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The Troubles: Affect on British and Irish Citizens Daily Lives

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The Northern Irish troubles were a horrid event and reverberated throughout British and Irish history. It caused a large amount of damage, both physical and mental, to the citizens that had to endure it. Bombings were fairly frequent and fear was widespread. Everyone was always dreading the next attack. Fear ran rampant, poverty was a widespread issue throughout the Irish Catholic community and their were many civil issues between the Catholic and Protestant groups. British military tried to assert control over Northern Ireland, but ultimately failed. Overall it was just a really horrific state of affairs for everyone involved. This is a explanation of why that is.

The IRA bombings during the troubles period had serious implications for the people of Northern Irish descent especially those residing in England. There was a sense of paranoia amongst the general population which was fueled by the media. Northern Irish residents in england experienced prejudice and were subject to, on occasions, to being wrongly accused of perpetrating IRA attacks and being incarcerated. For example, a well-known example of this was the Guildford Four. The Guildford Four were a group of young Irishmen who were (wrongly) accused of perpetrating the Guildford pub bombings in 1975. The Four who were accused were: Paul Michael Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Armstrong and Carole Richardson. Gerry Conlon made his living as a thief in 1970s Belfast but when the IRA got sick of him he ran away to England and met up with his friend Paul Michael Hill but on the same night the IRA bombs a nearby pub in Guildford they get forced out of the place they are staying at. He returns to Belfast but is arrested as prime suspect in the bombing and is locked away with his friends for 15 years. Due to information Conlon has provided it can be argued that his friends and him were tortured by the police in order to confess (because the officers refused to believe them innocent) until they confessed to a crime they didn’t commit. The interview by Mary-Rachel McCabe in 2014 shows this as in the interview Conlon states that, “They had me on the floor and they were stamping on me, and kicking me, one put a cigarette out on the back of my neck”. This is compelling evidence that Conlon was abused into confessing. This provides fair insight into the injustices that Northern Irish people faced just for being alive.

During the troubles period, particularly during the 1970s there was a pervasive sense of fear amongst the general population in both England and North Ireland. Day-to-day life in Northern Ireland (particularly Belfast) was subject to seemingly random violent attacks on individuals and the British military as well as bombings in cities such as Birmingham there were regular occurrences of the IRA blitzing targeted buildings and areas. As MacLeod (2005) claims “the IRA bomb campaign, which hit London from 1973 onwards, sought to create a climate of fear over a long period. There were 36 bombs in London in 1973 alone”. During the troubles period in Northern Ireland there were countless and Senseless loss of life from bombings, murders and horrendous injuries for which the IRA were responsible. According to McKittrick et al (2008) whoses book discusses the vast number of “Civilians, members of Loyalist and Republican groups, political figures, soldiers and so on who have died horrible deaths, experienced terrible injuries and whose lives have been shattered in the process’.

Poor living conditions and poverty were a widespread issue in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Ever since the split of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the economic stature of Northern Ireland, as it is a very small state, has been fairly dismal. But it really started to turn for the worse during the troubles. The constant attacks resulted in frequent property damage and most people wouldn’t have been able to get their homes rebuilt so they had to get put into communal housing. In these situations housing was overcrowded, too many people in the same house, not enough food because there weren’t enough jobs going around and people didn’t always have the amenities that they needed. Due to this newborns and young children had a pretty high mortality rate because they were growing up in an adverse environment where they were being assaulted by loud noises, smelly homes and general low standards of living. According to Ed Cairns (1987) “30% of the child population lived in what could be called low-income households”. Building onto this the chance of ever escaping this cycle of poverty was very low. This is due to a low supply of stable jobs or income sources. A lot people had to resort to methods that could be judged poorly by the more affluent. This included stealing food, clothes and general things that are required to live hygienically and healthily. The lives of people in Northern Ireland were, overall, dismal, gross and terrifying at times.

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Growing up in the troubles period caused a modicum of desensitisation to things that would horrify most people. The children of the troubles had to grow up in one of the most traumatic times in Britain’s modern history. People were frequently shot or injured and bombings and riots were a frequent occurrence. Kids would be subjected to full body searches and bag checks whenever they entered school or a shopping centre and car bombings were so frequent that children had to stay in cars if their parents went, for example, grocery shopping just so people would know that the car wasn’t set to explode. This extended to most places in Northern Ireland as there were exclusion zones in main city areas where cars were not allowed in because the chance of a bomb threat was too high. According to Shauneen Armstrong (2018) “bombs going off in the distance and finding bullet casings on the ground were mostly an inconvenience” and “When in town, it was normal to go into a security cabin to be searched”. This has negative mental implications because it subconsciously makes the person think that these obviously horrid things to other people seem normal. This shows that life in Northern Ireland at the time was a chore and created negative ‘normalities’ in the lives of the children that experienced it.

