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'Finding Out More About Northern Ireland' by John Darby

[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
Text: John Darby ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following chapter has been contributed by John Darby with the permission of the editors and publishers. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

This chapter is from the book:

Scorpions in a Bottle
Conflicting Cultures in Northern Ireland

By John Darby

Published London,
Minority Rights Publications, 1997.
Cover Photograph by Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

ISBN 1 873194 16 1
Paperback 242 pp.
Price: £11.95

Orders to:

Local Bookshops or:
Minority Rights Group Publications
379 Brixton Road
T: 0171 978 9498
F: 0131 738 6265

This material is copyright John Darby, 1997, and is included on the CAIN site by permission of Minority Rights Group Publications. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the publishers. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.



By John Darby


      List of Figures
      Preface and Acknowledgements
      1Ethnic Conflict: plus ça change ... ?
      Map: World Conflict 1996
      2Historical Inheritances
      3The People of Northern Ireland
      4The Northern Ireland Problem
      5Northern Ireland 1969-94: the years of violence
      6Northern Ireland 1994-7: beyond the ceasefires
      7Minority Rights: an audit
      8Northern Ireland: broader lessons?
      9Finding Out More About Northern Ireland
      Appendix I: Chronology
      Appendix II: Sources of Dispute:
      ....Key Political and Constitutional Documents

Chapter 9


There has never been a shortage of myths about the Irish conflict, and the renewed demand for information since 1969 has added to the total. Some of them are based on an element of truth. During the early 1970s, for example, the evening cluster of visiting reporters in the bar of the Europa Hotel in Belfast did lend some support to the popular view that its bar provided a more frequent source of news stories than the dangerous streets outside.

The research scene has changed considerably since those early days. It is difficult to imagine an ethnic conflict anywhere in the world which has been more thoroughly researched. Basic data have become more readily available to researchers. A body of theory, as distinct from polemic, has emerged. More subjectively, the depth of scholarship has also improved. The province's academic institutions have become more concerned with the problems, and better equipped to tackle them. A much greater level of sophistication in the presentation and synthesis of data notably illustrated in work by Ó'Maoláin (1993) and Flackes and Elliott (1988 and 1995) - has made the information more accessible. The most far-reaching change has been the shift during the 1990s towards the provision of electronic sources of information.

The growth of interest both inside Northern Ireland and elsewhere is reflected in a variety of associations, centres, study groups and other forms of research collaboration. At every level, from undergraduate dissertation to major research project, a more serious approach to the conflict has been adopted.

At all these levels remains the problem of where a research study might be started. This chapter will review the information available to those seriously interested in the Northern Ireland conflict - undergraduates, postgraduates, journalists, established academics and policy-makers. The aim is to suggest possible starting points for inquiry, and to identify signposts and references to sources of information.

Basic References: Bibliographies, Chronologies and Registers

The preliminary information required by social scientists varies little between different settings. What research is being carried out, and by whom? Has it been published, and when? Is it possible to establish reliably when particular events took place? Until the early 1970s these questions could not be answered without considerable inconvenience. However, as the amount of social research increased, so did the research tools required to carry it out.

An invaluable starting point for background research is Flackes and Elliott (1988 and 1995). It contains a reliable chronology and a dictionary of politics, politicians and election results, as well as useful essays on systems of government and the security system; its list of abbreviations is indispensable for those unfamiliar with Northern Ireland. Mansbach (1973) covers events during the previous half century. Many books have selective chronologies, and time acts as a judicious editor. Brennan and Deutsch (1993) and Bew and Gillespie (1993) have written two chronologies covering most of the duration of the Troubles, with useful indices and appendices. For subsequent events the Irish Times {external_link} publishes a useful summary at the turn of each year, and its Saturday edition includes a review of the week's main events.

Three registers of research into the Irish conflict have been published since the current violence began in 1968-91.[1] These provide snapshots of the state of research in 1972, 1981 and 1993, and together they are a useful research tool for a longitudinal comparison of the patterns of conflict research over the period of violence. The number of projects detected in the three registers, for example, were respectively 175, 517 and 605. Each research project in the 1993 register, excellently edited by Ó'Maoláin, has up to ten keywords and an extensive cross-referencing 'keyword' index. An update of the Register, funded by the CCRU, has been agreed for 1997. The Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin also produces, on an irregular basis, a register of the social and economic research being conducted within Irish institutions, but does not include research conducted overseas; the most recent edition appeared in 1994. A similar geographical limitation applies to the Current Research in Britain series.[2]

Research registers are primarily concerned with the present and the future, and are designed to inform researchers about other scholars working in similar fields. To find out what books, pamphlets, articles and ephemera have been printed in the past, one must go to the numerous bibliographies on the conflict. These are necessarily parasitic publications, each one absorbing its predecessors, so some earlier bibliographies now have only limited value. The most comprehensive bibliography within the social sciences (Rolston et al. 1983) covers publications relating to Northern Ireland published between 1945 and 1983, and its 5,000 items can be searched through the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) web pages (see page 167). An update is badly needed, although CAIN has recently completed a bibliography on 3,700 items mainly relating to the Northern Ireland conflict. The catalogues of the Linen Hall Library (available for sale from the Linen Hall {external_link}), the Irish collections of Northern Ireland's Education and Library Boards, and the two universities are all good bibliographical starting points, and the Community Relations Council has a reference library with around 1,600 titles, to which it has a bibliographic listing. Postgraduate theses on conflict-related themes are normally available in the libraries of both Northern Ireland universities. Undergraduate dissertations are more difficult to track down, and require visits to individual departments; this is occasionally worth the journey.

