Continuity between Adams’ failed war and failing peace is to ‘establish the conflict as eternal and perpetual’

A powerful piece from Newton Emerson, in yesterday’s Irish Times…

The first person the IRA murdered after Gerry Adams was elected Sinn Féin president was Charles Armstrong, the Ulster Unionist chair of Armagh City and District Council.

Adams became president on Sunday, November 13th, 1983. The following evening, a bomb exploded under Armstrong’s car as he left a council meeting. An SDLP colleague, Pat Brannigan, risked his life by pulling Armstrong from the burning wreckage.

Armstrong left a wife and eight children, who heard the explosion from their house a few hundred yards away. Afterwards, they received threats and hate mail and were forced to move. To the IRA supporter, every victim becomes culpable by the mere fact of their victimisation.

Shortly after the attack, Adams said Armstrong was a “perfectly legitimate” target because he was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment – as if any number of such targets were not available.

But Armstrong was also a liberal figure, respected across the community. In his final council meeting he had held a minute’s silence for the murder of a Sinn Féin councillor’s brother, earning rebukes from the DUP.

“All human life is sacred,” Armstrong told the chamber. “Murder, for whatever reason, must be condemned.”

Armstrong was a liberal. Ostensibly, the Provos killed him because he was in the UDR and therefore “a legitimate target”, but as Newton points out “three weeks after the Armagh bomb, the law lecturer and UUP assembly member Edgar Graham was murdered by the IRA.”

If there was ever an IRA plot to kill Ian Paisley, it’s yet to be revealed. Liberals on both sides, as well illustrated by this particular story, were the glue that still bound some forms of civil and political society throughout the trauma of the troubled years, and therefore a threat.

Selective targeting of liberals rather than the Unionist extremes (the 2006 edition of Lost Lives says the Provisionals managed a kill rate of just 30 loyalist paramilitaries in over thirty years) suggests these social bonds themselves were a strategic target in and of themselves.

Although there is no comparison in scale, the Bosian writer Aleksandar Hemon speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Start The Week in the wake of the publication of his memoir of Sarajevo shared this insight into the mindset of such strategically directed killings…

I always thought that the extreme violence that happened in Bosnia was directly proportional to the strengths of the bonds that they had had for at least a few generations before that. So that the violence had to be so intense so as to tear that [closeness] apart.

And to make any reconciliation impossible or at least very hard to achieve over several generations so rather than the consequence of thousands of years of hatred, they needed to break up families, they needed to drive a wedge between neighbours who had lived together for so many years. They knew what they were doing.

It was a strategy on the part of the Serbs in particular. They utilised the inhuman potentials that humans have. It was a political stratagem that required, in some ways, advanced thinking: tactical and strategic and psychological and perhaps spontaneous.

In the history of the siege of Sarajevo there were so many arbitrary crimes you know children shelled snipers shooting people running to get water but it was precisely so that no one would be able to forgive the next generation.

In other words, to establish the conflict as internal and perpetual.

It really is worth listening to the whole thing, particularly on the malign interpretations used by extreme nationalists to make false claims on the nature of culture, identity and history. It’s a useful context for the key point Newton draws in his own piece:

Today, I am occasionally invited to speak at Catholic secondary schools. It is a privilege I enjoy. The children are as open, kind and clever as they were 30 years ago but their view of the Troubles, albeit ancient history to them, is utterly different. They see IRA violence as regrettable yet inevitable, and almost certainly warranted. The idea of a just war against oppression has been swallowed whole.

This was always going to prove toxic when the next political problem arose, and that moment has arrived. Sinn Féin has pitched its latest manoeuvrings at Stormont as a battle for inalienable rights against intractable unionist bigotry. Commentators describe an Irish language Act – something Sinn Féin could not be bothered with until months ago – as the new one-man one-vote. The logic points straight back to the start of the Troubles.

This is Adams’s ultimate legacy. He has bought peace by licensing the next war. That might have been excusable as a temporary expediency but he has pursued it as a permanent self-exculpation. At the Sinn Féin ardfheis last weekend, delegates cheered their pride in the IRA. All its victims have become culpable by the mere face of their victimisation, a majority of northern nationalists implicitly concur – and a unionism that could counter this with reform and understanding was deliberately marked for death.

