- Plural of trouble
- third-person singular of trouble
- Form of Second-person singular present subjunctive, troubler#French|troubler
The Troubles () was a period of conflict involving Republican and Loyalist paramilitary organisations, political activist and civil rights groups, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the British Army and others in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the Belfast Agreement of 10 April 1998. The Troubles have been variously described as terrorism, ethnic conflict, a many-sided conflict, a guerrilla war, a low intensity conflict, and even a civil war.
The Troubles consisted of about thirty years of recurring acts of intense violence between elements of Northern Ireland's nationalist community (principally Roman Catholic) and unionist community (principally Protestant). The conflict was caused by the disputed status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and the domination of the minority nationalist community, and discrimination against them, by the unionist majority. The violence was characterised by the armed campaigns of paramilitary groups, including the Provisional IRA campaign of 1969-1997 which was aimed at the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and the creation of a new "all-Ireland", Irish Republic, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, formed in 1966 in response to the perceived erosion of both the British character and unionist domination of Northern Ireland. The state security forces--the British Army and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary)--were also involved in the violence. The British government's point of view is that its forces were neutral in the conflict, trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland and the right of the people of Northern Ireland to democratic self-determination. Irish republicans, however, regarded the state forces as "combatants" in the conflict, noting collusion between the state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries as proof of this. The "Ballast" investigation by the Police Ombudsman has confirmed that British forces, and in particular the RUC, did collude with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and did obstruct the course of justice when such claims had previously been investigated, although the extent to which such collusion occurred is still hotly disputed, with Unionists claiming that reports of collusion are either false or highly exaggerated and that there were also instances of collusion between the authorities in the Republic of Ireland and Republican paramilitaries. See also the section below on Collusion by Security Forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
Alongside the violence, there was a political deadlock between the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including those who condemned violence, over the future status of Northern Ireland and the form of government there should be within Northern Ireland.
The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations and the complete decommissioning of their weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of army troops from the streets and from sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"). This reiterated the long-held British position, which had never before been fully acknowledged by successive Irish governments, that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise. On the other hand, the British Government recognised for the first time, as part of the prospective, the so-called "Irish dimension": the principle that the people of the island of Ireland as a whole have the right, without any outside interference, to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent. The latter statement was key to winning support for the agreement from nationalists and republicans. It also established a devolved power-sharing government within Northern Ireland (which had been suspended from 14 October 2002 until 8 May 2007), where the government must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties.
Though the number of active participants in the Troubles was relatively small, and the paramilitary organizations that claimed to represent the communities were sometimes unrepresentative of the general population, the Troubles touched the lives of most people in Northern Ireland on a daily basis, while occasionally spreading to England and the Republic of Ireland. At several times between 1969 and 1998 it seemed possible that the Troubles would escalate into a full-scale civil war--for example in 1972 after Bloody Sunday, or during the Hunger Strikes of 1980-1981, when there was mass, hostile mobilisation of the two communities. Many people today have had their political, social, and communal attitudes and perspectives shaped by the Troubles.
The attack was followed by several more, most notably the Manchester Bombing which destroyed a large area of the centre of the city on 15 June 1996. It was the largest bomb attack in Great Britain since World War II, and while the attack avoided many fatalities due to the rapid response of the emergency services to an earlier telephone warning made to a local television station, over 200 people were injured in the attack, many of them outside the established cordon. The damage caused by the blast was valued at £411 million. The last British soldier to die in the Troubles, Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, was also killed during this period, on 12 February 1997, by the "South Armagh sniper".
The IRA reinstated their ceasefire in July 1997 as negotiations for the document that would become known as the Good Friday Agreement were starting without Sinn Féin. In September of the same year Sinn Féin signed The Mitchell Principles and was invited into the talks.
The UVF was the first paramilitary grouping to split as a result of their ceasefire, spawning the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. In December 1997, the INLA assassinated LVF leader Billy Wright, leading to a series of revenge killings of Catholics by loyalist groups. In addition, two hardline splinter groups from the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, who rejected the Provisionals' ceasefire, continued a bombing campaign.
In August 1998, a Real IRA bomb in Omagh killed 29 civilians. This bombing, the single worst of the entire Troubles, largely discredited "dissident" Republicans and their campaigns in the eyes of most nationalists. They are now small and non-influential groups. The INLA also declared a ceasefire after the Belfast Agreement was passed in 1998.
Since then, most paramilitary violence has been directed inwards, at their "own" communities and at other factions within their organisations. The UDA, for example, has feuded with their fellow loyalists the UVF on two occasions since 2000, and has also seen internal feuding between "Brigade commanders" over power within the organisation and involvement in organised crime.
The Provisional IRA has been accused of killing at least one double-agent (Denis Donaldson) and its members have also been accused of intimidating and expelling Catholics, assaulting men and women, and, in the most extreme cases, killing men such as Robert McCartney, Matthew Ignatius Burns and Andrew Kearney.
The political process
After the ceasefires, talks began between the main political parties in Northern Ireland with the aim of establishing political agreement. These talks eventually produced the Belfast Agreement of 1998. This Agreement restored self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of "power-sharing", and an executive was formed in 1999 consisting of the four main parties, including Sinn Féin. Other reforms included reform of the RUC, which was renamed as the Police Service of Northern Ireland and required to recruit a minimum quota of Catholics.
