Northern Ireland survived the Troubles through those who kept small quotidian bonds of trust…

Newton Emerson says something out loud I’ve been saying quietly to academic friends for a few years now…

Most of the effort, study and coverage of the past half century in Northern Ireland has focused on protagonists and their circumstances.

The perspective that has really been overlooked is how the vast bulk of the population got through the Troubles by simply ignoring them.

Occasionally, it seems that someone is about to allude to this, but then they just make a familiar point about how such and such a person grew up in the same streets as McGuinness without joining the IRA.

What never seems to be mentioned are all the people who neither grew up in those streets nor joined the IRA, or its counterparts, although theirs was by far the commonest experience of what is now grandly called “the conflict”.

Their experience does not necessarily negate the protagonist’s tale but in numerical terms it completely swamps it.

And this needs saying too:

Losing sight of this may be understandable – there will always be more interest in the active than the passive – but in doing so we are distorting the past and disregarding the resilience of a society even as divided as Northern Ireland’s.

The extent to which people can ignore violence on their doorstep is bizarre to recall. Southern readers who spent the Troubles watching footage of riots and bombs thinking “thank God I don’t live there” should note that people living one street away from the riot or bomb were almost certainly thinking the same thing.

The keyword here is resilience. The peace was never just built on those who changed their minds, but those who kept a thousand unspoken contracts not to turn on their neighbours however strong their own personal political passions.

You should try to read the whole thing, but I’ll just share this typically phlegmatic ending:

Given the fashion for telling history through ordinary lives, it is noticeable that there is so little interest in ordinary life during the Troubles. Presumably its bourgeois conservatism makes it an intellectual abomination.

But as Northern Ireland enters another, perhaps terminal period of political instability, there is value in knowing how stable it still was through an infinitely more difficult time.

  • Brian O’Neill

    I have been reading about stoicism lately: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

    It really was the best model for surviving the troubles (and life).

    I was doing my A-Levels the time of the Shankill Bomb – it was an incredibly bleak and scary time. The dad of one boy in school was killed in a revenge attack, the atmosphere was tense to say the least.

    Our form teacher gave the whole class a lecture about how we should we careful where we went. Watch out for suspicious cars, all the usual advice designed to scare the hell out of us. At the end of his rant he finished on a cheery note ‘On the plus side you will have lots of time to revise for your A-Levels…’.

  • AntrimGael

    This is too simplistic and a bit of a cop out. Society in the North for the past 40+ years was the sectarian sea in which the paramilitary fish swam. The Provo’s, INLA, UVF, UDA etc didn’t just come down from a space ship; they were the extreme context AND part of a deeply, deeply divided sectarian state.
    It is naive in the extreme to think it was just the paramilitaries were to blame. Many so called decent, law abiding citizens were as bigoted and hateful in their views and if not directly involved with these groups were quiet supporters and sneaking regarders.
    Many Nationalists viewed the IRA as ‘the boys’ while Johnny Adair in his book stated that the UDA/UFF and his C Company unit especially received help and support from right across the Unionist/Loyalist community. For all his faults I don’t think Adair has made that up, why should he? He did 10 years plus in jail and has nothing to gain by inventing it.

  • OneNI

    Well done AntrimGael for entirely missing Newtown and Mick’s point by implying everyone was ‘involved’ and everyone was as bad as each other blah blah

  • AntrimGael

    I didn’t say that if you would read my reply closer. I know that MOST people were NOT involved with the paramilitaries but there was a context in which they operated. That context was a divided society out of which came the Provos, UDA/UVF. To say it wasn’t me guv is like your head saying to you sore foot. “You are away down there and nothing to do with me even though i am connected to you through DNA, sinews, tissue blood etc”.

  • Karl

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

    Another maybe over simplistic way to look at it but there were an awful lot of people doing nothing. Passive actors in the play that was NI for 40 years.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Did you go to St.Mary’s Brian? The day of the Shankill bomb was one of the scariest of my life. We were in Mullusk playing a match and were 2-0 up and coasting, playing the best we had all season and then the coach of the opposing team came onto the pitch to say that the match was being called off as there had been a bomb on the Shankill and that they just wanted to get everyone home safe. The bus home was frightening thinking about what had probobly happened.The atmosphere and killings everywhere at that time in October and November 1993 was horrific, I’ve never experienced anything like it

  • Brian Walker

    A useful corrective to MOPE!. How often did we tell Brits and southerners in vain to come over, you won’t get killed,?

