Get your retaliation in first,” is a cynical old saying in Northern Irish politics that means you hit your opponent whenever you can without waiting for a provocation. It neatly captures the violent traditions of the province and explains why the political temperature there is always close to boiling over. Imagine then the pleasure of... Read More
Fifty years ago, the Battle of the Bogside in Derry between Catholics and police, combined with the attacks on Catholic areas of Belfast by Protestants, led to two crucial developments that were to define the political landscape for decades: the arrival of the British army and the creation of the Provisional IRA. An eruption in... Read More
At the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s I used to visit Crossmaglen, a village in South Armagh close to the border with the Irish Republic and notorious as an Irish Republican stronghold. I would go there with my friend Ben Caraher, a teacher in Belfast who came from the... Read More
The prosecution of a single paratrooper for allegedly murdering two out of the 13 innocent civil rights marchers in Derry in 1972 has provoked inevitable criticism from knee-jerk defenders of the British army. They stubbornly refuse to admit that the greatest recruiting sergeant for the Provisional IRA during the Troubles were the killings carried out... Read More
The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972 will learn in the coming week if soldiers, who are alleged to have carried out the killings, will be prosecuted. There is no doubt about... Read More
A return to violence is not a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns, as it will if there is...
I was sitting in a cafe on the Falls Road in heavily nationalist West Belfast when a local radio reporter came in looking for residents to interview about the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland. She said that the impact was already massive, adding: “Stupid, stupid English for getting us into this pickle. We were... Read More
A dangerous lack of understanding about the nature of the threat that Brexit poses to peace in Northern Ireland is based on a misconception about the causes of the 30-year-long Troubles that ended with the Good Friday Agreement. The conflict was never primarily about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but about the... Read More
Warnings about the damaging impact on the Northern Ireland peace process of the return to a physical border between the north and the south post-Brexit understate the danger. Those issuing these warnings point to the problems posed by a hard border to relations between nationalist and unionist communities, to power sharing between Sinn Fein and... Read More
Amritsar, Londonderry, … Mosul?
I have been reading about our troops in Iraq, and the work they are doing there. This is not a very cheering pastime. "US troops are facing a classic guerilla war in Iraq" (Washington Post). "These men [i.e. US troops in Iraq] are exhausted … [Quoting a US soldier:] 'Our morale is not high or... Read More
The Rev. Ian Paisley pays a visit.
The Reverend Ian Paisley, for thirty years a key figure in the Northern Ireland Protestant community, is to attend this year's St. Patrick's Day festivities at the White House. This news item brought to my mind a story from the late 1970s. I believe it is a true story: I read it in a respectable... Read More