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Ulster for Beginners – Part IV

A Brief History of Ulster (continued)

In the search for a replacement for Stormont the government came to the conclusion that any scheme had to be acceptable to the constitutional nationalists of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) which had been formed in 1970. After negotiations held at Sunningdale in Berkshire, a power-sharing agreement was reached between the SDLP and the leadership of the Unionist Party which included a council of Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist Party split over the Council of Ireland. In the general election of February 1974 the agreement was decisively rejected at the polls. The government and the parties to the agreement ploughed on regardless. In May 1974, the Ulster Workers’ Council organised a general strike, aimed at bringing down the Council of Ireland. The strike was successful beyond its leaders’ wildest dreams, ending in the collapse of the power-sharing Executive.

[“wildest dreams”?]

In the absence of political stability the IRA campaign continued. Bombings and shootings became an every day event, added to by a new mainland bombing campaign. The government’s response was to pass the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

[Remember that? I don’t save that named persons could be banned from entering Great Britain but be perfectly free to walk around Ulster.

By the way, the timeline here is wrong. Shootings were an everyday event by 1971 and bombings by 1972. The mainland bombing campaign began in 1973.]

Between 1975-6 a constitutional convention was held which came close to agreement but failed. Internment was phased out and the government embarked upon a policy of treating terrorists as ordinary criminals. In 1975 the IRA murdered the British Ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs and in one day in 1979 murdered Lord Mountbatten while he was holidaying in the Republic of Ireland and 18 soldiers of the Parachute Regiment at Warrenpoint.

In 1981, Republican prisoners at the Maze jail demanded political status and began a dirty protest which grew into a hunger strike. Bobby Sands and 9 others died but the government stood firm.

[Hmm. IIRC that’s not quite true. They stood firm until the hunger strike was abandoned and then gave in.]

During the 1984 Conservative Conference, the IRA exploded a bomb in the main conference hotel where the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and members of the Cabinet were staying. In November 1985, the British and Irish government signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in which the Republic of Ireland was given a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland in return for promises of greater security co-operation. The agreement was condemned by Unionists who resigned their seats in protest.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement did little to suppress IRA terrorism. In 1987 they exploded a bomb at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, killing 11. In 1990 they murdered Ian Gow MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher. In 1992 and 1993 the IRA exploded two huge bombs in the City of London. The damage ran into billions.

On 31st August 1994 the IRA declared a ceasefire. On 9th February 1996 they ended it, exploding another huge bomb, this time at South Quay in London’s Docklands. Two men died.

Since 1969 the world has become familiar with the bombings, shootings, beatings, boycotts and expulsions.

[Actually, the world probably wasn’t too familiar with the last three.]

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX

6 comments to Ulster for Beginners – Part IV

  • I was working at my companies London office at Portman Square during 1990/1992.

    A car bomb went off somewhere close enough to hear, but not close enough to feel the blast or get damage.

    Alan (who had worked their since the 70’s) said “Fiver on Oxford Circus”. Not in any seriousness, just a little bit of British black humour. Pretty much summed up Londoners reaction to being bombed from the Zepplins of World War I, the doodlebugs of World War II to the left-wing and Islamic terrorists of the current era.

    Seemed appropriate at the time.

  • In 1981, Republican prisoners at the Maze jail demanded political status and began a dirty protest which grew into a hunger strike. Bobby Sands and 9 others died but the government stood firm.

    It was joked at the time that if the IRA wanted to be treated as political prisoners then the UK should send an investigative team to countries that had political prisoners – the USSR, China, certain South American and African countries, etc. – and find out how political prisoners were treated, and then treat them like that.

    Interestingly, I think the perception of British oral memory (which I would have echoed before Patrick’s article made me check) is that it was only six who fasted unto death. Six had died when the first hunger striker quit, which signalled that they had lost. It’s a reflection on how the news is perceived and remembered – a counterpart to the IRA’s news manipulation by arranging for successive deaths – that as soon as one gave up, so it was clear that the campaign had failed (and that was how it was perceived in news of the time), people in the UK (I cannot speak for Ulster) remembered that as the outcome and passed on the state at that moment as the remembered history. It was remarked later that everyone remembered Bobby Sands’ name and no-one remembered the name of the last hunger striker to die, but this carries that insight further – no-one even remembered as a number those who died after the first one quit.

