Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 03:33:51 AM EST
Occasionally the successes of the peace process in Northern Ireland are dragged up as being a model for problems in Palestine, parts of Spain or the Middle East in general. It's suggested that the IRA were beaten by police work and all sorts of other fun conclusions are drawn. Mostly the analysis totally misses the point: the terrorist campaign in the North was mostly stopped by fixing the issues that drove it from the beginning.
Essentially, the Brits bribed their way out of the problem. Eventually.
From the diaries - afew
Now, I'm not expert on the details of the Troubles, but basically what happened is that a campaign to address the economic and political discrimination against Catholics in Ulster, mounted by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association provoked a violent reaction from the more extreme Unionists which provoked a backlash from the Catholic community that was hijacked by extreme nationalists and turned into a thirty year conflict fueled by the incompetence of the British establishment and their natural bias towards the Protestant majority.
By the time that the peace process had come into real existence all the original underlying complaints had been pretty much sorted out: until the recent boom in the Republic my cousins in the North were uniformly richer than us, had better school and health services and are not being discriminated against officially in any meaningful way - in fact recent rioting has been by the Protestent working class who feel that the Catholics have better opportunities than them. The British government (and now the EU) pours huge amounts of money into Northern Ireland - no Irish government can accept reunification even if it was offered since we could never afford the subsidies.
My point? You beat broad-based terrorism by addressing the underlying causes, not through police work, intelligence work, carpet bombing or carefully arranged diplomacy. Small scale radical groups are different: they have no broad based support and can be wrapped up by the security forces.