Official Statistics and Publications

The quality of official publications, and the scope of official statistics, has improved enormously since the 1980s. The Ulster Year Book includes a general description of broad social and economic trends, but most of Northern Ireland's official statistics are produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). NISRA's responsibilities include the conduct of the Census of Population and the registration functions of the General Register Office, and it provides and manages professional statistical staff working in the various departments of government and some non-governmental bodies. Up-to-date information on NISRA {external_link} is available on the Internet.

The Guide to Northern Ireland Statistics gives the best overview of NISRA publications, and includes information on the frequency, price and source of over 100 statistical publications. It also provides details of UK and European publications containing information on Northern Ireland. An update of the Guide is available for 1994 and another planned for 1997. NISRA produces Focus on Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the UK Office for National Statistics, as part of a series providing statistical portraits of each UK region.

NISRA's Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics (AAS), which has been published since the early 1980s, presents statistical data on a wide range of demographic, social, legal, economic and financial features relating to Northern Ireland, and is indispensable for serious researchers; ten-year runs are given for most of the statistical series. The AAS also contains a useful 'Contacts Points' section which details the main suppliers of official statistics in Northern Ireland. This section includes details of the burgeoning list of statistical publications produced by various government departments and statistical branches. Many government departments now issue their own publications. The Department of Education, for example, issues a Basic Education Statistics Data Card and an Annual School Census and now has a Statistics and Research Branch which has produced a Statistical Bulletin on the Transfer Procedure Results (1996), and Free School Meals and Low Achievement (1996). It also publishes a Research Series, mainly on research commissioned by the Department. The monthly analysis of unemployment statistics produced by the Department of Manpower Services also has interest for social scientists. The most research-relevant publications of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) are Social Security Statistics and Personal Social Statistics. NISRA itself conducts and commissions social research and publishes the NISRA Occasional Paper series. The CCRU has funded approximately 80 research projects on community relations and conflict, and will supply details on request.

There has been a recent trend to include Northern Ireland in a number of British and European surveys. Regional Trends, produced by the UK Office for National Statistics, gives a wide range of comparable statistics for Northern Ireland and other UK regions; it also contains a European chapter with a limited number of statistics for all EU regions, including Northern Ireland. The Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) maintains a database (Regio) of regional information, biased heavily towards demography and agriculture, and proposals are being considered to market it commercially. Within the United Kingdom, the longest running public sector sample survey is the Family Expenditure Survey (FES), for which results have been available annually since 1967. The Continuous Household Survey (CHS), which commenced in 1983, allows comparisons with Britain's General Household Survey. NISRA publishes its own monitor series on both the CHS and an enhanced sample of the FES, and the raw data are available in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) archive at the University of Essex. NISRA also publishes annual reports on the religious composition of the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS is the main survey for internationally comparable labour market statistics throughout the EU, and is conducted in all EU states. Northern Ireland features as part of the UK, but benefits from an enhanced sample.

The largest social survey is the Northern Ireland Census of Population, published after each Northern Ireland census since 1926; statistics for the area of Northern Ireland are available from earlier censuses since 1821. The Census Office has published a series of topic reports, including one on religion, from the 1991 census. The Registrar-General, at his discretion, will consider requests for unpublished and small-area statistics.

Annual reports from a number of public bodies contain material relevant to the conflict. Particularly useful for researchers into the conflict are those produced by the Chief Constable of the RUC, {external_link} whose reports present terrorist-related and 'normal crime' by region; the independent Commission for Police Complaints; the NIHE, which also publishes Northern Ireland Housing Statistics; the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints; the Northern Ireland Economic Council; the Community Relations Council; the Equal opportunities Commission; the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland; and the Standing Commission on Human Rights, which now has the responsibility of reviewing the Fair Employment Act 1989.

For those interested in employment and unemployment patterns the reports of the Fair Employment Commission (previously the FEA) are essential reading. Over the years its analyses of Northern Ireland's workforce by religion and its investigations of the employment practices of specific companies - taken together with the work of the FETS, which judged alleged cases of individual discrimination - amount to an extraordinary body of information on a society undergoing change.

The Media

Newspapers and periodicals are the starting point for most social research, and for some the complete race. It is appropriate, therefore to consider the value of the media for researchers. To some extent this depends upon whether they are interested in the events reported in the newspapers, or in the way the media report them. Those wishing to look at the coverage of the violence by Northern Ireland's three daily newspapers will find a terrain which has been largely uncharted, but two studies by Curtis (1984) and Rolston (1991) are critical of general media coverage, and Darby (1983) has examined different perspectives on the Troubles through the work of political cartoonists. An entertaining and illuminating way to trace the evolution of the conflict is through the cartoons of Ireland's leading cartoonist, Martyn Turner, which have been published in a succession of books.[3]

The use of magazines and newspapers as a source of information on events in Northern Ireland since 1969 is complicated by their variety. Fortnight, produced regularly in Belfast since 1970, continues to provide the most thoughtful chronicle and analysis of events.[4] Within the province, the Belfast Telegraph has the largest daily readership and, as the only evening newspaper, attracts both Catholic and Protestant readers. In 1994 the readers of the other two local daily newspapers, the Irish News and the Newsletter, were respectively 87 per cent Catholic and 80 per cent Protestant. The Belfast Telegraph {external_link} has now set up an Internet page which is updated on a daily basis and includes news, business and sporting stories. So have the Irish News, {external_link} the Irish Times {external_link} and An Phoblacht. {external_link} All can be accessed through John Coakley's Guide to Irish Politics Resources {external_link}. In recent years the Dublin-based Irish Independent has developed a keener interest in the North, and the Irish Times has consistently devoted much space to events in Northern Ireland. It is the most reliable newspaper of record on Northern Ireland, publishing every major document and speech relating to the Northern Ireland situation. Local newspapers - those serving every small community in Northern Ireland - continue to be under-used. British media coverage has been very inconsistent: the interest of the popular press declined as the violence became repetitious, leaving the field to more serious newspapers. The Observer and Times {external_link} have taken a close interest in the issue, and the Sunday Times {external_link} has conducted useful, if occasionally flashy, investigations. The most consistent and reliable British coverage is currently supplied by the London Independent.

