An Acceptable Level of Violence: Assessing the Development of the British Government’s Security Approach to ‘The Troubles’ From 1969-79


Those seeking to engage in warfare against organised governments in the 21st century are increasingly relying on such governments being unable to respond in an appropriate manner. The latter half of the 20th century in Northern Ireland is a perfect example of a ruling authority modifying its approach to the security issues it was confronted by throughout the conflict. “The Troubles”, as the three decades of guerrilla warfare has now become known, was dealt with by the British establishment through three specific policies – all of which saw changes implemented during the first ten years of the landmark conflict. These were: the implementation of Direct Rule, the so-called “Normalisation” of asymmetric warfare, and the reliance on the local paramilitaries over the British Army. All of these policies can be seen to have failed in particular ways, although careful examination shall explain the logic behind these shifts in British reactionary policy and their effects in the regions of the province of Ulster affected by the conflict. Being a very brief survey of this conflict, this paper does not address other policies enacted – nor does it encompass every aspect of the evidence available. It merely aims to act as an overview.
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