures are drawn from the New York Times and RUC press releases.
13. “Ireland: The Unwinnable War,” Military Review, July 1976, p. 9.
14. From figures provided by Professor Paul Wilkinson:
15. Skillful use of covert security devices contributes in this area. Concealed television monitors and plainclothes policemen are less conspicuous and more effective than fixed obstacles.
Fences can be circiumvented; security guards become bored and ineffective when searching every shopper. In short, overt physical measures degrade over time and become more penetrable.
16. This figure takes into account repeated searches of the same home.
17. Roger Faligot, Britain’s Militay Strategy in Ireland (United Kingdom: Zed Press), p. 31.
18. The SAS is the elite of the British Arrmy. Originally formed as a regiment in World War II and reconstituted in the 1950s, the SAS is designed to operate independently behind enemy lines or in cooperation with local resistance forces. An operational patrol consists of experts in signals, demolition, and linguistics. The SAS also uses undercover operations, particularly in areas of West Belfast and the Bogside of Derry. As the special operations arm of the Foreign Office, the SAS is highly trained in counterinsurgency. Its presence in Northern Ireland was long denied by officials.
19. A friend and I were stopped by a UDR patrol in West Belfast. While one soldier logged our names and addresses, another searched the taxi in which we were riding.
20. Institute for the Study of Conflict, “Northern Ireland Problems and Perspectives” (London: The Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1982), p. 15.
21. This information is based on interviews with individuals in the Northern Ireland Office and the RUC Special Branch in june 1984.
22. The officer handling the informant is responsible for grading both the reliability of the agent and the specific in intelligence he is providing in the source report.
23. A desk officer, upon discovering the disappearance of individuals A, B, C from his region, concludes they’re a likely bomb unit. As this information is collated with a suspected target, proper security is dispatched.
24. The Green Desk officer for Greater Belfast may determine in the crossflow of information that arrests, infiltration, or police surveillance have forced a shift in the Provisionals’ campaign to the countryside. The station sergeant in Newry, unaware of this broad view, can be advised to provide additional protection for off duty UDR personnel or other targets.
25. The Army’s slightly more “operational” approach of identifying terrorists and taking preemptive action would be balanced by the RUC’s “forensic” approach, which emphasizes the collection of evidence to warrant prosecution.
26. The collegiality and lack of jealousy or parochialism required for this process might not be present in larger settings. Northern Ireland is a small province with fairly clear cut issues, relatively rational terrorist aims, and a degree of predictability.
On a larger scale, the temptations for parochialism and in fightring within the government may be too great. Collectivism would, however, be possible in a small setting where there is a discrete, coherent terrorist problem and where units can be organized to collect information, not only to aid policy formation at higher levels but also to disseminate guidance to lower units.
27. Twelve people died and 150 homes were burned the first day of internment. Catholics still observe the day’s August anniversary with demonstrations, occasional rioting, and civil disturbance.
28. Edward Kennedy, “Ulster is an International Issue,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1973, p. 61.
29. “Scheduled offenses” include murder, manslaughter, offenses against the person, and explosives and firearms violations. The attorney general may de-schedule offenses, returning them to jury trial.
30. This term is derived from the expression “snake in the grass,” denoting the contempt in which some of the informers are held.
31. The Provisionals, who in 1981 executed four alleged informers, have resorted to kidnapping and threatening the relatives of “grasses.” In December 1985, two members of the INLA began a hunger strike to protest twenty seven convictions based on supergrass testimony. They demanded an early date for appeal and judicial review of the informer system.
“British Increasing N. Ireland Troops,” The Washington Post, 31 December 1985, p. A10.
32. The Baker Review of the Emergency Provisions Act endorsed continued use of this testimony in April 1984. Sam Bartlett, American Consul General, Belfast, ConGen Round Ups, 18 January 1984, On file in the American Consulate, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
33. Paddy McGrory, “Time to Re appraise the Supergrass System, Fortnight, December 1983, p. 14.
34. The demand for political status was not new. Following the 1916 Easter Rising, republican prisoners demanded treatment as prisoners of war. Their hunger strike, and the public support it aroused, gained them the status they demanded, as it did in 1972.