A still under-used, and very valuable, source of information are the underground and political newspapers which flourished especially in the early 1970s. These were produced by a wide variety of loyalist, republican, socialist and community organisations in an almost equally wide variety of formats. Some lasted only for a few issues; others have been published regularly for decades. A few transmogrified with bewildering rapidity, closing down to re-emerge under another name and format. Tracks through this complicated minefield were charted in a catalogue of Northern Ireland Newspapers 1737-1979 published by the Northern Ireland branch of the Library Association.[5] Consultation of the newspaper holdings in the Linen Hall and Central libraries is necessary for more recent changes.

The mutations which most Northern Irish political parties have undergone since 1969 are reflected most clearly in the information which they produce about themselves. Four of the five main Northern Ireland parties - the UUP, {external_link} the DUP, {external_link} the SDLP {external_link} and the Alliance Party {external_link} - no longer produce a regular newspaper, preferring in some cases to concentrate on electronic means of communication. A few peripheral publications are still printed: the Young Unionists produce Ulster Review, on an approximately quarterly basis; the Protestant Telegraph divides its text roughly evenly between the religious concerns of the Free Presbyterian Church and the DUP; Alliance News appears on a monthly basis. But the largest political newspaper is An Phoblacht, produced weekly by Sinn Féin {external_link} and circulated widely outside Northern Ireland. All the parties produce other literature, especially during election campaigns. More to the point, it is now at least theoretically possible to contact most party offices by telephone, fax and through the Internet, a vast improvement since 1969.

It is not possible to consult all these newspapers and periodicals under a single roof. Belfast's Central Library has a good selection, and a small number of libraries also have partial collections of political newspapers. Nowhere in Northern Ireland is it possible to examine the back files of British popular newspapers, even in the Belfast offices of these newspapers; for this thankless task it is necessary to visit the British Library newspaper archives at Colindale in London. More recently, however, two important databases of newspaper cuttings relating to the Northern Ireland conflict have become available: the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Press Cuttings, donated to the Linen Hall Library by the NIO, contains almost 1,700 files covering the period 1969-89; and the Community Relations Council has a database of cuttings on community relations/conflict issues covering the period 1992-5. Also available are microfilm copies of, among others, the Irish Times, Belfast Newsletter, Guardian, Sunday Times, Observer and London Times. Most important, the Linen Hall Library has produced Northern Ireland Political Literature on microfiche, which contains copies from the republican, loyalist and socialist presses, and community newspapers, for the years 1966-89. These include some of the most extreme political expressions to be found in any newspapers, and are a valuable research tool.

Some of the audio-visual materials circulating since the early 1970s are equally partisan. Propaganda films aimed at public opinion in Europe and North America have been produced both by the Provisional IRA and by the British government. Television and radio, however, constitute the great bulk of material. It is not easy to secure access to programmes wholly or primarily devoted to Northern Ireland, although earlier research suggests that the quantity is huge.[6] BBC news bulletins on national television, which include items on Northern Ireland, may be consulted in the British Film Archive in London, but programmes produced in Northern Ireland are not automatically available to researchers. Nevertheless, exceptions have been made in the past. Apart from these sources, the History Film and Sound Archive at the University of Ulster in Coleraine includes some valuable sound and visual records, and the Linen Hall Library has more than 320 videos.

Archives and Collections of Materials

Belinda Loftus has completed a most comprehensive description of archives relating to the Troubles, which will be published by the Linen Hall Library. It also considers a number of related archival problems, including storage, copyright, the holding of allegedly illegal material, user access and the impact of information technology, as well as the importance of collecting ephemeral material. Pamphlets, broadsheets, campaign buttons, posters, graffiti, songs and poetry - these are the ephemera of unrest. They share the qualities of being essential for anyone interested in political and social attitudes, and extraordinarily elusive. By their very nature ephemeral materials are intended to have an immediate impact, and have a short life. Retrospective collection is notoriously difficult, so there is a particular debt to those institutions which had sufficient prescience to build up contemporary collections.

By far the most important of these is the Linen Hall Library, which has been operating in some form since 1788. Its collection on the Irish Troubles dates back to 1966 and contains more than 7,500 books, pamphlets, manifestos, reports and political ephemera. Many of the historical items were themselves the ephemera of earlier periods of violence. It was natural, therefore, for the Linen Hall to begin a new Political Collection during the civil rights campaigns of the mid-1960s. It already contains the evidence presented to a number of public inquiries, including the Widgery Tribunal and the Opsahl Commission. The real strength naturally lies in its Northern Ireland ephemera, which includes 4,000 posters, although southern material is also well represented. The Linen Hall also keeps 1,700 periodicals, and more than 400 works of fiction with conflict-related themes.

The Central Library in Belfast started its ephemeral collection in 1977, relying on purchasing existing materials, and is particularly strong on papers relating to the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. In the Irish Republic the largest archive is housed in Trinity College Dublin which, as a copyright deposit library, includes much of the relevant material printed in Britain. Its holdings of Dublin-produced ephemera are also good, although its collection of materials produced north of the border is less comprehensive. The National Library in Dublin also holds some relevant publications.