The long history of partial disclosure of that self-exculpation has become a platform from which to continue fighting his war by other means. In insisting on continuity between his own failed war and failing peace the aim has been to “establish the conflict as internal and perpetual”.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • PeterBrown

    If you ignore the murders you yourself were citing as the start of the Troubles then these were the start – is that seriously what you are saying? How can we have a serious discussion if your position is more elusive that Gerry’s IRA membership – more faces than the Albert clock!

  • New Yorker

    Slab was convicted but spent little, if any, time in jail. A year or so ago he just about ran me off the road. In the local area he often drives down the center of the road, I suppose to show he is the ‘boss man’. I wonder if he knows most people in the area despise him because he has brought a bad name to the area.

    You should take a drive down to South Armagh. You will many mansions with two or three luxury cars. The people who live there are not from inherited money, are not well educated and nobody asks what they do for a living. How do you think they attained such wealth?

    In regard to the army council, how did Ms M. O’Neill get her current position? Were there other candidates for the job? Did party members meet other candidates and then decide who to vote for? You know, like other political parties. Is it possible she was selected behind the scenes?

  • babyface finlayson

    50%+1 would be the worst possible result in my view. It would set in motion a chain of events towards a UI regardless of the viability of unification.
    Yet it is what was agreed so it would have to be honoured and not to do so would be disastrous.
    But I see republican commentators such as Jude Collins constantly insist that 50% +1 is all that is required as though somehow it will magically make all objections disappear.
    It sometimes seems to me that some would prefer a bloody pyrrhic victory rather than a more deliberate patient winning of hearts and minds

  • Jess McAnerney

    That is exactly my point Peter
    Different sources have different events as the tipping point. For others it was the stopping of the civil rights march in Derry broke the camels back.
    There is simply no one single true narrative of the troubles conflict.

    It feels to me that you couldnt care less how the whole conflict came about and are more focussed on blaming republicans and picking and choosing from statistics to back it up which is sad.

    I am merely pointing out that not everyone agrees that to focus on atributing blame on republicans for fighting for ther country the exact same way our acnestors have done for centuries before us will achieve the intended result, but more likely divide our society deeper and indeed spread the division all over this island and with brexit in the mix, potentially between both islands as well. Especially while there are other areas which need much greater scrutiny and light shone on, in particular around the actions of state forces which the media need to put much more focus on in assisting the full truth to be released and no longer remain so complicit in the cover up of civilian murders.

    The recorded statistics clearly show all of the murders between 1966 and 1969 as being at the hands of unionists, all bombings as well for that matter.
    Those are hard cold facts.

    But clearly there are no mistakes and absolutely nothing to learn from this or events in that period.

    Republicans fought back and that is simply not tolerable to some. Sackcloth and ashes if you please.

    The result is, it seems to me like we are going back to the 60s and the divisions are getting deeper.

  • Jess McAnerney

    Personally I assumed it was the leadership of Sinn Fein who decided who should replace Martin McGuinness.
    I think they made a good choice and I have no issues with it.
    Gerry Adams is probably the most popular politician on this island. Bookies had him favourite to be president before he ruled himself out.
    Not many could deal with what he has had to put up with in the media so I don’t find it difficult to believe no one would try to replace him while he was still putting himself forward.
    Perhaps the reason he is stepping down now is for that very reason. If he doesn’t, no one will ever fill his boots so he has opened up the party to the next generation who will be responsible for the parties growth from here on in.
    That is what I expect to see happen and I expect the party will grow significantly as a result. Especially if Mary Lou is the next leader.
    I am fully behind them for one. The country needs them more than ever.

  • PeterBrown

    It is understandable for different people to have different opinions about which event was the catalyst – what is not acceptable for you to change when you think it started to whatever event best suits your particular point you are trying to make at the time.
    I was not born when it started but I did witness much of it and none of the terrorism was legally or morally justified period. It feels to me (seriously!) that you are looking at the Troubles with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and whilst I have criticised all the parties you are concentrating most of your ire for the party responsible for the least deaths and ignoring the majority. You seem to think it is OK to give the republicans the freedom fighters get out of jail free card but to expect sackcloth and ashes and full disclosure from the state whilst paying for the pedestal to put Gerry and Martin on and the safe for them to keep their secrets locked in.

