Ireland was known for ‘The Troubles’ for decades. While the IRA may be the best known terrorist group, it was not the only one.
DUBLIN/MONAGHAN, IRELAND – My best friend growing up in London (Ontario) was also my neighbour: Kevin O’Keefe. As his name suggests, he was Irish. While he and his siblings were born in Canada, both his parents emigrated from Ireland. One parent was from Belfast, the other from the Republic of Ireland (for the life of me I cannot remember which was which). The whole family was very Roman Catholic.
Kevin told me once of a visit to his ancestors’ homeland and of going out at night in Belfast, dodging night patrols as they scampered over the rooftops. I don’t think he or his brother were engaged in anything illegal, let alone violent, but I would imagine it was dangerous none the less. As someone who spent a professional life in intelligence and counter terrorism, it would have proven ironic in hindsight if my bosom buddy turned out to be an IRA extremist! PS don’t worry Kevin: I am pretty sure we did not have any files on you!
The story of ‘The Troubles’ as that time period is known in Ireland has been told many, many times by much more eloquent people than me, so I have no intention of recreating it. For most of us the main terrorist actor would be the IRA – the Irish Republican Army – and that organisation was indeed behind countless attacks on security forces and civilians.
The story is more complicated than that however.
Fighting against the IRA were a variety of groups, none as important as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a Northern Ireland militia formed in 1966 and active for three decades (NB Ulster is the term which refers to the six counties in the northern part of Ireland which remained loyal to Britain). The UVF killed more than 300 people over its existence.
The UVF was formed in 1966 to combat what it saw as a rise in Irish nationalism centred on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising
On this day in 1974 the UVF is believed to have been behind the single largest terrorist attack in the entirety of The Troubles. 35 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in car bombs detonated in Dublin and Monaghan. No one was ever arrested in this atrocity, despite continuing allegations of collusion between the UVF militants responsible and elements of the British security and intelligence services.
When we discuss terrorism in an objective way it is important to recognise that it is complicated and that it is rarely ever as simple or obvious as presented. The Troubles lasted a long time and there is enough blame to go around on multiple sides.