    In some cases I thought of it as Jane Austen syndrome. Bit of a stretch I know. An Israeli friend on a visit recognised it from his own background.

    But then again the Troubles permeated background attitudes and a good deal of behaviour, particularly in the early years. First there was rage and excitement and real dislocation before hard battle lines were drawn. This was replaced I think by a sort of dull apprehension rising to active fear in lots of places. That’s why I think “terrorist” is an objective term. You didn’t know when it could be you.

    How normal was normal in the 1970s especially the early period before they set up control zones and random bombing was pretty rife? When punk, the Bay City Rollers, and Alternative Belfast were in their prime?

    I think of some remarkable people who worked hard to create nornality. Like Werner Heubeck, ex Rommel Afrika corps and head of Ulsterbus who removed bombs from buses. And that chap they called master who kept education going on the Whiterock Road.

    I know this is not what young Newton means, but “normal” coul be hard work.The other extreme is Truman show syndrome where the whole place was a set for TV shows and people turned tricks to oblige the news cameras. They still do.

    Check out the nuances in Heaney’s actual poem, so much more than the phrase: Whatever you say, say Nothing.

  • Anon Anon

    I think it’s a lot more complex than that, and article seems focused on the middle class experience, maybe even the Protestant middle class experience.

    In the Republican working class areas of Belfast, you may have wanted to get on, but you undoubtedly knew someone who was involved; there was a fair chance you’d be related to someone involved. You can ignore that, but ignoring that is not the same as stoic inaction.

    Except you can’t really ignore it. Do you give money for Republican prisoners? Do you let your kids go to a bonfire, or not? Do you go out on a protest march for the hunger strikers? Someone needs somewhere to hide for a few hours: do you let them in, or do you let them get caught – and well, the RUC has just done their low level abuse. Weapons need hidden – do you let them go in your shed? Someone you know has been killed or wounded – do you tell your kids to forgive, or remember?

    There is a whole spectrum of things that happened by people that were not formally “involved”. The IRA could not have survived with a base of support in the communities they came from. It’s literally impossible. It’ll be the same for the loyalists.

    The lived experience of the Troubles – like the lived experiences of people anywhere – were very different depending on community and class. Basically a the “It’s fine” bravado was twisted, too. A coping mechanism. Thinking about that, and how that impacts people’s attitudes and ideas is better than pushing your own experience as everyone’s. Whether that’s a middle class Protestant or a Republican revolutionary.

    Maybe Newton is right, and that is the experience of the majority. But that the war came to MMG is not a mutually exclusive statement, either.

  • Brian O’Neill

    My school was on the edge of the city centre. One time a bomb went off in the town. As we watched the puff of smoke rising through the windows the teacher did not even comment, just continued on with the class.

  • Charlie Farlie

    This seems way too middle class and ‘academic’ for me. The question should arise can those who were raised in more middle class areas, or ideology truly understand the impact of state and societal discrimination? This rang more true to be honest for me. http://www.judecollins.com/2017/03/irony-amputated-history/

  • Richard

    I think the point being made is that people being determined to ‘go about their normal daily business’ (at least, as best they could), and not being spooked or seduced into partisan activity, is an overlooked feature of ‘the troubles’. I think it probably is now, but it was not at the time – many commentators made a point of it. And maybe it is how we managed to maintain civilization in the midst of barbarity, and partly why the military strategies failed.

  • willow

    Yes there were many levels of involvement. From active terrorists to aiders and abetters to Sinn Fein voters at the lowest level of involvement. But even if we count all SF voters as involved, they were still only a minority.

  • Tarlas

    This 20 year old article by Fintan O Toole had a big impact on me. At that time, I was living overseas, married with young family, working full time ,and studying for a BA degree in Adult ed; and licking my wounds from the troubles and life here. A tough time my wife reminds me ! Anyhow I still think it has resonance.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/need-to-wage-peace-with-the-intensity-of-waging-war-1.105602

  • Mary Anna Quigley
  • Brian O’Neill

    I grew up in a terraced street in a working class area of inner city Belfast.

    For bonus points it was right next to a police station that was forever being bombed.

  • Anon Anon

    Ignoring your implications, they weren’t all SF voters. And looking at overall numbers ignores regional variations. West Belfast is different from North Down.

    It is also hard to overstate how segregated we became. And still are. Different experiences, different environments, different lives.

  • Mary Anna Quigley
  • Deeman

    What did you do during the conflict grandad? I marked a piece of paper with an X and sometimes with 1 2 3. Then the Brits ran into the sea.