    Your approach is epitomised by your selection of the 1966-69 period for your statistics to back up your case. Less the .5% of the Troubles deaths occurred during this period but you deem it to be representative (despite accusing me of being selective about my statistics) and then you are blatantly dishonest about the statistics themselves.

    You claim all of the murders between 1966 and 1969 as being at the hands of unionists, when that is simply not true – according to my copy of Lost Lives 19 people had died by then end of 1969 and republicans killed more than 1/4 of them. if you are going to tell barefaced lies at least tell lies that are not so easily disproved! Or where they killed by informers inside the republican movement and are therefore attributable to the state!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    as it happens the Glenane gang wasn’t “run by state forces”. Is someone claiming now they were?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The published paramilitary monitoring report (based on the latest intelligence) of October 2015 reported that IRA members believed that SF still answered to the Provisional Army Council. Are the IRA themselves wrong about that, are you disputing the intelligence or has something changed in the meantime?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they have no shortage of visions; they live in an imagined parallel world after all. I think it’s kind of like The Upside Down from “Stranger Things”

  • T.E.Lawrence

    When will your biography be complete Seaan ? Should be an interesting read if you have dug deep into new source material ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s all very new! It is amazing to discover in research just how much material lies unviewed and undigested while historians stick to the cannon and rework the work of other historians. It is probably the Scots Irish dissenter contrarian strain I inherited from my grandmother that drives my concern to get it accurate. I found this earlier failure to look at things in depth with the Great War material I looked at forty years ago when I began to research history, driven by the stories of those who had been there and their old soldiers amusement at just how wrongly a lot of historians had described their experiences. I have a book out with my agent on the local Civil War of 1688-89 (one year, ending when it becomes an international event). I have given public talks on most of my themes and find that some of the most interesting discussions would be from those from the Unionist tradition who genuinely want to know more about their own history and have that dissenter cussedness for getting the dirt on the Cannonic version!

    Book out in two years at the latest if all goes well.

  • mickfealty

    You misunderstand both me and the Taoiseach.

  • mickfealty

    That’s the key problem with their approach. If you polarise you intensify conviction amongst the base, but bejasus our of everyone else. Crucially you send the swingers away not least because they find they find the demographic argument repulsive anti democratic.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a good question. They have existed, I’d argue Lemass was one. But their influence was fleeting and in terms of NI, er, patchy.

  • Jess McAnerney

    The Belfast Telegraph for one, their article claims a court ruling is only a step on the path to truth.

    Nowhere near enough media pressure is being applied to help get to the truth of what went on here.

  • mickfealty

    It’s not a case of what’s required, more of what’s needed to get what’s required. You have to aim much higher than the bare minimum or you will certainly land much lower.

    Viktor Frankl…

    The fact people’s sights have been set so low (ie, on the literal qualifier) tells us this is more about sustaining the base (in absence of delivery in NI) whilst they go wandering in the south. It also betokens a lack of seriousness about the goal itself.

  • Jess McAnerney

    A poll of IRA members conducted by the state poses more questions than it answers in my mind to be honest.

    Talk me through how you feel that one worked?

    Is it saying the IRA were totally infiltrated and a huge proportion were actually state agents, which they were able to get feedback from in this poll?

    Because if it is, then the next step is what exactly was this relationship, did this relationship with the state mean more killings.
    Is it why so many IRA killings are unsolved, ais the state also protecting IRA members who murdered?

    Again, the why is noone in the media raising alarm bells about such potential.

    How deep does the cover up go?

    Is it acceptable for the media to simply say we will never know, as the consequences for the state would be too bad?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    That’s an interesting name you bring up and point that I would pick up on. I have always considered a politician from the South more in the mould of a Visionary Republican than their counterparts in NI. As I have mentioned in my previous post Republicism in NI did go down a sectarian path which we still see manifested today.

  • Jess McAnerney

    What if the point I am making is that there has been insufficient scrutiny and examination of the circumstances that led to the conflict in the first place for anyone to seriously claim we have done enough to learn from the mistakes of the past in order not to repeat them.

