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Turning 50 and the end of the conflict in the North February 13, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Newton Emerson in the course of a column last week, made this following point:

The Troubles ended when 1970s-era paramilitaries approached the age of 50, a factor considered decisive by US government advisers.

I’ve often wondered about the generational aspects of the end of the conflict. I’m sure others have too. But is there anything in it?

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1. An Sionnach Fionn - February 13, 2017

The peace process was definitely effected by a general war weariness among the middle-aged actors in the conflict, but that sentiment was more or less universal. And it was just one factor among many others.

There is also a worrying flip-side to that argument. There are numerous twenty year old men and women who have no real memory of the “Troubles”. Their formative years, in terms of any political awareness, are from the last five years or so. Which for northern nationalist politics have been far from good.

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2. Joe - February 13, 2017

Definitely a factor. Whether a decisive factor is hard to say. War weariness for sure – who couldn’t but be weary of it all?
With age comes wisdom perhaps?

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3. Jim Monaghan - February 13, 2017

It leaves out the effect of the hunger strikes.

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Dr. X - February 13, 2017

It also tends to leave out politics completely, at least if it’s touted as the be-all and end-all of the analysis.

The hardcore of the hardcore rejectionists on the dissident side were all old men as well, weren’t they?

O’Brádaigh didn’t jack it in when he hit the big five-oh, after all.

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WorldbyStorm - February 13, 2017

That’s true – and it’s expedient for some who make that case because it sort of absolves them of having to face up to the causes of the conflict, though it is noticeable how after a certain point – and Jim’s thoughts on the hunger strike are also pertinent too, the focus on armed struggle began to dissipate. I think all of us would broadly agree with ASF’s and Joe’s points, one factor among many.

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WorldbyStorm - February 13, 2017

BTW I’d love to see what the assumption is based on on the part of ‘US advisors’, and what evidence they could point to elsewhere.

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4. Ed - February 13, 2017

Yeah I don’t buy that at all. Take away the fact that, by the late 80s/early 90s, there was clearly no prospect of military victory on the horizon for the IRA; and take away the fact that Sinn Fein had already chalked up some real political advances, and had the prospect of making bigger gains if they called a ceasefire; in that scenario, I can’t see the age factor playing much of a role. Some insurgencies have gone on for so long that the first generation of fighters will have popped their clogs (if they died a natural death, that is). Someone who was 25 when the FARC started fighting would be pushing 80 now.

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5. irishmarxism - February 13, 2017

I think in so far as this observation has some truth to it, it has something to do with not wanting your children to suffer as you have, or face the dangers that you have done. Of course such dangers are multiplied by engaging in an armed struggle that could only ever go down to defeat and facing terrorist attacks from loyalists who never cared much about which Catholic got the bullet.

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6. botheredbarney - February 13, 2017

Did John Hume persuade Gerry Adams that, with a little help from American Friends of Ireland, the post-hunger strike electoral march of Sinn Fein could be transformed into an Agreed Ireland that would give parity of esteem of Irish nationalists in NI, and hold out a long-term unity of Ireland by consent?

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7. ivorthorne - February 14, 2017

You could argue it was a factor but honestly the facts on the ground played a greater role. SF and the IRA knew that withdrawal wasn’t going to happen. Their support had – at best – stagnated. With the demographic trends as they were, the ballot box looked like the more expedient option.

There was no chance that Republican paramilitaries would have entered the peace process if victory looked achievable within 10 years – no matter how old the leaders.

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EWI - February 14, 2017

A similar process of shifting tactics – not aims – happened back in 1917.

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WorldbyStorm - February 14, 2017

Yeah, that sounds about right, though I guess from the opposite perspective the British and pretty much everyone else realised well before IRA that the latter couldn’t ‘win’ in the traditional sense of that term, indeed that was conceptually baked into the cake ( I do think though that certain more economic targets in England did influence U.K. thinking ).

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ivorthorne - February 14, 2017

Thing was, the IRA didn’t need to win for it to be an effective loss to the British. The demographic changes would also have been at the back of the minds of the British officials.

For the British to still have soldiers fighting paramilitaries on the ground in Derry or Belfast as bombs went off in London while there was a nationalist majority in NI, well, that would have been disasterous. And back then, it looked like it was possible that majority could have been there last year. If at that point they withdrew, there would have been chaos and it would have looked to many as though the IRA had won.

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