The British military presence in Britain was both a deterrent and a catalyst for terrorist action. From early in the troubles the British government began to decide on what action they were going to take. They eventually landed on military enforcement. They sent troops in to quell the attacks. Although it seemed like a good idea it turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. Although it increased security somewhat the thing the government didn’t anticipate was that the soldiers had their own ideals and predetermined prejudices against the Irish. They were harsh and rough with the citizens because they saw the IRA and they Ireland and they grouped the two together in one group that they hated. Also, on another level of this the soldiers were devout Protestants and viewed the Catholics pretty indifferently and were correspondingly cold towards them. This also somewhat fueled the already growing social feud between Catholics and Protestants, this was because that the British were Church of England (Protestant) and thus supported the Protestant population of Northern Ireland and due to this they were considerably more affluent and just financially stable in general because the British were supplying them with jobs and the support was nonexistent for the Catholics and thus they were correspondingly poorer and were moved around and had to live in larger groups to support bills and mortgages and the like because small families could not survive in that climate. This created a divide between the two groups and a fair amount of animosity. The IRA took advantage of the British soldier’s arrival though, they began to assassinate soldiers and officers as a kind of statement against the colonisation and the segregation that had began to occur. This shows that the British military presence may have been a deterrent but it also created a larger social divide between the majority religious groups at the time.

The events of the Troubles created a social divide between the Catholics and Protestants. Over the course of the troubles the social divide between the two religious groups, it originally sprouted from when the country was partitioned into North Ireland and the Republic, this created a literal divide in which the British influenced the Northern part because they governed it and thus the British religion (Protestantism) was the main religion. Whilst in the Republic (which completely governed themselves, although the British were closely watched them). Catholicism was the majority religion and Protestantism was virtually non existent in that part. The British support gave the Northern Irish stability while the Republic had to support themselves and thus poverty slowly set in. The Catholics weren’t happy with this and the IRA were largely Catholic so they set about taking out prominent English colonialism supporters to make a point and these people were all Protestant. This created distrust between the Protestants and Catholics because one wasn’t sure whether the other was out to get them. This was largely due to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) who controlled the majority of Irish politics and firmly kept Northern Ireland in Britain’s grasp. This angered both the IRA and Catholics, who were firmly nationalist as this was the core of the IRA’s ideology. According to PBS the Unionists “felt that the Catholics represented a fifth column” and that “the Catholics didn’t want to be a part of the state and wanted to undermine it”. The divide between the Catholic and Protestant groups was a social one and not a religious one. This changed how the citizens of the different groups viewed and treated each other.

The events of the Troubles have caused trauma, both physical and mental, to the survivors of it horrors. The constant attacks from the IRA were intense and happened very often. People would walk down the street and there would be riots going on the block over from them. Petrol bombs were set off all around the area and people died and/or were gravely injured fairly frequently. Many people (3500) were killed over the 30 years that the conflict went on for and without a doubt many thousands more were injured gravely or otherwise. The damage though, was not only physical. It also affected people on a mental scale peoples families were affected. People sustained terrible injuries the likes of loss of limbs and they were never the same, not only physically but mentally as well. An example of this is a Sinn Fein (Northern Irish Unionist Party) MP named Michelle Gildernew, according to an article on the 12th of April 2019 it reports that she said at a meeting in Dublin it is reported by a UK newsletter that she said Anybody who has lost a loved one knows what it feels like to be a victim. “There is an awful lot of pain and hurt out there, I recognise that, we’ve all been through the conflict, I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 as a result of it, there is a lot of damaged people out there”. This infers that not only has it caused PTSD in survivors but there is also increased suicide rates and similar occurrences in survivors. This shows that the events of the Troubles were not only physically scarring for survivors and their family members but is also mentally distressing to the point of drastic action.

Thus the events of the troubles and the IRA attacks were a strain on British and Irish society and caused widespread panic and damage across England and Ireland. Poverty was a huge issue and the Catholics and Protestants were constantly at each other’s throats all the time and British and Irish people intensely despised one another (and still do to some degree). It has had lasting effects on families, people, places and how certain groups perceive each other. Security in England increased tenfold as the people and government were always having to anticipate the next attack so they tried to prevent this as much as possible. The conflict was almost constant and its effects can still be felt today in the areas it took place in.

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The Troubles: Affect on British and Irish Citizens Daily Lives. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“The Troubles: Affect on British and Irish Citizens Daily Lives.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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