Mural in Belfast
In Belfast at the Height of Conflict
Mass Arrest During "Bloody Sunday"
Ireland in Conflict
"The Troubles," was an ethnonationalist conflict in Northern Ireland from 1969-1998. The conflict changed quickly from its roots in 1969, evolving from clashes between minority Catholic civil rights protestors and Protestant mobs into a violent sectarian conflict. To quell the violence between the Catholic republians (who wished to unite with the Republic of Ireland) and the Loyalists and their Unionist allies (who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom), British troops were dispatched as a peacekeeping force. From the first arrival of British forces in 1969 under Operation Banner until the institution of the controversial 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, intelligence gathered by British Army units and other security forces played an essential role in abating or aggravating violence in Northern Ireland. The rise of British military intelligence as an inefficient organization develops over four stages in the Troubles.
For the purposes of this project, I examined four phases in the Troubles to evaluate whether or not British intelligence failed, and if so, to what degree did it fail. In the first phase, 1969 to 1972, the British experienced a myriad of difficulties in adapting to the complex sectarian nature of Northern Ireland. In the second phase, 1972 to 1975, the British intelligence community and their Loyalist allies perfected their operations against horrific levels of paramilitary violence. This success eventually transitions into the third phase, the eventual stagnation of British counterintelligence efficiency from 1975 to the 1980. Finally, the effects of this stagnation intersect with the fourth phase; the period of 1980 to 1988, in which a cycle of violence signified the overall failure of the British intelligence mission. It is my assertion that while British military intelligence could have been used more effectively, there was nothing that could have prevented the overall failure of British intelligence gathering during the Troubles due to a lack of understanding, trust, and organization between intelligence organizations, the local security forces and their populace, and the British military itself to combat the republican paramilitaries effectively.
I have created this website as a means of visualizing my research on British military intelligence in the Troubles. It is through this lens that I hope to portray the intense sectarian nature of this conflcit, as well as the essential role that intelligence had in abating or aggravating violence.