Troubles Legacy: What happens when narrative fiction meets narrative fact?

Ben Lowry says some have high hopes of the HIU (which has all the tools to do proper historical inquiry that HET didn’t, but was on a political choke chain), which may be disappointed. But he has a point when he notes:

If the state had been even remotely as ruthless as republicans imply, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and other leading republicans would have been dead before the end of 1972, let alone alive and active in the republican movement decades later.

The silence of political moderates amid this legacy push to justify the IRA is central to its success – and I specify the IRA because there is no push to justify loyalist terrorism.

But I know enough long-standing Alliance members to be able to testify to the abhorrence that they almost invariably feel towards all terrorism, even though their decency is such that they try to be positive and talk constructively about the future.

Truth is that most voices who dominate the narratives surrounding Northern Irish politics are Catholic and of a nationalist background. Public commentary (including here on Slugger where despite protests to the contrary) is predominated by CNR voices.

Ben again:

Some unionists who have been following legacy developments tell me I have got this wrong and that the coming Historical Investigations Unit will be uncomfortable for the IRA.

I continue to fear that there are number of reasons – some innocent, some not – why it could turn disproportionately on a state that prevented civil war and that reacted with such exemplary restraint to murder and mayhem, albeit with grave lapses (cumulatively many, proportionately few).

The second reason that Dr McGarry and Mr Cushnahan’s interventions are important is that they are from a Catholic background.

It is increasingly hard for anyone from a Protestant background to dispute the narrative that Northern Ireland was an apartheid state to which violence was a reasonable response.

Disputing that leads to howled charges of sectarianism.

That’s absolutely true (and I expect the comment zone is about to prove Ben – and myself – right again for the umpteenth that nothing gets the dander up more than “an upitty Prod”).

  • grumpy oul man

    Except of course unionisms violence didn’t stop after August it may have been totally for tat but unionisms started the violence and loyalist violence continues to this day.

  • grumpy oul man

    Another posible theory is that the Intel devices kept loyalist at a basic level to reduce any future threat to the state.
    A fairly common excerise during the empire days, supporting tribes or clans were never allowed to become too competent, even the most loyal dog can bite.

  • AntrimGael

    Maybe the FRU handlers of Scapattecci could answer that?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I’ve read very little outside of Lethal Allies, I’ll gladly peruse any links you can pass on to me regarding the topic.

  • Hawk

    I have been exhaustive and precise as to what exactly my point is.

    You have resorted to a strawman generalisation which has nothing to do with my original point.

    I’m not stupid enough to defend an argument I never made. Nice try though!!!

    Shill harder elsewhere LMAO

  • Hawk

    Conspiracy theory? I think it was as a known tactic :

    All of this is not unrelated but somewhat besides the actual point I made. The initial claim was that loyalist put ‘little effort’ into targetting Republicans – I feel I can and have refuted that. The Brian Nelson affair demonstrates considerable effort by loyalists to hit known Republicans.

    What’s not known is just how many others listed as ‘civilians’ listed in cain were actually involved with the IRA. I don’t know the answer to that, I don’t think anybody does or ever will. Those deaths linked to the agent Brian Nelson should fall under heavy suspicion, as should those committed by the mid-Ulster UVF from the mid 80s.

    You’ve got a big mouth for a person who has read so little.

  • aquifer

    Professional journalism has its uses. Irish Times 15 April 2017:

    “By 2007, the conflict in Northern Ireland had claimed 3,720 lives. Due partly to Sinn Féin’s laser-like focus, attention on the 367 killed by British forces has eclipsed the 2,152 killed by the IRA and other republican groups.

    Very little attention, by comparison, has been paid to the 1,738 members of the security forces killed by the IRA, and none at all on those murdered by the IRA for spying – some 70 people.”

  • Hawk

    Why would you check to see if the three men who died were listed as IRA members on cain when IT SAYS on the page I linked that they WERE claimed as being volunteers one year after their death? LOL.

    Proof you aren’t really reading my posts nevermind attempting to understand them. My posting of that page from the ‘secret history of the IRA’ was to highlight that the tactic was NOT a ‘conspiracy theory’. It wasn’t a comment on the records at cain.

    Your statement “Bacon, Erasmus, and Kant were each reputed to have read everything available at the time”, the key being AT THE TIME, jars with what you said in the previous post “certainly no excuse for revisionism”. We can’t revise the history in light new information?!?!? Is this a serious point?

    I accepted above that the true number of IRA volunteers called ‘civilians’ might never been known. I also agree 100% that this is a process that should be left to peer review, not some chump like myself on the internet. My feeling however is that there is nobody actively scouring the databases to update it accordingly. That peer review you are talking about just doesn’t seem to be happening.

    Peter Taylor in his documentary ‘the Brits’ highlights the Brian Nelson episode. He says that Brian Nelson was in possession of intelligence that resulted in the targetting of ‘dozens’ of republicans :

    We know that the Republicans would disown republicans if it suited. We know that the British want to bury the Nelson story (and others like it) because of the accusations of collusion. Is it not obvious that we don’t and may never know the full story?

    You shared some insight about yourself so I will share some too. I knew via work a former loyalist active in the 80s who pushed very hard for the loyalists to target actual Republicans. He acknowledges quite candidly that way too many civilians were dying in ‘retaliations’ and not enough of the ‘enemy’. But he also says that plenty of IRA men went to their graves as civilians – and based on the ‘new’ evidence, I feel fairly sure he wasn’t bullshitting me.

    PS – happy Easter

  • grumpy oul man

    So explain to me,unionisms violence does not provoke but Republican violence does,
    This is MUs line which has many interesting theories attached to it.
    1/unionisms violence, has a cause but no effect.
    2/Republican violence has effect but no cause.
    3/the troubles started when nationlists started shooting back.
    To think that killing people and burning houses would not be provacative and not result in violence from the people attacked is just wrong.

  • The Living End

    “I really believe if Loyalists did not step up to the plate and “return the serve” the IRA would still be killing today.”

    Aye we really should be thanking the Shankill Butchers,Glennane gang, et al for their efforts.

    And by the way, it was nationalists ‘returning the serve’, and you lot still havent gotten over the effrontery of it. A forgotten and overlooked part is that it was the IRA which smashed the Orange state and forced Unionists to share power.

  • Hawk

    Certainly. I agree it would have been much better if there was no ‘Trouble’ at all.

    Plenty of the stories I was told had me laughing hysterically at the stupidity of some of the things the ‘lads’ got up to. But for all the laughing there were times and stories that were no laughing matter.

    The ridiculousness of the things they got up to (as funny as they could be) reminds me that many of those people who got involved were just dumb teenagers and early twenty somethings with lots of ideals and little life experience.

  • The Living End

    Seriously, you think bombing a school and a railway line, and chucking a pipebomb at a house, are comparable in sophistication to the Dublin/Monaghan bombing?

    No, of course you don’t. But you’ll keep pretending as it suits your narrative

  • The Living End

    Wasnt so much about getting kit as not getting caught

  • The Living End

    Indeed, a lesson which can be learned from Mao’s red guards, or more recently from Milosevic’s Mladic

  • The Living End


  • Hawk

    Who? Bryson?

    No lol.

  • Hawk

    Great stories KIR! Seems you have had an interesting life with all that travel. Thanks for sharing.