The Northern Irish Troubles

Authored by: Cillian McGrattan

The Routledge History of Terrorism

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415535779
eBook ISBN: 9781315719061
Adobe ISBN: 9781317514879


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As the first of Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon’s chapters outlined, Ireland has endured a long relationship with terror. The Northern Irish “Troubles” – the colloquial term given to the conflict that took place between 1966 (or sometimes dated from the arrival of British troops in 1969) and 2005 – claimed almost 4,000 lives and left upwards of 50,000 people injured. In a population of around 1.5 million, this equates to one in three families having been directly affected by the violence, which itself took the form of rioting, shootings, and bombings (particularly car bombs and mortars). The violence peaked in the early 1970s (1972 witnessed 496 deaths) but continued sporadically and relentlessly into the 1990s and early 2000s. 1 Although these figures may seem small when placed in absolute terms against other conflicts, in proportional terms the killing toll would translate as around 100,000 deaths in the United Kingdom or 500,000 in the United States. Less overt forms of violence included threats and intimidation, collusion between state forces and paramilitary organizations, (intra)community “policing” in the form of “punishment beatings” and “kneecappings,” and a climate of sectarianism and segregation the residual effects of which continue to be felt at many levels in contemporary Northern Irish society. These include continued sectarian attacks on homes and places of symbolic and cultural importance, rioting and protest, perceptions of alienation and marginalization by groups and individuals (including the victims and survivors of terror and violence) along with a renewed armed campaign by a range of anti-peace process “spoiler” organizations.

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