35. Ironically, Bobby Sands starved to death in 1981, demanding reinstatement of the same “special category” status he had enioyed in his first prison term.
36. Phillip Knightley, “Flagging Interest Is Britain Losing the Propaganda War.” Sunday Times (London), 31 May 1981, p. 17.
37. Quotation of Danny Morrison, publicity officer of Sinn Fein, in Richard Ford, “Road to summit tool. five years of diplomacy behind the scenes,” The Times (London), 15 November 1985, p. 5.
38. From an observation made to me by a police inspector (RUC) while on patrol to keep order in local elections, June 1983.
39. The Forum report, the result of months of study by the Republic’s major parties and the North’s SDLP (Provisional Sinn Fein refused to participate), stated in May 1984 that the preferred solution would be an end to British sovereignty and the creation of a unitary Irish state. Two other options were a North South confederation ruled from Dublin or, possibly, joint authority for Dublin and London. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rejected all three options, saying, “Out, out, out.”
40. “Nationalists Call For Creation of a new Irish State,” The New York Times, 3 May 1984, p. 9.
41. And so the loyalist expressions, “slippery slope,” “thin edge of the wedge,” and “inch by inch,” when taking of new political initiatives they perceive as moves toward reunification.
42. The same poll reported that two-thirds of those, in the Republic see reunification as a long term goal. Jenkins, “The Trouble with Ulster,” p. 51.
43. Taylor Downing, ed., The Troubles (London: Mac Donald, 1980), p. 192.
44. “There is a new awareness in Dublin that Northern Ireland is no longer just a problem for Northern nationalists …. It’s now a Southern problem, and unless something is done now to stop the terrorists they will become a cancer eating away at our security as well.” Jon Nordheimer, “Irish Nationalists Seek a Unity Plan,” The New York Times, 19 February 1984.
45. Jenkins, “The Trouble with Ulster,” p. 51.
46. Dublin will not extradite individuals who have committed “political” crimes, but the range of offenses that qualify is narrowing. McGlinchey, who bragged of killing over 30 people, was extradited for the murder of an elderly postmistress.
47. Jenkins, “The Trouble with Ulster,” p. 53.
48. There are innumerable instances of republicans attacking Catholics, one being the spring 1984 wounding by two gunmen of Magistrate Thomas Travers as he left Sunday Mass with his wife and daughter; His twenty one year old daughter, Mary, was killed in the attack.
49. The Agreement is intended to foster the cultural heritage of both traditions, protect human rights, prevent economic and social discrimination, modify the electoral process, and provide, possibly, a Bill of Rights. John Cooney; “An Official Involvement by Dublin in the North,” Fortnight, 2-15 December 1985, p. 6.
50. Ibid., p. 6. “Pact gives Dublin peace role in Northern Ireland policy,” The Times (London), 18 November 1985, p. 5.
51. Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden, “Is the Agreement viable without the Unionists?” Fortnight, 2-15 December 1985, p. 3.
52. John Goshko,”U.S. Aid seen bolstering Ulster Pact,” The Washington Post, 20 Novemnber 1985, p. A38.
53. “Don’t cry for Uster,” The Economist, 23 November 1985, p. 16.
54. Karen De Young, “Key accord signed on N. Ireland,” The Washington Post, 16 November 1985, p. A17.
55. “Loyalist” or “unionist” refer to those individuals who consider themselves British and wish to remain part of the United Kingdom. (There is also a Unionist Party.) “Nationalists” are those individualswho desire a united Ireland. “Republicans” go one step further than nationalists and advocate the use of force in bringing about British withdrawal The labels go well beyond these political aspirations and, in fact, encompass very fundamental yearnings for a specific identity, whether Btitish or Irish. Although an oversimplification, most Protestants are considered loyalists and most Catholics, nationalist or republican.
The degree to which they hold these views varies greatly between individuals.
