I began thinking about the Troubles’ book some twenty years ago. It brought me to the most fundamental and yet the most frightening question of all about the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Who was primarily responsible for driving the Troubles and its attendant toll of dead, injured, and the emotionally traumatised?
I was afraid of the question, and its implications, so I sat on it for a very, very long time. For some reason, rather like a subterranean stream bubbling to the surface, now seems the time to revisit the question, identify the historical actors, and venture an answer.
The Historical Actors
The first step was to establish criteria whereby responsibility might be attributed. The second was to set up a parade of the likely suspects and examine the historical record of each in turn. The final stage, in the tradition of the ‘who dunnit’, was to narrow the list of suspects down to one. This group of actors is judged to have been primarily responsible for 30 years of political violence.
The British State & Army
The Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Irish State & Garda
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association
Ian Paisley & the Paisleyites
Democratic Unionist Party
Ulster Volunteer Force
Ulster Defence Association
Irish National Liberation Army
Irish Republican Army (Provisional)
Irish Republican Army (Official)
Who did the killing?
As is apparent, the vast majority of killings were by Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries.
By contrast, the RUC & RUC Reserve were responsible for 2% of Troubles-related deaths.