    And for anyone to claim that the reason for pursiung blame on one section, republicans while ignoring the fact that much of what is considered to have been a very dirty war on all sides is being air brushed out of history by state cover up of its own actions and support from people like yourself that these actions should be covered up because the IRA were the most brutal and did the most damage.

    I am sorry, but you simply cannot pick and choose whos human rights are important and whos are not to suit your own political outlook.

    I find the whole context of this post utterly wrong and the reason 20 years after the GFA why we have not moved on at all, and if anything are starting to move backwards.

    Thankfully, it seems as though the next generation have more sense than to blindly believe the common media position, most likely for the very reasons I am outlining. The gaping holes in how state involvement has been treated, the blatant cover up of documented evidence on the weak grounds of national security which basically says, the truth of state involvement is just to awful for us to hear, it would probably cause more trouble than covering it up and show the reality that the war was primarily between the state forces and the IRA which in turn would vindicate Sinn Feins position all along, which after 20 years of one sided media reporting would be hugely embarrassing for many media sources.

    How can we rebuild bridges and trust on this basis?
    Things are not getting better they are getting worse.
    Devolution is simply not possible under these circumstacnes.
    Is it any wonder we are in such a mess?

  • PeterBrown

    You mean given that I have exposed your lies (something you have conveniently ignored) to support your completely erroneous last point your change your whole argument again?

    At no point have I have supported covering anything up – I have been scrupulously even handed (unlike you) in pointing out all victims deserve the truth – the state is currently the only side under any pressure to produce the truth and you have been completely silent on the truth not being forthcoming from any party other than the state.

    The next generation of republicans may have been brainwashed into believing the state is more culpable than the terrorists (opinion) but the statistics (facts) tell a very different story. Let’s not forget that SF (if they would get back into the Executive) are the state now and are very good at requesting full disclosure from the state but not so good at providing it themselves – yet another double standard.

    Your posts still read like a SF Press Release – there has been not a single word of criticism of anyone other than the state who are the only side to so far engage in any meaningful manner in any sort of truth process.

  • Jess McAnerney

    I chose the 1966-69 period because that is when the conflict started or the period that led up to it, and I believe it is important to fully understand the reasons why a conflict started to make sure the same mistakes are not made in future.

    “You claim all of the murders between 1966 and 1969 as being at the hands of unionists, when that is simply not true – according to my copy of Lost Lives 19 people had died by then end of 1969 and republicans killed more than 1/4 of them. if you are going to tell barefaced lies at least tell lies that are not so easily disproved! Or where they killed by informers inside the republican movement and are therefore attributable to the state!”

    I assure you that I did not claim this to simply promote lies as you suggest.
    Anyone can search online and find resources outlining the which correspond to what I have been saying. I am by no means an expert on any of this and never claimed to be.

    As you can see from the BBC link, you are actually correct, and 19 people were indeed killed in 1969.
    I was not aware of that, Here is an extract to reinforce what you claimed is true, as I have no issue with it.

    “In all 19 people were killed in 1969, 14 of them civilians. They included a nine-year-old schoolboy, struck by a police bullet as he lay in his bedroom. An Irish Republican Army (IRA) member died in a car crash and a teenage member of the Fianna, the IRA’s junior wing, was shot by loyalists. A member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was killed by his own bomb – just one of many paramilitaries to die accidental deaths. The first Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer killed was shot on the Shankill Road by the UVF.”

    I do not have access to the book Lost Lives which sounds more comprehensive than what is available online and a useful resource for anyone interested.

    Perhaps you want to take the opportunity to clarify what the republican killings were as for some reason there is little detail on these and I am simply not aware of it.

    It may even alter my view that the troubles seems to have been instigated by unionist aggression against giving equal rights to irish and catholic citizens leading to violent response from nationalism that spiralled out of control.

    I do hold the state most responsible, not only for allowing the conflict to happen in the first place, but because they are still playing politics and putting peace and security second to their own selfish interests today not least over brexit never mind truth recovery.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The tradition of De mortuis nihil nisi prius is a fine one, and after someone dies we all say what a grand man he was, and in the specific context of Northern Ireland politics, make him a fighter for peace, but that doesn’t mean that we have to believe these hypocrisies decades later. The three people under discussion are:-

    “CHARLES ARMSTRONG of Lisnadill Guiding Star Loyal Orange Lodge. Ulster Defence Regiment part time major died 14th November 1983”.