  • Charlie Farlie

    Something similar to myself Brian. However in later years through taking an academic path that lead me to a professional relationship with more middle class than working class, I’ve seen and appreciated both sides, as have many, maybe even yourself.

    I sometimes wonder, even though I appreciate the analytical abilities of the educated middle class, it sometimes strikes me that they wish to remove the class element of society and almost blame its evils on just ‘bad people’ rather than seeing society as a product of the class structure? Therefore, analysis remains too academic and not focused on simple reality.

    Having experienced both, even though the analysis levels of a lot of the working class is base (thanks to a lower level of education), I find it to be more honest and straight. I find more in common with that part of society than i do with the part I’m supposed to be in now. I do believe wholeheartedly that those who didn’t have the luxury of being outside of the working class conflict, have a better level of understanding of the root causes, than external middle class analysts ever will.

  • NotNowJohnny

    What about those nice church going tee total people who continued to vote for Paisley and his cohorts as they opposed reform after reform in a bid to maintain the unionist state that nationalists were trying to tear down? What level of involvement was theirs?

  • Reader

    Karl, quoting Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Quite. Stay vigilant. If you see suspicious activity, call the police. It’s hard to make a nice area, but it’s easy to keep a nice area.

  • I posted this under the Irish Times article itself:
    Given the established media portrayal of the conflict as essentially a matter of defending catholic/nationalist communities, it has always been a wonder that there’s been so little questioning of why so few took up arms. When the truth emerges that becoming involved meant accepting that civilians would be targeted, it’s not surprising that few would have anything to do with it. This unwillingness to approve a campaign which as well as attacking soldiers also comprised crimes against humanity also explains the fundamental divide in Ireland between those who do or might support SF and those would not in any circumstance. https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/the-division-between-supporters-of-sf-and-other-irish-people-is-and-ought-to-be-fundamental/?frame-nonce=57c207d1f5

  • Gopher

    The problem lies in the differential between cause and effect which leads to no “historical revelance” because “fact” is stretched to cover effect, this in turn gives those “facts” a “spurious importance”. Where you have society riven with ideology, religion, race and nationality obviously you will have the making of a problem which does not lend itself to “critical analysis”. In conflict, whether domestic, social or military the facts are seldom fully known and the actual motives of individuals even less so. The mutiplicity of armed groups, factions and various interested parties suggests that the truism that effects have several concurrent causes cannot be ignored. Somebody wanted a farm, somebody wanted a promotion etc etc. You cannot stop at any arbitary assumptions as it is the wont of several posters on here, as different propositions are usually easy enough to advance against them. This leads to “unending arguement” and in Slugger terms chasing each others tail.
    Any objective investigation into the “causes” therefore immediately becomes theory and forces us to look at what we do know which is the “means” which brings us back to the differential. As we know the upper limit of the differential, some 3000 dead and as we know the “struggle” did come to an end its not hard to see our energy is wasted on what went wrong but should be focused on what went right and that is where the most truth will reside.

  • ted hagan

    Newton Emerson’s article piece is incredibly naive (maybe he’s too young?)
    People may have believed they were carrying on normally, that life was normal, that they were seen to be carrying on ‘normally’. What they were doing was living in a screwed-up hell-hole and coping with it as best they could, with the psychological effects of those terrible years still being felt by many people to this day. To say the majority of people managed to somehow ‘ignore’ the Troubles is both crass and insulting. We were all part of it.

  • Katyusha

    The keyword here is resilience. The peace was never just built on those who changed their minds, but those who kept a thousand unspoken contracts not to turn on their neighbours however strong their own personal political passions.

    You make it sound like “turning on your neighbours” would be a completely normal and understandable reaction, rather than utter psychosis.

  • johnny lately

    It would be helpful to define what you mean by aiders willow as It looks from your one sided viewpoint that your definition doesn’t include those members of our society who were paid to protect us but who instead aided and abetted in the murders of hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people. We could also include all those elected representatives and their electorate who supported those same aiders and who turned a blind eye or refused to acknowledge the evidence in front of their eyes, even to this day that our officers of the law colluded with those who took up the gun on both sides of the political divide by arming them, supplying them with the intelligence on their victims, allowing them to murder their victims and aiding them to evade justice even to this day.

  • Brian Walker

    That rings bells Brian.As time went on the clearing up was often over before we got the cameras round. We shouldnt lose sight of Newton’s truths but with hideous exceptions it was a working class war which created perverse social hierarchies that seemed normal at the time.
    We live with them still..Although army occupation ended years ago I’m not sure how much has changed. Others will know better.