56. For a detailed discussion of Irish history, there are innumerable volumes, some particularly useful. Ancient Ireland: Gearoid MacNiocaill, Ireland before the Vikings (Gill & MacMillan, 1972). From conquest to union: Marianne Elliott, Partners in Revolution: The United Irishmen and France (Yale, 1982). “The road to independence: F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland since the Famine (Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1971). Modern Ireland: Tim Pat Coogan, Ireland since the Rising (New York Praeger, 1966); Padraig O’Malley, The Uncivil Wars: Ireland Today (Houghton, 1984); Conor Cruise O’Brien, States of Ireland (London: Hutchinson, 1972).
57. Downing, The Troubles, p. 14.
58. Protestant is a generic term used to describe the two principal denominations, Anglicans and Presbyterians. A 1961 census reported fifty five different Protestant religions, some with as few as eleven members.
59. Edgar O’Ballance, Terror in Ireland: The Heritage of Hate (San Francisco: Presidio Press, 1981), p. 8.
60. Loyalists still celebrate this victory every 12th ofJuly with parades and pageantry. The matches have frequently stirred passions within the two populations and resulted in disorder. Efforts in July 1985 to redirect these marches away from Catholic areas prompted Protestant demonstrations and violence.
61. Although Catholics owned 59 percent of Irish land in 1641, they held only 22 percent in 1688, 14 percent in 1703, and 7 percent by 1850. Downing, The Troubles, p. 21.
62. Tone stated his intent “to break the connection with England, the never failing source of all our political ills.”
63. Downing, The Troubles, p. 49.
64. David Miller, “Northern Ireland,” Academic American Encyclopedia (Princeton, N.J.: Arete Publishing Co., 1981), p. 106.
65. Downing, The Troubles, p. 21.
66. The oft repeated appeal to employers was to give jobs “to good Protestant lads and lasses.”
67. As a dominion, the South existed within the Commonwealth. In 1949, it became the Irish Republic, further institutionalizing the division between North and South. The ancient Irish province of Ulster consisted of nine counties. The six counties of Northern Ireland represented the largest area the loyalists believed they could control as a majority. Today, 94 percent of the Republic’s 3.5 million people are Catholic. Of Northern Ireland’s 1.5 million people, approximately 62 percent are Protestant, 38 percent Catholic.
68. Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism: An International Journal, Vol. 5 (New York: Crane, Russak and Co., 1981), p. 162.
69. R. Corrado; “Terrorism in Western Europe,” in M. Stohl, ed., The Politics of Terrorism (New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1983), p. 272.
70. The Cameron Report confirmed that the causes of the civil rights campaign and Catholic violence were rooted in discrimination, electoral abuses, and excesses of the police force. Plural voting, a “first past the post” system (simple plurality), and gerrymandering were used to transform a 2 to 1 Catholic majority in Derry into a 2 to 1 Protestant majority on the local borough council, solidifying Unionist Party control.
Protestant dominated local councils allocated homes, encouraging inequities. A January 1968 housing survey revealed that between 1945 and 1968 the allocation of new houses province wide was 71 percent to Protestants, 29 percent to Catholics. In Derry, where virtually no Protestants were unhoused, there were over 2,000 Catholic families without homes. Catholic unemployment is also consistently 2 1/2 times that of Protestants.
In such traditional industries as ship building, Protestants held a near monopoly of jobs, with roughly 100 Catholics employed among 10,000 workers. Tim Pat Coogan, The I.R.A. (London: William Collins Sons Co. Ltd., 1980), p. 444.
71. The Catholics’ lack of representation is characterized in the description by Lord Craigavon, first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, of “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.”
72. Unemployment in the province has doubled since 1978, to 121,000 or 21 percent of the population. In some areas, it runs as high as 40 percent. The gap, moreover, between the two communities appears to be increasing.
73. The annual subvention from Britain, to fill the gap between government spending and the amount raised by taxes within the province, was over 1.4 billion pounds in 1985. Richard Ford, “Lower living standards and emigration threaten if ‘loyalists’ opt for UDI,” The Times (London), 18 November 1985, p. 4.
74. their original demands were met by reforms in November 1968. Abuses in housing and local government elections were addressed the following year with the introduction of the “point system” and the institution of “one man, one vote.”
