Why has it taken so long to solve the Northern Irish conflict? Why did early attempts fail? Why have the terrorists finally changed from semtex to the ballot box? For nearly 30 years Northern Ireland has been a by-word for terrorism, bloodshed, military coercion and intense communal conflict. The failure to resolve the conflict has had epic and tragic consequences, but Ireland is experiencing a transition from a society in conflict to one at peace. This text considers what type of conflict it is in Ireland and how it fits into wider British and European patterns. It places events in context by looking at historical roots across the centuries. Where did the violence come from and why could it not be pacified? It attempts to untangle the mixed ideas that sustain the identities and tradtitions.
Jeremy Smith teaches history at University College, Chester. He is the author of a number of books on Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations including The Tories and Ireland (2000) and Britain and Ireland - From Home Rule to Independence (1999).