  • johnny lately

    Let’s be honest Brian you worked for the BBC a media corporation controlled and funded by the British government, what was aired through television screens in people’s homes was not always the truth but a form of propaganda that suited the times.

  • Jollyraj

    Shrill, overwrought and ludicrously exaggerated nonsense.

  • Jollyraj

    Hmmm….

    I’m beginning to understand….

    So, all the working class people were Republicans and all the Protestants were middle class… is that the current lie being touted?

    You ought to be embarrassed for yourself writing that bs.

  • andrewjohn

    From you, that is the best of compliments.

  • Jollyraj

    To be honest it sounds like what you’re trying to do is bring the provos into the mainstream. Ignoring the grim reality that they might shoot you for ‘collaborating’ with the authorities

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Fantastic piece and it so needed saying. We really weren’t all in conflict, or murderously sectarian. And I do believe it was our determination to just keep on going with life that really got to the excitable wee paramilitary drama queens in the end.

  • Jollyraj

    Of course it is. You clearly have a bitter loathing for unionists – it’s only natural you’d be delighted to offend one. To be honest, I feel slightly sad for you.

  • Jollyraj

    “What did you do during the conflict grandad?”

    ‘Well, sonny, I crouched in ditches and shot innocent working men in the back in front of their children as a brave soldier of the IRA’

    Not something to be proud of.

  • aquifer

    Thanks for that piece. Though journalists owe a headline debt of gratitude to the atrocity mongers, pistol pointers, arsonists and psychotics who flourish when laws fail.

    “Peace in Northern Ireland has always been a better idea than war, but it has never been pursued with the commitment and determination that the warmongers have mustered.”

    We studied we worked we got away from the nonsense when we could and our friendships crossed the line the ethnic political opportunists and young idiots with pistols were trying to draw. We were in danger of getting shot from both sides.

    In the long war for peace it was the people who still run with their tribe who deserted the front line.

  • aquifer

    Lets be honest, the IRA produced shows for the mass media.

  • aquifer

    99% may be coping but the 1% can enjoy the force multiplier of armed blackmail and intimidation to insist that we are ‘part of’ any problem.

    e.g. the lack of a cold and rainy caliphate or sugar beet cuba.

  • Deeman

    Well, sonny, I crouched in ditches and shot innocent working men in the back in front of their children as a brave solider of the British army, and now I get a state pension, and I also have millions of people wearing poppies and hero worshipping me even though I am a murdererer,

  • johnny lately

    And did the IRA have their own TV station too and did they ban themselves from talking and was there no such groups as the UVF and UDA or the combined groups like RUC/UVF aka the Glenanne gang who were aided by a compliant media that glossed over and concealed their involvement in murder and violence for years ?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Despite your strictures that is entirely possible, as class is a self-defining concept. Class consciousness occurs, says Mr Marx, when you realise that you are stuck forever in the rut you find yourself in, with no hope of bettering yourself.

    Obviously Republicans in the 1960s experienced that particular mindset first. They realised that they had no assets: they realised that the Orange State did not desire or intend to better their position. They started acting like the Working Class.

    Protestants of the Unionist persuasion were not of that opinion. They realised that the Orange State had not bestowed any great wealth upon them, but they did not blame the state. They held that, given time, and with a certain input from themselves, the State would get around to rewarding them for their loyalty. The only thing that was preventing it was the horde of Fenian welfare claimants wasting its assets. So they perceived themselves to be Middle Class, though their current income might be no greater than that of the Republican lumpenproletariat.

  • aquifer

    The IRA clearly did not need to own the cameras.

    They aimed their weapons of mass distraction very skillfully.

    For the IRA conspiracy to murder and concealment was the rule, not the exception.

  • Tarlas

    The fact that during the last twenty years weak Unionist leadership
    could not confront, the loyalist militia component in their society is notable. I think it is based on the following:

    “War is not just an activity. It is also a system. It is an economy, a politics, an ideology, a principle around which a society is
    organised. It shapes the choices, sets the agenda, imposes a system of values. It doesn’t just reflect the existence of antagonistic tribes, it creates those tribes themselves.

    When states and nations and subject peoples ask themselves
    who or what they really are, more often than not they find their answers in war- battlefields, acts of military heroism, doomed rebellions, relentless sieges. They imagine themselves enacting identities forged in the heat of war.”

    The attempt by the DUP to incorporate a military covenant
    into a language based cultural agenda clearly displays, that their war is not over; and the ideology of war is deeply ingrained.