75. Militant student leftists, members of the People’s
Democracy, founded in 1968, infiltrated the movement, causing the more moderate founders to resign by March 1969.
76. The RUC, founded in 1922, was an armed provincial police force initially under the direct control of the Unionist government in Stormont. It performed a dual role of both law enforcement and protecting the state from armed subversion within and outside its borders. Consequently, it was and sometimes still is perceived by Catholics to be an arm of the Protestant loyalists; The force, reorganized in 1970, was relieved of military duties and placed under a Police Authority, an appointed board of more impartial citizens. The RUC Reserve augments the police on a part time basis and is subject to RUC control.
77. Nationalists had long called Londonderry, Derry. The official change occurred in 1985, to the consternation of loyalists. Language and names are important in Northern Ireland. I learned this the hard way while talking to representatives of Sinn Fein in June 1983 “You sound like a Brit,” one told me when I referred to the Maze Prison. In Republican parlance, it is Long Kesh, just as Londonderry is Derry, and Ulster, the six counties.
78. The “B-Specials,” akin to London’s Special Constabulary, were a part time reserve used to supplement the RUC in special circumstafnces, Overwhelmingly Protestant, its members were drawn from the local communities. They were disbanded by London in 1969.
79. There had always been a British Army presence in the province. Garrison battalions, unrelated to internal security operations, served two-year tours. At the beginning of 1969, there were 3,000 of these troops in Northern Ireland.
80. There are a myriad of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. I consider these the most significant.
81. Protestant fears are not entirely well founded. Though Protestants number only 4 percent of the Republic’s population, many feel threatened neither culturally nor religiously, in fact occupying positions of prominence out of all proportion to their numbers. Twenty five percent of the top businessmen in Ireland are Protestant. David Winder, “The Irish send ‘signals’ to Ulster,” The Christian Science Monitor, 3 April 1985, p. 11.
82. The Provisionals draw their name from the 1916 Easter Rising and the proclamation of the “Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.”
83. Abstentionism dictated a traditional IRA policy of backing only those candidates for Westminster and Stormont who would refuse to take their seats, thus underscoring republicans’ belief in the illegitimacy of Northern Ireland and British rule.
84. The difference between the two is summed up in the observation, “The Officials go to Mass once a year, the Provos once a week,” a telling indictment in a society that has not fully experienced secularization. The Officials have faded as a major political force, demonstrating the danger to those who abandon militancy.
85. Institute for the Study of Conflict, “Northern Ireland: Problems and Perspectives,” p. 10.
86. Corrado, “Terrorism in Western Europe,” p. 275.
87. Eric Hoffer Wrote, in The True Believer, of individuals who viewed their lives as so irremediably spoiled that they willingly lose themselves in a mass movement that demands united action and a loss of individuality. He defined the “True Believer” as a man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy cause. The following quotation is from a journalist reporting these strikes in 1981 illustrate Hoffer’s thesis:
This is the world of the zealots, where Irish youth are willing to starve themselves for their cause of driving the British out of Northern Ireland. It is an astounding kind of sacrifice – a brutal, lingering death, full of hatred and martyrdom, so fanatical and Irish. The moment one striker dies, 50 volunteer to take his place. . . .
Because so many of the rebels, 406 of them are locked in the H-shaped blocks of the Maze, they now believe they must win their war inside the prison…. Each time new volunteers are sought, Maze leaders review the awful effects of starvation. They want no false bravado and no dropouts. The prisoners. . . . listen to block commanders. . . . describe the ulcerated throats, the tooth fillings that drop out, the skin that turns so dry that bones break through, the inevitable blindness before death. . . .
When families timidly suggest giving up the strike, sons turn their faces away or weakly hold up their palms asking them to stop. If mothers plead, some angry sons will order them out of the room, and refuse further visits. . . .