  • neonsnake

    Patrick, these posts have all been excellent and very informative, along with the ensuing conversation. Thank you very much for going to the effort of writing them, and of digging out your notes and reposting them here.

    I think it’s safe to say that our history lessons at school were woefully inadequate (and probably becoming more so), and I certainly learned a lot that I probably should have already known or been taught.

    Thanks again.

  • Paul Marks

    Either Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom or it is part of the Republic of Ireland – there is no middle way on that, and so the pursuit of a “political settlement” ignores the basic laws of logic.

    Actually the “liberal” British establishment know this very well, and their real objective is not really a fudge – their political objective is to gradually push Northern Ireland under the rule of Dublin, really the rule of the European Union – as the government in Dublin is a puppet regime that does whatever the international “liberal” elite tells it to do, with the local branch office being the European Union.

    The recent antics in the House of Commons show all this very – Sinn Fein (the IRA) is boycotting the “Executive” in Northern Ireland – so the House of Commons responds to the actions of Sinn Fein by PUNISHING THE UNIONISTS. The House of Commons went out of their way to show their hatred and contempt for Unionists – both Protestant Unionists and Roman Catholic Unionists (yes there are, and have always been, some Roman Catholic Unionists – today they would be people who actually believe in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church rather than using the word “Catholic” as a TRIBAL identity without any real theological meaning).

    The bitter truth is that neither the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom gives a tinker’s curse about liberty – in fact the establishment in both countries hates and despises liberty (including Freedom of Speech).

    The Unionists are loyal to a nation that has been so undermined that it is only a ghost of what it once was (the basic principles of the Old Whigs, Chief Justice Sir John Holt and so on, would be summed up as “CRIME THINK” in modern P.C. SJW Britain – if an Old Whig returned to this Earth, or even a bunt speaking man such as Winston Churchill – Prime Minister May would scream “THOUGHT CRIMINAL!” at them and have them arrested – for their “unacceptable” Freedom of Speech), and the Nationalists are not Nationalists at all.

    The “Nationalists” are not Nationalists because they do not really care about Irish culture (they are Frankfurt School Marxists – they hate Irish culture as exploitation and oppression by straight, white, males), they despise Christianity (this included the leftist, Liberation Theology, priests – who really despise Christianity, especially traditional Roman Catholic doctrines and practices), and they do not believe in the independence of Ireland – they believe in rule by the European Union and the rest of the “International Community”.

    In all this they are similar the the Scots and Welsh “Nationalists” – who are also not Nationalists at all.

    The last thing that “Scottish Nationalists” believe in is the independence of Scotland – they want Scotland to be a province of the European Union (the branch office of the international establishment) – and as for Scottish culture, mention the Highland Games (or any traditional part of Scottish culture) to an SNP person – and quickly look at their face as you mention it.

    Before they can hide it, you will see a look of hatred and contempt cross their face.

  • Paul Marks (July 15, 2019 at 11:13 pm) while I’d agree with your description as an outcome (i.e. an outcome on occasion apparently pushed by the PC establishment), I wonder if it is less any conscious plan than a mere accumulation of routine instinctive virtue signalling. Almost inevitably, any discussion about Northern Ireland involves unionists loyal to the UK versus nationalists talking about the UK’s shameful past and it is automatic virtue-signalling for our establishment then to cringe to the latter more than the former at the given moment without any plan – without any thinking about long-term outcomes.

    Ireland’s history is full of people on this side of the Irish sea who, rather than comprehend it, instinctively noted who at first glance seemed to be their friends and who at first glance seemed to be their enemies, and this may be more of the same. The modern PC, who befriend muslim fundamentalists, are in no position to talk. And it could be argued that modern PC reverses ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ in the above line.

    The sole benefit of this is that if a conscious plan is absent then the outcome is more resistible.

  • Patrick Crozier


    Thank you for your kind words. They are most appreciated.