    You are right

    “In the long war for peace it was the people who still run with their tribe who deserted the front line.”

  • Anon Anon

    That isn’t what I said. You should be embarrassed by your lack of reading comprehension.

  • Granni Trixie

    I wonder is there a gender dimension to questions around whose stories define the troubles? I think that there is.

  • Mike the First

    Sorry to be crude, but I call “b*****ks” on this one.

    To suggest that Protestants in Ballymacarrett, or the Shankill, etc “perceived themselves to be Middle Class” is complete and utter nonsense of the highest order.

  • Granni Trixie

    So you want us to blame the media for bombing and shooting people?

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst I get it that ‘everyone was involved’/experienced the troubles (in urban more than rural ni) I did not think they were saying “everyone is as bad as each other”. If they are I do not agree.

  • Mike the First

    Adair and his ilk (and those on the ‘other side’) had quite a lot to gain by lying (or even just exaggerating) – they claimed to be “fighting” for Ulster/for Ireland and to be defending the Protestant/unionist or Catholic/nationalist community; if they were actually rejected by most of said communities, it would undermine even the ‘legitimacy’ they’d built up in their own heads.

  • Mike the First

    Yes indeed – I too remember the awful atmosphere of that time (around the Shankill and Greysteel atrocities) as a particularly grim and low point.

  • andrewjohn

    Well said

  • johnny lately

    No Granni I dont but unlike you and other unionists like yourself I would apportion blame to all who used their positions and weapons to murder and promote their own propaganda and not promote my own version of the past.

  • Paddy Reilly

    And I will call the same on you. To suggest that Protestants in the Shankill and Ballymacarrett, in the 1960s, saw themselves as part of the same, oppressed class based interest group as Catholics in the Falls and Short Strand leaves the whole phenomenon of the Northern Ireland troubles unexplained.

    They didn’t. They rejected the whole Marxian, treasonous edifice in its entirety, and instead classified people into Loyal and Disloyal. They did not promote the subversion of the proper order by fomenting divisions among the Loyal. A Loyal Protestant in the Shankill is of the same mould as one in Buckingham Palace. Class divisions are not applicable. The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate. All things Bright and Beautiful, etc.

  • Ciarán

    I think some are under the illusion that British state forces conduct(ed) their military campaigns within some form of Marquess of Queensberry Rules framework.

    Strange then that the set-pieces which extract(ed) the greatest degree of approval from their cheerleaders, whether among the lewd vocalists or the hushed chattering classes, are covert ops and special force style ambushes, often accompanied by summary execution of the wounded/defenceless.

    Engaging in asymmetrical warfare is not an ideological decision, it’s a pragmatic necessity. That aside lethal violence, whatever the source, is not palatable, nor is it indeed to be,

  • Anon Anon

    I think I would very much side with you on this one. I also expect that their experiences would be different from the Protestant Middle Classes. They’ll be different from the Catholic working classes too.

    If you are going to talk about the average person’s experience in the Troubles the first thing you have to accept is there is no average person.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Well, collective ‘psychosis’ as you define it can happen: look at the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. I think Emerson is looking at what prevented us from degenerating into something similar.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Try re-reading the first paragraph.

  • Jollyraj

    “Despite your strictures that is entirely possible, as class is a self-defining concept.”

    Indeed, but then you go on to say

    “Class consciousness occurs, says Mr Marx, when you realise that you are stuck forever in the rut you find yourself in, with no hope of bettering yourself.”

    If that is a self-defining concept than maybe for Republicans the ‘struggle’ was and is something they should be fighting in their own heads and against their self-imposed limitations and self-oppression -rather than externalizing their own personal problems and waging a detructive war on the general public.

  • Jollyraj

    Don’t remember that happening. When was that case you speak of?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And loyalist paramilitaries also waged a destructive war on the general public … only with them it was in ‘defence of the state’ or maybe not. I’m happy for you to enlighten me.

  • Granni Trixie

    But in my versiOn of the past many are culpable. I have written often on that very topic infact I challenge you to show where I have ever said that but one element did wrong, I just do not think that.

  • johnny lately

    Obviously that same rule applies to RUC special branch and elements of British intelligence otherwise those hundreds upon hundreds of innocent victims would still be alive today.

  • Jollyraj

    Why on earth do you persist with this clearly mistaken notion that most unionists support and admire Loyalist terrorists? They don’t. I don’t.