    Edgar Graham, going by his biography, was the makings of another Jim Allister.

    The Rev Robert Bradford of Vanguard. “Described as a religious and political hardliner, identifying with British Israelism. In one of his speeches he said the causes of the problems in Northern Ireland were down to the Roman Catholic Church, Marxism, and ecumenical confusion. His campaign had been openly supported by the National Front, and at a National Front rally September 1974, Martin Webster read out a letter of solidarity from Bradford”.

    If these are the liberals, what are the Extremists like?

    I’m afraid your assertion is without foundation. The IRA, had it wished to attack the centre, would have concentrated on Alliance. It never did and never has. Outside the prosperous and wholly Protestant suburbs of Belfast, “Unionist Liberal” is an oxymoron. For demographic reasons there is no Liberal Unionist tradition west of the Bann. Given that Fenians outnumber true believers in this region, Unionists cannot afford to take their eye from the ball for a single second.

  • PeterBrown

    Your statement was and I quote:

    “The recorded statistics clearly show all of the murders between 1966 and 1969 as being at the hands of unionists, all bombings as well for that matter.
    Those are hard cold facts”

    They are not facts – on 14/8 /69 Herbert Roy was shot dead by republican terrorists who also wounded 3 police officers trying to force a loyalists crowd away from Divis Street, David Linton was killed on 16/8/69 at a barricade at Palmer Street on the Crumlin Road, Jack Todd was shot on 8/9/69 whilst walking away from a mediation at an interface in North Belfast, William King was infamously beaten to death at the fountain enclave on the city side in Londonderry. Republicans actually killed more people than loyalists in 1969 and only one less person throughout the 1966-69 period – those are the cold hard facts.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    tee-hee – are you serious?

  • Jess McAnerney

    Thank you for pointing out my error.
    I still dont agree that numbers are the best way to allocate blame and ignoring what caused the conflict is a huge mistake in my opinion.
    The fact the state killed first in this period means a lot from a nationalist view, in particular that it was over defending discrimination and the prevention of civil rights.

    I do understand why some in particular unionists see the numbers as the key justification in attributing almost all of the responsibility toward republicans, even going as far as calling it Adam’s war as in the title of this piece.

    Personally, I believe we are already too late to repair the damage this direction has taken us down already and I dont think it ever had any chance of achieving a common acceptance across both communities here.

    I have to ask, is there any point even trying to bridge our differences any longer.

  • Jess McAnerney

    My views are not uncommon among the nationalist community.
    I think many are underestimating the level of mistrust towards the British state and unionism, we now have both joined at the hip.
    I can tell you, it far exceeds the mistrust that unionists have of Sinn Fein
    A reality which may be realised in the not to distant future

  • MainlandUlsterman

    because there is no grand conspiracy perhaps?

    Remember the talk before Saville about how Bloody Sunday was supposedly ordered from on high etc. Revealed as a complete myth. Even the Cadwalladr book, which took Republican assumptions into looking at the Glenanne gang, stopped short of going full conspiracy theory on it.

  • New Yorker

    You say: “Personally I assumed it was the leadership of Sinn Fein who decided who should replace Martin McGuinness.” Does that include members of the army council?

    Adams is 69, appears in good health and could hold the position for several more years. Perhaps he sees trouble ahead down the road and decided to depart in good time and let his successor take the blame when bad news hits.

  • Jess McAnerney

    What army council?
    If special branch believe Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris are the army council, then clearly the army council from that perspective is directing Sinn Fein as they are or were also the leadership of Sinn Fein.

    So long as they are committed to peace, and working hard for the people they represent, in reality, there is no army and therefore it is not really an army council.
    The PSNI confirmed whatever army council was being referred to, was not a threat to peace and was fully behind preserving the peace process.
    If the chief constable of the PSNI is not concerned, and is content he has the backing from Sinn Fein, why should anyone be concerned?

    This language only serves to preserve fear and mistrust in communities where it is not warranted.