Computer-Based Information

The mid-1990s have witnessed a remarkable increase in conflict-related data available on the internet. Since 1993 INCORE, located in Derry, has set up a Conflict Data Server on the Internet. This service provides a growing number of country studies which include conflict-related data on each country, a guide to the Internet for social scientists and links to other services in conflict resolution and ethnicity on the internet. Closely associated with the INCORE Conflict Data Server is the CAIN project, which is developing a data-based case study of the Northern Ireland conflict. It is aiming to provide direct access to a selection of materials for those engaged in research and teaching in conflict studies. CAIN is a collaboration between the University of Ulster, Queen's Belfast and the Linen Hall library. The World Wide Web is also the principal delivery mechanism for CAIN.[7]

While the INCORE Conflict Data Server and the CAIN Project Data Server are likely to be the dominant Northern Ireland-based facility on the Internet, they are not the only available facilities for researchers interested in Northern Ireland. John Coakley's Guide to Irish Politics Resources {external_link} on the Internet is an excellent introduction to a broad range of web sites - academic links, basic information and documents, official agencies, political organisations, current affairs - relating to both parts of Ireland. The Law Faculty at Queen's University, Belfast, is compiling a computer-based collection of emergency legislation in a variety of countries. As mentioned, most of Northern Ireland's political parties now present their own materials on the Internet.

Subjects and Issues

The registers of research mentioned earlier confirm the breadth of interest in the Irish conflict. Virtually no academic discipline has been unaffected. While the humanities and the social sciences dominate the interest of scholars, the compiler of the most recent research register, like his predecessors, found it impossible to disentangle purely conflict-related themes from broader interests and included among his categories 'agriculture' and 'health and welfare'.[8] This section acknowledges the inter-relationship between society in general and conflict issues, but aims to provide a brief introduction to some of those subjects and issues which have attracted greatest interest for researchers. Other popular themes which have been comprehensively covered elsewhere, notably education, [9] are not considered here.


For the Irish, according to A.T.Q. Stewart, 'all history is applied history',[10] unconsciously underlining the importance of its study for social scientists. The marked increase in the number of general histories since the 1960s, however, has not made it any easier to prepare a selective bibliography for the general reader. The specialist, on the other hand, has a number of historiographies as convenient starting points, for example, Lee (1981) and Moody (1971). An annual bibliography called Writings on Irish History, previously printed in Irish Historical Studies, is available on microfiche by the Irish Committee of Historical Sciences.

Any advice for the general reader is inevitably more subjective. General histories by Lyons (1971), Foster (1988) and Lee (1989) have become standard references, and the Gill series on Irish history maintains a reliable standard. The picture is complicated by the growth of revisionist interpretations, usually challenging what the revisionists regard as a nationalist interpretation which dominated Irish historiography until the 1960s, and a counter-revisionist tendency in more recent years. The dispute came to a head in 1995-6 in publications associated with the 150th anniversary of the Irish famine. Brady (1994) has assembled a collection of the main articles, down through the years, which relate to the revisionism debate, and Boyce and O'Day (1996) edited a series of commissioned papers summarising the debate as it relates to different periods of history. On the more detailed history of Northern Ireland, a wide range of interpretations available are: Buckland (1979 and 1981), Stewart (1977), Harkness (1983) and Wichert (1991) who adopt traditional forms of historical analysis. Bardon (1992) is likely to remain the standard text for a generation.

Access to primary data is obviously more difficult for the historian. Depending on the subject under study, a visit to the Public Record Offices in Belfast or Dublin will almost certainly be necessary. Under the Public Record (Ireland) Act 1867, the holdings in many Irish repositories were centralised in Dublin, and annual reports were printed between 1869 and 1921. On 30 June 1922 the main record repository in the Four Courts building was destroyed by bomb and fire as the Irish civil war began. Fortunately indexes and catalogues were saved, and many records have subsequently been copied and are now available for consultation in Dublin.

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) was set up in 1924, and attempted to replace some of the materials relating to Northern Ireland which had been destroyed in the fire. For many years PRONI's most valuable holdings were the private collections which it obtained through purchase or donation. Since the 1970s, however, records of many of the old local authorities have been deposited, and the Office has become responsible for the records of the Northern Ireland government, which were previously unavailable. Access to the latter is restricted to files which are more than 30 years old, although some earlier government material is also withheld from public scrutiny. In some cases this amounts to a serious obstruction to research. PRONI {external_link} is generally well regarded by researchers, and has excellent facilities and staff in Belfast. Information about it is available on the Internet.

Politics and Religion

Flackes and Elliott (1988 and 1995) is the best starting point for information about Northern Ireland's political parties and personalities. In recent years, however, the parties, especially Sinn Féin, the PUP and the UDP - the republican and loyalist parties have become more open to direct approaches by researchers. It is more difficult to chart a route through the secondary analyses. Arthur and Jeffery (1996) is a good general introduction to politics in Northern Ireland; and Whyte (1990) is a critical analysis of nationalist, unionist, Marxist and internal-conflict interpretations of the conflict, thus forming an excellent springboard for further study. O'Malley (1983) deserves particular attention as it is based on interviews with an interesting political cross-section.

Among the many reviews of political options for resolving the political paradox the most notable are: Rose (1976), with the often quoted conclusion - 'the problem is that there is no solution'; Hadden and Boyle (1994), following the build-up to the Downing Street Agreement with their proposed approach; Townshend (1988) and Hadfield (1993), in which a range of approaches are explored; and O'Leary and McGarry (1993), who argue for a form of shared authority involving Northern Ireland, Ireland and Britain.