    Most unionists, certainly all normal decent ones think that the Loyalist goons were exactly the same as IRA and INLA goons – criminal murderers, thieves, rapists with absolutely no right or mandate to do what they were doing.

    All decent, normal unionists have contempt for Loyalist terrorists – just as all decent, normal nationalists have contempt for the IRA/INLA etc

    Pick up an innocent Catholic walking around Belfast and beat him to death?? Not in my name, Billy.

    Kidnap and murder a mother and hide her body across the border?? Not in our names, Gerard.

  • Jollyraj

    Sadly, GT, some of the more deluded Republican commenters on here seek to cover their own darkly secret shame at condoning IRA war crimes by pretending that unionists support Loyalist terrorists. I get the same guff thrown up at me.

    Fact is, all decent unionist people have total contempt for Loyalist terrorists, just as all decent nationalists have contempt for the IRA.

  • eamoncorbett

    That’s fine Richard ,but wasn’t there an onus on the silent passive majority to shout stop more often . I can remember Monica Williams and her group at the heart of the troubles but later on nothing on an organised basis .

  • grumpy oul man

    Oh dear.
    History rewritten to remove all nionist contact with loyalist error groups from UWC to UR, drumcree and twaddell.cant seem to remember the UUUC maybe the cosy relationship with the UDA and the DUP in north down doesnt count either.
    I wonder why David Irvine lied about loyalists knowing the wallpaper in Paisleys living room

  • grumpy oul man

    The provos dont exist anymore and are loyalist not shooting people at the moment.

  • grumpy oul man

    I often put “read this twice” when replying to Jolly.
    He seems to miss the point a awful lot.
    But he does a wonderful kneejerk.

  • johnny lately

    Deluded republican commenters, that’s a laugh from you especially when your the man that claimed with such venom, as if you were present and heard him say through your own ears, Danny Morrison claiming every word spoken in Irish was like a bullet from a gun. Still waiting on you producing your evidence, did you just make that up or maybe your a little deluded.

  • Deeman

    Panorama has identified 10 unarmed civilians shot, according to witnesses, by the MRF:
    Brothers John and Gerry Conway, on the way to their fruit stall in Belfast city centre on 15 April 1972
    Aiden McAloon and Eugene Devlin, in a taxi taking them home from a disco on 12 May 1972
    Joe Smith, Hugh Kenny, Patrick Murray and Tommy Shaw, on Glen Road on 22 June 1972
    Daniel Rooney and Brendan Brennan, on the Falls Road on 27 September 1972

    1 example in 1972, I can give you more if you like.

    Or when your British army heroes wer on a drunken rampage in Newry:

    http://www.crossexaminer.co.uk/archives/9505

    And shot a 13 year old child.

  • aquifer

    We have a pretty good count and who was to blame for most of 3000 killed, and who kicked the whole thing off, aiming to march everybody into a unitary state at pistol point. Bad idea.

  • Chgoreader

    There is a great deal of value in Mick/Newton’s observations. I visited my cousin in Ballymoney in 1985. Most of my family in the Republic were concerned, but privately assessed that the odds of me evading any problem were very good. My cousin had moved from Mayo to Ballymoney to marry a local woman who had a shop in the town. Mr. and Mrs. Cousin were Catholic and nationalists, and Mrs. Cousin’s personal views would have warmed the heart of any Sinn Feiner, but their existence completely comports with the description of the vast majority of the NI made by Newton. Despite my cousins’ sympathies, they weren’t strongly rooting for an immediate Provo military victory. Indeed, neither had any use for terrorism. Moreover, neither had any interest in getting involved in “the Troubles” or even the politics of the day. The proof of the existence of the Troubles was all around, but merely as a part of the overall background scenery — there to be found if you looked for it, but otherwise easily ignored. My cousins’ and their friends, family, and neighbors carried on with their daily lives with a normality fairly equivalent to that to be found in the Republic, or the UK, or indeed any other part of the democratic world at the time. During my visit over several days, Mrs. Cousins had to do a run to Belfast, and she had a close call when the Provos put up a blockade to requisition cars from commuters — she escaped a confiscation. I saw all the police stations barricaded like bunkers in Germany in the last days of the Nazi regime, and I had a drink with my cousin in the nearly deserted Hotel Europa in Belfast, itself barricaded like a building soon to be condemned. But ordinary life clearly continued on all around me, and I had the distinct impression, as reported by Newton, that most people largely soldiered on, silently praying that the conflict just simply end. My visit went smoothly, and I might well have been visiting Provence in bad weather.