When The Troubles erupted in August 1969 in the six counties in Northern Ireland that Great Britain still claimed, the two sides of the conflict — the Protestants and the Catholics — were well and quickly established in the eyes of the world.
Protestants were in the majority in those counties, and discrimination against Catholics, which included confining them to certain neighborhoods in many places, was open and widespread. To those who paid attention — particularly in those in the United States who had just experienced the decade of civil rights — that kind of discrimination shocked the senses.
The British government in London had initially left the situation in the hands of the authorities in Northern Ireland, but the police force there was overwhelmingly Protestant. The mutual hatred between the Catholic community and the Royal Ulster Constabulary was intense. Catholics barricaded themselves in Derry and fought police with petrol bombs.
Where was the Republic of Ireland and its government among all this chaos?
The sympathies of the people of the Republic were definitely with the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and there was indeed political pressure on officials to do something. But what?
Invade Northern Ireland? The idea certainly had its advocates, but the British would have considered that an act of war, and the army of the Republic will ill-prepared for any such action.
What some in the Republic did is the subject of a nine-part podcast produced by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ titled GunPlot.
It’s a fascinating story. I listened to the first two episodes in one sitting and the third soon thereafter. I’m still listening.
If you are interested in The Troubles specifically or the history of Ireland in general — or if you just enjoy hearing Irish accents and a rollicking good story — this is a podcast to spend some time with.
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