However, the power-sharing Executive and Assembly were suspended in 2002, when unionists withdrew following the exposure of a Provisional IRA spy ring within the Sinn Féin office (which was later revealed to have been started by undercover British agent Denis Donaldson). This was on top of ongoing tensions between unionists and Sinn Féin about the Provisional IRA's failure to disarm fully and sufficiently quickly. PIRA decommissioning has since been completed (in September 2005) to the satisfaction of most, but the Democratic Unionist Party continued to be wary over republican claims that the "war was over".
A feature of Northern Irish politics since the Agreement has been the eclipse in electoral terms of the relatively moderate parties such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Ulster Unionist Party by more extreme parties--Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Similarly, although political violence is greatly reduced, sectarian animosity has not disappeared and residential areas are more segregated between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists than ever. Because of this, progress towards restoring the power-sharing institutions has been slow and tortuous. Though the "peace process" is slow-going, movements have formed which give those affected by The Troubles a voice in their communities. In particular, the Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle teaches the prejudice-reduction model, which has been adopted by the Ulster Project International to improve relations between Protestant and Catholic families across the country.
Recently, Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley have announced the formation of a power-sharing government, ending the 5 year stand-off.
The parades issue
Responses to the Troubles in popular culture
Films about or related to the Troubles
- A Prayer for the Dying (1987)
- An Everlasting Piece (2000)
- Angel (1982)
- Bloody Sunday (2002)
- Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
- Cal (1984)
- Children in the Crossfire (1984)
- Elephant (Alan Clarke film) (1989)
- The Long Good Friday (1980)
- H3 (2001)
- Harry's Game (1982)
- Hidden Agenda (1990)
- Hunger (2008)
- In the Name of the Father (1993)
- Johnny Was (2006)
- Mickybo and Me (2004)
- My Brother's War (1998)
- Nothing Personal (1997)
- Omagh (2004)
- Patriot Games (1992)
- Patriots (1998)
- Resurrection Man (1997)
- Ronin (1998)
- Some Mothers Son (1996)
- Sunday (2002)
- The Boxer (1997)
- The Crying Game (1992)
- The Devil's Own (1997)
- The General (1998)
- The Informant (1997)
- The Railway Station Man (1993)
- Titanic Town (1998)
Novels about or related to the Troubles
- Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe (1998)
- Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson (1996)
- No Bones by Anna Burns (2001)
- Ourselves Alone by Anne Devlin (1985)
- The Bombmaker by Stephen Leather (1999)
- Joan Lingard's children's series: The Twelfth Day of July, Across the Barricades (1973), Into Exile, A Proper Place, and Hostage to Fortune
- Belfast Diaries: War as a Way of Life by John Conroy (1995)
- Stand by Stand by: Chris Ryan
- Northern Protestants- an unsettled people. by: Susan McKay
Songs about or related to the Troubles
- "Alternative Ulster" by Stiff Little Fingers
- "Armagh" by Au Pairs
- "Banana Republic" by The Boomtown Rats
- "Belfast" by Boney M
- "Belfast Child" by Simple Minds
- "Belfast (Penguins and Cats)" by Katie Melua
- "Belfast to Boston (God's Rifle)" by James Taylor
- "Broken Land" by The Adventures
- "Crimson Days" by Silent Running
- "Each Dollar a Bullet" and others by Stiff Little Fingers
- "Ether" by Gang Of Four
- "Forgotten Sons" by Marillion
- "God Kicks", "Potato Junkie" and "Church of Noise" by Therapy?
- "Hang the IRA" by Skullhead
- "It's Going To Happen" by The Undertones
- "It's Only Tuesday" by Eric Bogle
- "Last Night Another Soldier", "Brighton Bomb" and "Soldier" by The Angelic Upstarts
- "Letter from Louise" by The Saw Doctors
- " My Little ArmaLite" by Unknown
- "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Weber
- "Shankill Butchers" by Decemberists
- "Smash the IRA" by Skrewdriver
- "Soldier" by Harvey Andrews
- "The Greening of Belfast" by Michael Card
- "The Island" by Paul Brady
- "The Men Behind the Wire" by Barleycorn
- "The More I See (The Less I Believe)" by Fun Boy Three
- "The Town I Loved So Well" by Phil Coulter
- "The Troubles" by The Roches
- "The Troubles" by XTC
- "Theme from Harry's Game" by Clannad
- "This Is a Rebel Song" by Sinéad O'Connor
- "Through the barricades" by Spandau Ballet
- "Ulster" by Sham 69
Poems about or related to the Troubles
- Casualty by Seamus Heaney
- Punishment by Seamus Heaney
- David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton (1999), Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, Mainstream Publishing Company. ISBN 1-84018-227-X.
- Richard English (2003), Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, Oxford University Press,
- Kevin Myers (2006), Watching the Door A Memoir 1971-1978, Lilliput Press, Dublin.
- Peter Taylor, Behind the Mask: The IRA and Sinn Féin, TV books, Inc., New York, 1997, ISBN 1-57500-061-X
troubles in Czech: The Troubles
troubles in Danish: Konflikten i Nordirland
troubles in German: Nordirlandkonflikt
troubles in Spanish: Conflicto de Irlanda del Norte
troubles in Basque: Ipar Irlandako gatazka
troubles in French: Conflit nord-irlandais
troubles in Irish: Na Trioblóidí
troubles in Italian: Conflitto nordirlandese
troubles in Hebrew: הצרות
troubles in Dutch: The troubles
troubles in Japanese: 北アイルランド問題
troubles in Norwegian: Konflikten i Nord-Irland 1968–1997
troubles in Finnish: The Troubles
troubles in Swedish: Konflikten i Nordirland
troubles in Vietnamese: Xung đột vũ trang tại Bắc Ireland
troubles in Chinese: 北爱尔兰问题