Nonetheless, some families are caught up in the cause even more than their sons. [After] Raymond McCreesh, 24, went about 50 days without food [he] wondered aloud if a single glass of milk would violate his fast. . . . [A menber of McCrcesh’s immediate family] reminded the prisoner that he had made a pledge to his comrades. . . . [and] alluded to the first hunger striker to die this year: “Remember, Bobby Sands is waiting for you in heaven.” Raymond gave up asking for milk and died a week later.
The prisoners who support the strikers often remind each other bitterly that living must be worse than dying. The cause they cling to is far more compelling than anything in their bleak home neighborhoods. . . .
Robert Ajemian, “Ready to Die in the Maze,” Time, 17 August 1981, ipp. 46 48, copyright 1981, Tiffie Inc. All.rights reserved. Reprinted by permission from TIME.
88. The Irgun Zvai Leumi, led by Menachem Begin, bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people, an incident with similarities to the Provisional IRA’s attempt to kill the British cabinet in Brighton in October 1984, which resulted in four deaths.
89. Some IRA volunteers are killed by their own bomb, scoring what is known as an “own goal.” The term comes from soccer, where it refers to a defender inadvertently putting the ball in his own team’s goal, scoring for the other side.
90. Corrado, ‘Terrorism in Western Europe,” p. 284.
91. Known as “fellow travelers” these individuals hijack cars, provide lookouts, carry weapons, distribute leaflets, serve as drivers, or merely provide encouragement. An 18 year old girl hid the weapons used by two assailants in the attack on Magistrate Thomas Travers that resulted in the wounding of Travers and the death of his daughter Mary.
92. Sinn Fein is legal because, although it acts as a spokesman for the Provisionals, it does not claim responsibility for violent acts. British authorities hope the Provisionals will moderate as they seek political support.
93. Institute for the Study of Conflict, “Northern Ireland: Problems and Perspectives,” p. 13.
94. While attempting to take a picture outside the Maze Prison, I was accosted by an extremely agitated man who wanted to know if I’d taken a picture of either him or his car. I told him I hadn’t, and after repeated and forceful questioning, he finally leaped into his car and sped off. He probably was a prison guard fearful that a picture would fall into IRA hands.
The Provisionals execute prison guards.
95. Belfast’s city center, the heart of commercial activity, is surrounded by iron fence, with limited access for vehicles and designated entrances for pedestrians. Uniformed guards and soldiers reserve the right to search any vehicle or person entering. There have been nearly 8,0OO explosions or bomb attacks since 1969. Warren Richey, “How the IRA ships arms into Ulster,” The Christian Science Monitor, 15 January 1985, p. 3.
96. “IRA bomb at busy shopping center injure 30,” Arkansas Gazette, 20 October l935, p. 5.
97. Based on an interview with Scotland Yard Special Branch, June 1984.
98. The RPGs have been fired at RUC armored land-rovers. As one police inspector related, “The Armor on these is only a half-inch thick. The Provos have Soviet made RPGs designed to penetrate a tank and kill everyone inside. With our thin armor it goes right through and out the other side. You are not hurt unless you’re in the way. The boys don’t like it though.”
99. Nearly 50 percent of the IRA weapons are believed to come from the United States. “Irish show off weapons seized from smugglers” Denver Post, 20 October 1984, p. 2.
100. Radio controlled bombs use everyday devices like model airplane transmitters. It is a war of innovation and counter-response. As British countermeasures improve, fuse devices have given way to the more. controllable command-wire bomb. These, too, bave proven vulnerable to British infrared detectors, which spot the distuzrbed ground.
101. The nine mortar tubes, each six feet long and six inches in diameter, fired nine 50 pound shells, using detonating wires and timing devices. The powerful explosions mutilated the bodies of the victims. “IRA Mortars kill 9 at Ulster Base.” New York Times, 1 March 1985, p.1.
102. This money funds the Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein, and the prisoner relief organization, An Cumman Cabhrach. Richey “How the IRA ships arms into Ulster,” p. 6.
103. The Irish National Northern Aid, Committee, NORAID, raises between $120,000 and $300,000 a year, ostensibly for families of prisoners and children orphaned by violence. Although NORAID plays a key role in prisoner relief through programs like Belfast’s Green Cross, the RUC maintains that nearly half of the collected money stays in the United States for the purchase of weapons. NORAID has been required by US law to register as an agent of the IRA. Warren Richey, “On the trail of US funds for IRA,” The Christian Science Monitor, 14 January 1985, p. 8.