Clearly the churches also have an interest in the conflict and, according to some analyses, a level of responsibility for it. Violence in Ireland was written by a joint group on social questions, which was appointed by the Catholic hierarchy and the Irish Council of Churches in an attempt to find a cross-confessional approach to community violence. Apart from this, the Catholic Church has been responsible for very few publications, though some papers, especially on peace education, have been issued by the Irish Council of Churches. Gallagher and Worrall (1982) is still a reliable guide to publications by the main churches. Morrow (1991) is a substantial study of the relationship between the main churches and the conflict; McElroy (1991) deals with the Catholic Church and the Northern Ireland crisis.

Public Policy

A strong case can be made that the immediate trigger for the Troubles was the failure of the Stormont regime to deliver fair allocation of public resources - housing, jobs and other public services. Since then public policy has been under constant scrutiny and, at least since the 1980s, the data upon which policy can be scrutinised have become more available. The scrutiny has been conducted by individuals, academic institutions and pressure groups. Hillyard (1983), for example, argues that the security policies and practices introduced in Northern Ireland were trial runs for their broader application in Britain. The CAJ is an important watchdog on Northern Ireland's legal administration and practices, and have been constantly critical of what they see as an over-readiness by government to resort to emergency laws and procedures. Dickson (1993) offers a measured review of these procedures.

The Majority Minority Reviews, produced by Gallagher (1989 and 1991) and Melaugh (1994) for the Centre for the Study of Conflict at the University of Ulster at Coleraine provide non-partisan reviews of the research evidence on education, employment and unemployment and housing. The Centre for Social Research at Queen's University, Belfast, has a particular interest in social attitudes, and is closely linked with the analyses emerging from the Social Attitudes Surveys, described in the next section.

The relationship between the Northern Ireland economy and the conflict is under-researched, apart from the Research Monograph and Occasional Papers of the Northern Ireland Economic Council, which include useful material on the economic consequences of the ceasefires. The need for non-partisan economic research is all the more regrettable because the most controversial and bitter disputes on public policy have been in the field of fair employment. The disputes about the reasons for higher unemployment rates for Catholics, particularly Catholic males, have occasionally taken on an ideological tinge. Gallagher (1991) provides an excellent review of the arguments and positions. Gudgin and Breen (1996) is also valuable because it includes comments by Murphy and Rowthorn, as well as a rejoinder to these comments by the authors. The production in 1996 of three reports on fair employment, dealing respectively with the law, policy aspects and public views and experiences, by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights comprehensively covers the current law and practice; they were published under the general title Employment Equality in Northern Ireland (Magill and Rose; McLaughlin and Quirk; McVey and Hutson). Those wishing to follow the debate in greater detail should look to the various publications by Cormack, Gallagher and Osborne (1993), Compton (1995) and Smith and Chambers (1991).

Human Rights

The concern among human rights academics and activists about Northern Ireland is easy to understand. Since its creation in 1921, the province has never really enjoyed a period when normal legal procedures were not in suspension. Extraordinary legislation had been authorised by the Special Powers Act since 1922, until it was replaced by new Emergency Provisions legislation in 1973. Hillyard (1983 and 1993) and others argue that emergency laws have become normalised in Northern Ireland, and are also abused in Britain.

Others have been campaigning for human rights reforms from within Northern Ireland. Foremost among these is the CAJ, which has monitored the administration of justice - including employment equality, emergency laws, human rights and the behaviour of the security forces - since 1971. The best guide to civil liberties in Northern Ireland was edited by Brice Dickson for the CAJ in 1990, and was updated in 1993. Abuses of civil liberties in Northern Ireland have also been documented in Jennings (1990).

A number of international organisations have reported unfavourably on the existence and operation of emergency laws and procedures in Northern Ireland. Internally the annual reports of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, a statutory body set up in 1973, chronicle concerns about police complaints procedures, the removal of the legal 'right to silence', the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin and other alleged government curtailments of human rights. The interrogation approaches of the British army in the 1970s was the subject of severe criticism in reports and submissions by Amnesty International (1973 and 1977), the European Commission of Human Rights (1976) and the Association of Forensic Medical Officers (1977), which led to some of them being changed or dropped. The European Commission has also reported on the British government's use of plastic bullets (1984), on seven-day detention (1988) and on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1988). The involvement of the European Court introduced an additional tier of justice beyond the House of Lords, and it has been used increasingly to challenge human rights practices in Northern Ireland. Its judgments are available from Strasbourg.

Public Opinion: Elections and Surveys

Northern Ireland sends elected representatives to the European parliament, Westminster, local councils and, spasmodically, to a succession of assemblies within Northern Ireland. it is potentially a psephologist's paradise, and the analyses of election results until the early 1980s are detailed elsewhere.[11] The most comprehensive data on more recent elections are on the Internet, where Nicholas Whyte runs an excellent site on Northern Ireland election results since 1970 {external_link}.

By contrast public opinion surveys, general and particular, have been conducted with increasing frequency by academics, newspapers and consultancy firms. Harris (1972), a classic anthropological study, although researched in the 1950s and published in 1972, provides insights into social intercourse in Northern Ireland which are simply not susceptible to quantitative surveys, the approach adopted in most studies. It is often difficult to secure access to the raw data from academic and private public opinion surveys, or even to their published results. In only a few cases have findings been published in sufficient detail to allow a proper assessment of methodology, or permit replication. Of these the most important is Rose's 1969 survey, which has also been the basis for follow-up research by Moxon-Browne and others.[12] A similarly unsatisfactory situation applies to the surveys and polls which have been conducted for the Belfast Telegraph, Fortnight and consultancy firms.