    As for Gerry running away. Sure, he sticks around for all the difficult periods, but when the party is on the verge of being elected in Dublin, he decides to leave the party for purely selfish reasons.
    I have a feeling we wont have long to wait to find out one way or another.

  • Jess McAnerney

    The truth will come out eventually

  • mickfealty

    The extremists are mentioned in the piece Paddy, and they comprised just 30 of the Provisionals successful hits. You’re a terrible man for the oil selective reading.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I hope so

  • Paddy Reilly

    30 loyalist paramilitaries? I suppose the trouble is that members of this order did not go round with donkey jackets emblazoned with the words “Loyalist Paramilitary, please shoot me”, so the IRA had to expand its targets to include persons of impeccable Unionist credentials who bore arms as part of an organisation sworn to put down the IRA.

    The reason for this goes back to 1925, when the Border Commission, appointed to allow the Catholic part of the six counties to join the Free State, failed to do so because the RUC and Special Constabularies etc had demonstrated that they were in full control of the area and it would be hard work to dislodge them. So, it seems to be engrained in the Republican psyche in border areas that the only way to achieve majority rule in their homeland is to eliminate members of these organisations and others like them.

    The IRA was a loose confederation of brigades in specific Nationalist majority areas where there was a democratic deficit resulting from the aborted 1925 Boundary Commission: Derry, South Derry, South Down etc; and also in West Belfast. Unsurprisingly, it attacked the upholders of minority rule in these areas.

    “Loyalist Paramilitaries” were mainly a class of criminals found in non-Catholic parts of Belfast. The border brigades were too far away to interfere here and the West Belfast brigade had to confine itself to very deserving cases. As there was no East Belfast or Newtownabbey brigade of the IRA, there was little opportunity for IRA versus Loyalist interaction.

  • mickfealty

    In other words, just the easy targets?

  • PeterBrown

    Those civil rights which republicans now like to claim were the reason the Troubles started were all granted by 1976 so why did we endure 20 more years of violence?

    Because the IRA has no more interest in civil rights than loyalist terrorists. If they did the greatest civil right is the right to life so why ignore that.

    Their campaign as they do succinctly out it themselves at the time was about forcing a United Ireland irrespective of the will of the people democratically expressed or otherwise. Only when it became clear that this was not possible militarily did the ceasefires and a belated commitment to the right to self determination come along.

    That necessitates a rewriting of the history of and justification for the campaign and the suffering it inflicted and although done including yourself seem to give that credence the facts tell a different story.

    What did the killing which is the subject of this article do to protect the catholic community or advance civil rights or even help bring about a United Ireland?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “I can tell you, it far exceeds the mistrust that unionists have of Sinn Fein”
    This isn’t a competition.
    But for the record it is pretty much impossible to mistrust anyone more than unionists mistrust SF. I do appreciate though the high levels of hostility to my country from the more Republican end of nationalism, I have no illusions about that.

  • Jess McAnerney

    “Those civil rights which republicans now like to claim were the reason the Troubles started were all granted by 1976 so why did we endure 20 more years of violence?”

    The violence began to deny civil rights, it was hate fuelled and mainly a result of the scaremongering from unionist firebrands such as paisley.
    Once again, you are quite happy to point out the wrongs of republicans, but cannot accept the responsibility for conflict emerging in the first place was down to unionist and british state misrule and the murder of its citizens.

    I have never claimed any killing was to advance civil rights, nor do I believe violence is ever comitted to achieve any such rights.
    Why did it not stop in 1976 you ask. Because by that stage both sides had too many graves, too many reasons to fight on to make sure their deaths were not for nothing. By that stage, republicans were fighting to remove british rule, not for civil rights under british rule.
    They were bt then fighting for ‘the cause’ to ‘free Ireland’. I am sure you have heard the phrases.

    “Their campaign as they do succinctly out it themselves at the time was about forcing a United Ireland irrespective of the will of the people democratically expressed or otherwise. ”


    “Only when it became clear that this was not possible militarily did the ceasefires and a belated commitment to the right to self determination come along.”


    “That necessitates a rewriting of the history of and justification for the campaign and the suffering it inflicted and although done including yourself seem to give that credence the facts tell a different story.”