104. Richey “How the IRA ships arms into Ulster,” p. 3.
105. Chris Ryder, “IRA racketeers tighten grip on Ulster” Sunday Times (London), 18 October 1981.
106. “Bloody Day,” Time, 11 March 1985, p. 44.
107. Seamus, a waiter from West Belfast, recounts, “Masked men came into the pub and read ou tfive names from a paper. Four of the men came forward, were brought outside and knee-capped. The fifth held on to posts, yelling, anything but be brought out, so they laid him on the floor and shot him in the legs, right inside the pub.” So pervasive was knee capping (843 cases between 1973 and 1980) that the Royal Victoria Hospital, on the Lower Falls Road in Belfast, led the world in the development of artificial joints.
108. Downing, The Troubles p. 167.
109. One businessman describing these extortion visits said, “INLA is just a bunch of psychopaths. The Provos were always more flexible. But these guys don’t mess. You pay up or go on the list. People are frightened. You’re not dealing with reasonable people. They can just shoot you.” Simon Freeman and Barrie Penrose, “INLA muscles in on Racket,” Sunday Times (London), l7June 1984, p. 1.
110. Adrian Guelke “The ‘ballot bomb’: The Northern Ireland Assembly election and the Provisional1 IRA” p.1, on file, Department of Political Science, the Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
111. Down from a peak membership of 26,000 in 1972. Andy Pollak, “Loyalist paramilitaries get ready for action,” Fortnight, 2-15 December l985, p. 7.
112. Moderate in the context of Northern Ireland. Andy Tyrie, UDA head, stated to me in interview in June 1983 that he advocated border incursions into the Republic to rout out IRA sanctuaries, and called for the selective assassination of IRA leaders.
113. Pollak, “Loyalist paramilitaries get ready for action,” p. 7.
114 Ibid. p. 7.
115. Based on an interview with RUC Special Branch, June 1984.
116. In Paisley’s words, “We hold no allegiance whatsoever to the Wilsons and Heaths of this world. . . . if the Crown in Parliament decreed to put Ulster into a united Ireland, we would be disloya1 to Her Majesty if we did not resist such a surrender to our enemie.”
117. The Unionists have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to bypass Westminster and go directly to the people. They mobilized 100,000 Unionists, 10 percent of the Protestant population in a demonstration against Direct Rule in March 1972.
118. In local government elections in May 1985, Sinn Fein won 58 seats and 11.8 percent of the vote. Other results: OUP, 29.5 percent; DUP, 24.3 percent; SDLP percent; and Alliance, 7.1 percent. Though stripped of most responsibilities, these local councils still represent power bases. The steady rise of Sinn Fein in the 1980s is a major reason for the alarm felt by both the Republic and Britain, and is a factor in such a far reaching initiative as the Hillsborough Agreement. Jo Thomas, “I.R.A.political wing makes gains in Ulster vote,” The New York Times, 18 May 1985.
119. John Tierney of the SDLP, Mayor of Derry, says of Sinn Fein’s political activity, “They can’t lose. If they get you a new flat or a new bathroom, they’re the best in the World. If they fail then the Brits or the system can be blamed.” Ellen Harkin, “Struggle for the Soul of Derry,” Fortnight. July/August 1984, p. 4.
120. The Catholic Church wields gret influence in the Republic, a troubling reality for many of the North’s Protestants. The Church plays an important role in education, health, and social welfare. There are also clauses in the Irish Constitution clarifying the role of marriage, women, and the family, all based on Catholic social doctrine of the 1930s. “Rome Rule Out,” Fortnight, 3 March 1985, p. 3.
121. The Family Planning Bill passed by the Irish Dail in Spring 1985 legalized for the first time the sale of condoms to people over the age of 18. Described by one observer of Dublin politics as “the most important event to have happened here in 30 years,” it establishes the primacy of the Irish state over the Catholic Church. David Winder, “Dublin’s Irish identity begins to make itself heard in London,” The Christian Science Monitor, 22 March 1985, p. 10.