There is no central depository for such data in Northern Ireland. The ESRC archive at the University of Essex contains survey materials which relate to Northern Ireland, notably the regular Northern Ireland Social Attitudes data, which are freely available to researchers. Less systematic, but a fascinating insight into a wide range of popular views, was the Opsahl Report [13] which presented 554 written and taped submissions to a citizens' inquiry into the ways forward for Northern Ireland. For more orthodox surveys of public opinion one must turn to the official Community Attitudes Survey, a continuous survey of public attitudes and views on crime, law and order and policing published in the NISRA Occasional Paper series since 1992, and the Social Attitudes Survey, which has been analysed in books edited by Stringer and Robinson (1991, 1992 and 1993) and Breen, Devine and Robinson (1995) and Breen, Devine and Dowds (1996). However, the absence of a social attitudes archive for Northern Ireland, which would include both academic research data and the raw material from commercial surveys, continues to be an obstacle to research.

Qualifying the Violence

The declaration of the 1994 IRA ceasefire, and its subsequent ending in 1996, has not diminished interest and analysis of patterns of violence. Indeed the level of violence since 1969 was undoubtedly the main reason for the subsequent avalanche of research and publications on Northern Ireland.

Most basic information on the violence itself comes from the RUC, Brewer and Magee (1991) providing a rare academic study of the culture of policing. The Chief Constable's Report, published annually since 1970, has an appendix on terrorist crimes, which records, among other statistics, the number of murders, explosions and security incidents. For a more detailed breakdown it is necessary to consult the security statistics which are issued each month by the RUC Press Office. Beyond these published data, the RUC Press Office occasionally provides additional facilities for what it describes as 'the serious academic researcher who is pursuing a reasonably "benign" thesis' .[14] The closeness of the 'information' and 'propaganda' roles implied in this quotation is inevitable during periods of violence, and is equally evident in the activities of the Army Information Office. Simon Hoggart from the Guardian was quick to point out the importance of this office as a source of information to the press: 'When the British press prints an account of an incident as if it were an established fact, and it is clear that the reporter himself is not on the spot, it is a 99 per cent certainty that it is the army's version that is being given.'[15]

No previous riots have lasted as long as the post-1969 violence, nor have been so carefully examined. The Cameron Report (1969) and the transcripts of the evidence taken by the Scarman Tribunal (1972) are available in the province's two university libraries. These reports, and the newspaper debates accompanying them, provide some basis for comparison with earlier riot reports, notably those into the 1857 and 1866 Belfast riots. The nineteenth-century reports include evidence on intimidation and enforced population movement, subjects which have been examined in closer detail during the more recent disturbances.[16] The effects of violence on Northern Ireland's social institutions - education, health and social welfare services, policing, housing and community action - was the subject of Darby and Williamson (1978), but follow-up research has been dispersed and irregular.

Paramilitary violence has never lacked interest among researchers. Bruce (1992) has greatly increased understanding of loyalist paramilitaries, who were unfashionable until the increase of loyalist violence in the early 1990s. The republicans, especially the IRA, have attracted much greater attention.[17] Townshend (1983) considered political violence within a broader historical tradition of violence in Ireland; the work has been underrated and deserves wider attention.

A major limitation in the official data is their lack of detail. Although the RUC statistics identify general categories of victims, for example, they do not discriminate between different groups of civilian casualties. The gap has been filled by academic commentators, notably Michael McKeown in the 1970s and Irish Information Partnership in the 1980s. An informative analysis of the patterns of violence, including breakdowns of both perpetrators and victims, was carried out by McGarry and O'Leary (1990). The most comprehensive analysis of Troubles-related deaths between 1969 and 1994 is that by Fay, Morrissey and Smyth (1997). The most meticulous detailing of individual deaths was published by Sutton (1994), with some hopes that it would be the definitive and final accounting. The renewal of the IRA campaign dashed that hope, but only time will determine if the analysis of Northern Ireland's violence will continue to exercise its previous grim interest.

Northern Ireland in a Comparative Setting

There has been an extensive, if fluctuating, interest in the Northern Ireland conflict from outside Ireland - educationalists interested in its segregated school system, churchmen in the apparently denominational basis of the conflict, students of violence and its effects, medical researchers examining the emergency procedures and surgical techniques in its hospitals. The earliest attempts to locate the Northern Ireland Troubles within a broader context of ethnic conflict were predominantly Marxist,[18] although Rose (1971) also examined parallels between Northern Ireland and southern USA.

More recently there has been a shift towards comparative analysis of ethnic conflicts and approaches to conflict resolution. Wright (1987) examined the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspectives of a number of other conflicts notably Algeria. Darby, Dodge and Hepburn (1990) edited a collection of papers on political violence, including studies of France, Algeria and New Brunswick, looking at Northern Ireland from a comparative perspective. UNRISD has recently conducted two cross-national comparisons of positive and negative examples of conflict management,[19] and INCORE is currently researching peace processes in societies recently engaged in ethnic violence. The report, put together by Mary Albon for the Foundation for a Civil Society, on the 1995 conference on reconciliation and community, which included papers from South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe as well as Northern Ireland, is an interesting attempt to encourage cross-fertilisation between peace-makers in a number of ethnically divided societies. Northern Ireland features as a case-study in a number of books exploring the process and development of ethnic conflict.[20] The move towards comparative analysis is likely to continue, but may concentrate in the future on more specific details within the cycle of ethnic conflict and violence, including military studies of the control of terrorism.