    Every murder committed justified further violence, on both sides. Otherwise they wouldnt have happened.
    That doesnt make it right or any more acceptable, but it makes it bloody difficult to stop.
    In fact, nothing can justify such violence to a rational mind but when you witness violence on your community, whether it be state forces killing, republicans or loyalists, the community under attack will inevitably fight back and not always with the rational mind they had before violence was brought to their door.

    The responsility to prevent conflict starting was the state, and that is the reason I hold the state more responsible than either the loyalist or republicans who got embroiled in the spiral of tit for tat violence.

    It should never have happened in the first place and man combatants in the conflict are also victims of it in my view, as were their families..

    It is not republicans who are rewriting history. History will not ignore how the conflict began, the reasons violence started.

    I could just as easily accuse you and others of trying to airbrush the responsibilty of the british state in the conflict out of history.

    “What did the killing which is the subject of this article do to protect the catholic community or advance civil rights or even help bring about a United Ireland?”

    Absolutely nothing. Just as futile and pointless as every single other killing in the conflict.

  • doopa

    And sure the British were just there to drink tea and bake cakes.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Persons who concern themselves with maintaining minority rule by force of arms are hardly easy targets, due to their possession of same arms.

  • PeterBrown

    The violence started because it was perceived that the civil rights movement was a trojan horse for a united Ireland. That was almost certainly not the case at that time and the reaction actually became a self fulfilling prophecy because the civil rights movement and (or perhaps more accurately) the reaction to it did indeed spawn the IRA campaign. accepted that in virtually my first post (and you commented upon it) I have always accepted a portion of the blame belongs with that reaction by unionism – you have never sought to give any portion of the blame to anyone else even though the violence was universal virtually from the start.

  • Jess McAnerney

    Blame has no place in peace and reconciliation.

    From what you have said, you feel the conflict started, because unionists were not in the right frame of mind, fearing as they did that civil rights were a trojan horse for a renewed IRA campaign, they reacted violently which is human nature unfortunately.

    That sounds reasonable to me.

    I assume you can likewise understand, that the nationalist community bearing the brunt of the violent reaction to those unfounded fears, rightly or wrongly fought back and responded equally if not gradually even more violently.

    I understand totally that the IRA campaign was devastating to the unionist community, and led to many young people seeing what was happening, joining the security forces and paramilitaries or both to fight back. That is how conflict plays out. It does not excuse it, or justify it, but it is a common reaction in conflict plagued socities all over the world.

    The actions of the army and state forces had the exact same effect in my community.

    No one wanted any of it. For those who lost friends and family members on both sides, violent response was justified.
    Any logical reason for it was out the window, raw hatred and revenge were the main drivers.

    You can look at the records and say the offer to meet the civil rights demands in 1976 should have ended the conflict.
    And you would be right, it should have. But it does not take into account the damage which had already been done on both sides. Not to mention those in the state forces who also did not want it to end any other way than a defeat of the IRA which in light of our long history of armed revolution that had gone before not to mention the annual rubbing it in our faces the celebration of the past military defeat of nationalism, this simply was not even an option.

    There was a lot more to it, than can simply be judged from statistics.

    We have failed to find a way of dealing with the past.
    The pursuit of blame has prevented us from finding a way to forgive one another and move forward.

    Northern Ireland as a devolved region has failed beyond any doubt.

    It is prefectly clear that even in a united Ireland, devolution will not work.

  • John Porter

    14 November 1983:
    Charles Armstrong, 54-year-old Protestant, married
    with 8 children, a councillor and businessman and a member of the UDR
    holding the rank of Major was an Ulster Unionist chairman of the Armagh
    District Council. Shortly after he left a meeting at the council’s
    headquarters he was killed by an IRA bomb explosion. Maj. Armstrong was
    sitting in his car and reached across the dashboard for a can of de-icer
    when the bomb exploded under his car. An SDLP councillor had spoken to
    him a few minutes earlier and was getting into his own car when he heard
    the explosion. After the explosion he ran toward Maj. Armstrong’s car
    shouting, “where’s Charlie, where’s Charlie?”. He said that after the
    smoke disappeared he saw Maj. Armstrong lying on the ground at an angle
    to the door and he appeared to be dead.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Fantastic summary Peter.