Dr Thomas Leahy is Professor of British and Irish Politics and Contemporary History at Cardiff University and author of The intelligence war against the IRAa carefully crafted study that reiterates the view of leading historians and analysts that the main roots of the Irish-British peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement lie in the prolonged military stalemate that characterized the second half of the called Problems. in the north of Ireland.
In particular, many scholars argue that the slow path to peace, or the absence of war, began with the UK’s faltering acceptance that it could not inflict a decisive military or political defeat on the Republican Movement. Or even, as a second best option, contain the armed insurrection to an acceptable level of attrition, protecting the UK from serious attack, while creating the space for some form of internal solution to the advantage of the UK and its loyalists: the unionist community. . This gradual shift in thinking, the questioning of military victory or containment as achievable goals, eventually led to renewed side talks with the insurgency leadership in the late 1980s and early 1990s under the mandate of the Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher MP.
While initially conducted in private, the UK’s demand for peace, so to speak, was eventually accompanied by a series of public statements and proposals from serving and retired British officials. Notable among these early moves was the admission during a BBC television documentary in February 1988 by Sir James M. Glover, former Commander-in-Chief of the UK Land Forces, that the Irish Republican Army could not be defeated; a view quite at odds with the London line on the decades-old conflict. In a similar vein was the acceptance in December 1989 by Peter Brooke MP, the British Government’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that a military defeat of the IRA would be “difficult to imagine”. This admission to the Press Association caused outrage in Britain, but in retrospect it clearly served the dual purpose of signaling to the IRA that London was ready to limit its war aims, a policy shift that has already passed covertly through deniable interlocutors. , and accustom the British. media and the general public to what was to come.
On the other hand, many strategic thinkers in the Republican Movement were now also looking for a way out of what was becoming a generational conflict, questioning the efficacy of endless armed struggle and tentatively exploring the potential for Sinn Féin to wage war by other means. . . By putting votes before guns, and by using the latter to gain concessions and advantages for the former, they hoped to establish an electoral (and legal, social, and cultural) environment in which Britain would or would not be marginalized. Thus giving the Republican Movement the political space it needed to achieve its central goal: a reunified Ireland (regardless of its ideological character). Which, ironically, reflected the soon-to-be-abandoned British policy of neutralizing the power or influence of the Republican Movement in order to achieve a political solution favorable to Britain and its local allies.
Of course, in recent years this account of the end of the Long War, a record formally recognized by major Irish and British contributors to the peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s, has been challenged by a number of right wingers and nationalists. writers in Britain. Instead of a military impasse that led to a series of complex and painful compromises on all sides, these commentators have argued for a simplistic morality story: a heroic romance in which Anglo-Saxon rooted intelligence and steadfastness trumped cunning and native cunning. of the Celtic
In this fan fiction version of UK history, where British super-spies and high-tech wizardry exploited the treacherous and greedy nature of the Irish, a major victory was lost to a petty peace imposed by squeamish or gullible bureaucrats and politicians from London. (Although, oddly enough, in some recent versions of the story, the previously hated and criticized Good Friday Agreement has been rebranded as the ultimate symbol of surrender and humiliation for the IRA, and one that Brexit Britain can now shelve.) surely, its purpose was fulfilled).
The main author of these revisionist tales has been the group of writers and journalists associated with the notorious Policy Exchange, the London think tank that has brought a measure of academic respectability to those forces in British society that a confidant of the former UK Prime Minister David Cameroon describes himself as “rolling-eyed crazy lunatics”. Since 2005, the ultra-conservative lobby group has published or publicized countless articles and books advocating an objectively sterile interpretation of the 1998 Stormont peace accords, while just as frequently attacking the peace process itself. It’s a campaign of disinformation that has continued to this day, with the hardline body maintaining its thinly veiled colonial vision of Ireland through its visceral hatred of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the UK’s trade treaties with the Union. European.
In the YouTube lectures below, Dr. Leahy makes the case for accepting the mainstream interpretation of how the riots of 1966-2005 ended, using primary sources and accounts from key figures, while presenting new facts to support the contemporary record. . He deconstructs the claims offered by amateur historians of the neo-right in Britain, pointing to years of secret negotiations between the Republican Movement and successive UK governments. In his opinion, the Good Friday Agreement represents the victory of politics over violence, not violence over violence.
It’s no wonder his book has been largely ignored by the political or media classes in London, as its core message of jaw-dropping, no war-war doesn’t align with Brexit Britain’s nostalgic jingoism. Instead, they have publicized and praised the dangerous fantasy stories of parlor generals, and those who served and failed in the Troubles, who now downplay the threat or seriousness of Troubles 2.0 while advocating Partition 2.0 through of the perpetual Long War that characterizes Brexit.