Cultural Studies

One of the most remarkable effects of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been the cultural renaissance which accompanied it. This especially applies to literature, and to poetry in particular. Although the process predated the Troubles by a few years, local poets were caught between what Michael Longley described as charges of exploitation if they wrote about the Troubles and charges of evasion if they did not. [21] Frank Ormsby (1992) is an excellent anthology of what he describes as 'Troubles poetry', and includes work by Heaney, Hewitt, MacNeice, Mahon, Longley, Montague, Deane, Muldoon and dozens of others. This work follows an earlier anthology put together by Fiacc (1974). It is possible to follow the effect of the Troubles on the visual arts in Northern Ireland through Hewitt (1977) and Catto (1977), but the authoritative review of popular culture, especially popular music, has still to be written.

A number of magazines, notably Fortnight and the Linen Hall Review, publish and review developments in creative writing. The more recent interest in cultural pluralism and traditions is well reflected in the series of conference reports published by the Cultural Traditions Group.[22] The work of the Community Relations Council, of which the Cultural Traditions Group is now part, broadens the debate beyond the political; attention is drawn to its journal Causeway and to its publications, including Bryson and McCartney (1994), a rare consideration of the importance of symbols in a divided society. A more detailed study of the marches which annually raise tensions in Northern Ireland, and which test the limits of tolerance for the expression of cultural identity, is Jarman and Bryan (1996).

Conflict Research Centres in Ireland

Study of the Irish conflict has been greatly boosted by recent developments within Northern Ireland's two universities. The Centre for the Study of Conflict at the University of Ulster in Coleraine was formed in 1977, and became a formal part of the university's structure in 1980. Its activities include the publication of research papers, conferences and seminars. It also provides facilities for visiting researchers. The Urban Institute, also associated with the University of Ulster since 1995, has a particular interest in the problems of Belfast, which inevitably involves it with an orientation towards conflict.

The Centre for the Study of Conflict's increasing interest in comparative and collaborative research led in 1990 to the creation of the Ethnic Studies Network, which currently has more than 400 members, mainly scholars working on ethnic conflict in their own societies. This in turn, with the work of the Centre, formed the basis for the establishment of INCORE in 1993, now located close to the University of Ulster's Derry campus. INCORE is a joint project of the Tokyo-based United Nations University and the University of Ulster. Its special interests are the analysis, resolution and management of ethnic conflict, with particular attention to the concerns of the UN and the third world. INCORE's major functions are the conduct of research and the provision of training on ethnic conflict and conflict management. Its comparative approach locates the Northern Ireland conflict within the broader context of international ethnic conflict.

The Institute of Irish Studies {external_link} at Queen's University, Belfast, has been in operation since 1970, and has a limited number of fellowships for visiting academics. Its interests include Irish literature, language, history and other branches of Irish studies, and the Federation for Ulster Local studies is based there. Also located at Queen's, within the School of Social Sciences, is the Centre for Social Research. Its main research interests are social and social mobility in Northern Ireland, and it produced Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland annually until 1997. Few researchers who visit Northern Ireland fail to benefit from the Irish collection at the Linen Hall Library, to which reference has already been made.

The Irish Peace Institute Research Centre {external_link} at the University of Limerick, instituted in 1994, is the only such centre in the Irish Republic. it works closely With the Centre for the Study of Conflict in Northern Ireland, and is also associated with the University of Ulster in presenting a Master's course in Peace and Conflict Studies. its aim is to contribute to a lasting peace in Ireland. it has a particular, but not exclusive, interest in cross-border studies.

Centres Outside Northern Ireland

British academic interest in Ireland has become more institutionalised since the formation of the British Association for Irish Studies. Most of the acknowledged centres of activity concerning the Northern Ireland conflict either have a local Irish community or have arisen from the work of individual researchers.

The Institute of Irish studies at Liverpool University, {external_link} which publishes research reports and hosts conferences, has been influenced by both. The Irish Studies Centre at the University of North London {external_link} has a particular interest in the Irish in Britain. The Department of Peace Studies at Bradford University {external_link} has long had Irish connections, as has the Centre for the Study of Public Policy {external_link} at the University of Strathclyde, while the recently formed Conference of Irish Historians Working in Britain meets biennially. The appointments of George Boyce (Swansea), Patrick Buckland (Liverpool), Marianne Elliott (Liverpool), Roy Foster (Oxford), Tony Hepburn (Sunderland), Brendan O'Leary (LSE) and Charles Townshend (Keele) to chairs on the basis of publications on Irish history or politics partly reflects the growing involvement of British universities in the study of Ireland. (All appointments current at the date of publication).

North American interest in Irish matters has a longer pedigree. The American Committee for Irish Studies (later the American Conference on Irish Studies) produces a regular newsheet for its members which contains book reviews, and has also published an important Guide to Irish Studies in the United States which has been irregularly updated. Its annual conference, which was held in Northern Ireland for the first time in 1995, jointly with the Canadian Association for Irish Studies, often includes papers on Northern Ireland, but really demonstrates that the predominant American interest in Ireland is literary or historical. Eire-Ireland, the quarterly publication of the Irish American Cultural Institute in New Jersey (formerly based in St Paul, Minnesota), also has a literary bias, but has published papers on Northern Ireland. A substantial and growing number of American colleges and universities, mainly on the east coast, have developed links with Irish universities, and some have built up collections of Irish materials. There is an interest in Ulster-Scots studies in the Carolinas, Stanford University in California holds a small collection of Irish materials and Notre Dame, Indiana, has had a long-standing interest in Ireland. However, there is no recognisable centre on the Northern Ireland conflict in North America, as there is on Basque issues in the University of Nevada.