122. Corrado, “Terrorism in Western Europe,” p. 290.
123. Alexander Cockburn, “Between Two Economies,” The Atlantic, April 1985, p. 30.
124. Corrado, “Terrorism-in Western Europe,” p. 275.
125. Significantly however, over one-half of those polled believed the pact would have no effect on Irish unity and that it would not improve relations between Protestant and Catholic communities in the North. A mere one third thought it would reduce violence. Cooney, “An Official Involvement by Dublin in the North,” p. 6. Within Britain, a MORI poll found 41 percent in favor, 16 percent against, and 43 percent undecided. Peter Archer, “Making the Anglo Irish Accord Work,” Fortnight, 16 December 1985, p. 9.
126. The Shankhill butchers, most notorious of the killers,
dismembered those they attacked. Many victims were tortured,
branded, and burned before execution. In July 1972, 36 sectarian
killings occurred (19 Catholics, 17 Protestants).
127. Faligot, Britains Military Strategy in Ireland, p. 120.
128. Based on an interview in June 1983.
129. Max Hastings, Barricades in Belfast – The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland (New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1970), p. 18.
130. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of those participating in the hunger strikes were in prison based on extra legal legislation, interrogation, and rules of evidence.
131. In MacSwiney’s words,
The contest on our side is not one of rivalry or vengeance but of endurance. It is not those who can inflict the most but those that can suffer the most who will conquer….
Downing, The Troubles, p. 183.
132. Knightley, “Flagging Interest Is Britain Losing the Propaganda War?” p. 17.
133. Downing, The Troubles, p. 178.
134. Samuel Bartlett, ConGen Roundups, 12 June 1984.
135. Some hypothesize that the Christmas 1983 Harrod’s bombing and the October 1984 attempt on Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet in Brighton were the work of an independent mainland IRA cell intent on embarrassing Gerry Adams, who has engineered the political rise of Sinn Fein. The Belfast office apologized for the Harrod’s bombing, and its confused explanation for the second incident possibly indicates Sinn Fein’s leadership may have been caught unawares by both bombings. “British politics and the Brighton effect,” The Economist, 20-26 October 1984.
136. “Preparing the Defence of Ulster Loyalism,” Fortnight, May 1984, p. 5.
137. Ibid., p. 6.
138. George Seawright, “The Inevitability of Sectarian Collision,” Fortnight, May 1984, p. 8.
139. Sam Bartlett, ConGen Roundups, 6 April 1984.
140. Ibid., p. 1.
141. Padraig O’Malley, “The Agreement, Alienation and the Provos,” Fortnight, 27 January 1986, p. 6.
142. Richard Middleton, “Has the North’s Status really been changed by the Accord?” Fortnight, 10 February 1986, p. 11.
143. This information is based on an interview with Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, June 1984.
144. Ministry of Defence, Royalty Protection Offices, Home Office, Foreign Office, etc.
145. Loyalist paramilitary groups are the responsibility of MI5 (Security Service), which has a close and related interest in most of the areas of activity concerned with threat assessment.
146. The pseudonym “P. O’Neill” used in the paper identifies policy statements.
147. Based on an interview with Scotland Yard Special Branch.


Tom Baldy is a 1974 graduate of the us Air Force Academy. He served as an EC-130 Aircraft Commander at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, before volunteering for duty with the Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Tehran, Iran, where he flew the C-12 during the 1978-79 revolution. After departing Iran, he became an Instructor/Check pilot in the T-37 at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. While assigned there, he earned an MA in International Relations from Oklahoma State University. He then taught in the Department of Political Science at the Air Force Academy, specializing in the study of political violence and counterterrorism. At present, Mr. Baldy is a Research Associate at Science Applications International Corporation in McLean, Virginia. He also flies C-130s for the Maryland Air National Guard. Battle for Ulster is the result of two summers spent in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and London, England.

Source: Defense Technical Information Center

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