Outside North America, most foreign research on Northern Ireland has come from Europe. The level of interest in Germany and the Netherlands was high in the early years of the Troubles, and three collections of documents were published in German between 1969 and 1976, and one in Dutch in 1984. In France, the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Irlandaises at the University of Lille is an important centre of study and, though its main focus is literary, there have been articles on the conflict in its journal Etudes Irlandaises. Other centres of interest are the universities of Rennes {external_link} and Caen. The Centre d'Etudes lrlandaises, Paris, has become increasingly concerned with Northern Ireland, and publishes papers on this and related themes. Its director, Paul Brennan, has published a background book on the conflict geared to French students, as well as encouraging a substantial number of postgraduate studies in French universities. The Centre publishes the journal L'Irlande Politique et Sociale from Paris, and deserves considerable credit for the revival of French academic interest in the Irish conflict during the 1990s. It was one of the prime movers in the establishment in 1995 of the European Federation of Centres of Irish Studies, whose institutional members come from Ireland, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal.

Footnotes to Chapter 9:
Finding out more about Northern Ireland

[1] The three registers, while concentrating on research relating to the Troubles, in reality define 'conflict-related' generously. They are: Darby, J., Register of Research into the Irish Conflict, Belfast, Northern Ireland Community Relations Commission, 1972; Darby, J., Dodge, N. and Hepburn, A.C.. Register of Research into the Irish Conflict, Coleraine, Centre for the Study of Conflict, 1981; and Ó'Maoláin, C., Register of Research on Northern Ireland, Coleraine, Centre for the Study of Conflict, 1993.

[2] The series is produced by Longman in collaboration with the British Library.

[3] Martyn Turner's cartoons, some of which are featured in this book, have been published in collections since the 1970s. Particularly recommended are Illuminations, Kilkenny, Boethius, 1986 (a cartoonist's reflections on Irish history) and Pack up your Troubles, Belfast, Blackstaff, 1995 (a selection of Turner's cartoons over the 25 years of Northern Ireland's violence). The most recent collection is The Noble Art of Politics, Belfast, Blackstaff, 1996.

[4] There is an index of the first 300 issues: Rolston, B., Fortnight: the Index, Nos 1-300. Belfast, Fortnight, 1993.

[5] Adams, J.R.R., no date. Also useful is Howard, P., 'The paper war', three articles published in Fortnight in January and February 1974.

[6] A report published in Belfast Bulletin in 1979, found that, on television alone, and not counting news broadcasts, 162 programmes 'wholly or primarily' devoted to Northern Ireland were shown between 1968 and 1978.

[7] The INCORE Data Server and CAIN are located with INCORE at Aberfoyle House in Derry.

[8] Ó'Maoláin, Register of Research on Northern Ireland, pp.ix-xii.

[9] See Dunn, S., Ó'Maoláin, C. and McClean, S., 'Sources of information: books, research and data' in S. Dunn (ed.), Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1995, pp.258-9.

[10] Stewart, A.T.Q., The Narrow Ground, London, Faber & Faber, 1977, p.16.

[11] See Darby, J. (ed.), Northern Ireland: The Background to the Conflict, Belfast and Syracuse, Appletree, New York, 1983, pp.235-6.

[12] Richard Rose's 1969 research instrument is described in detail in Rose, R., Governing Without Consensus, London, Faber & Faber, 1971; Moxon-Browne, E.. Nation, Class and Creed in Northern Ireland, Aldershot, Gower, 1983, follows a similar model.

[13] Pollak, A. (ed.), A Citizen's Enquiry.. The Opsahl Report on Northern Ireland, Dublin, Lilliput, 1993 is an excellent combination of oral hearings and written submissions.

[14] Hoggart, S., 'The Army PR men in Northern Ireland'. New Society, 11 October 1973.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Darby, J. and Morris, G., Intimidation in Housing, Belfast, Northern Ireland Community Relations Commission, 1974.

[17] The IRA has been the subject of a number of books. One of the most notable early examples, which has been updated, is Bowyer Bell, j., The Irish Troubles: A Generation of Violence, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1993. More recent reliable references are Bishop, P. and Mallie, E., The Provisional IRA, London, Heinemann, 1987, and O'Brien, B., The Long War.. The IRA and Sinn Féin, Dublin, O'Brien, 1993. Holland, J. and McDonald, H., The INLA: The Inside Story, Dublin, Torc, 1994, is a substantial study of the INLA.

[18] See Darby, J., Conflict in Northern Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1976, especially the section on comparative analyses of conflict (pp.177-9), and Whyte, J., Interpreting Northern Ireland, Oxford, Blackwell, 1990, especially the chapter on Marxist interpretations (pp.175-93).

[19] UNRISD, Geneva, 1992.

[20] Two good examples are Montville, J.V. (ed.), Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies, Boston, MA., Lexington, 1991, and Marger, M., Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives, California, Wadsworth, 1985.

[21] Quoted In Ormsby, F. (ed.), A Rage for Order.. Poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles, Belfast, Blackstaff, 1992.

[22] The Northern Ireland Cultural Traditions Group, which operates as part of the Community Relations Council, was established to encourage more plural approaches to cultural diversity, and its work is described in publications edited by Crozier, M. (ed.), Varieties of Irishness, Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1989 and 1990; and Crozier, M. and Sanders, N. (eds), A Cultural Traditions Directory, Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1992. The Cultures of Ireland Group was formed in the Irish Republic in 1991 to encourage similar approaches south of the border.

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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