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The coffin of the journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland last week. Credit Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Kevin Barry O’Donnell told me that he and his friends wanted the Troubles to come back. “The madness, the riots, the shooting, the bombings, everything,” he said of the 30 years of conflict between mostly Catholic republicans who wanted to reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and the mostly Protestant unionists who wanted it to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

I was interviewing Mr. O’Donnell in 2017 for a film I was making about life after the Troubles. He was 16 years old and living in Derry, the city in Northern Ireland that was famous as both the site of the conflict’s beginning and one of its worst atrocities, the killing of 14 Catholics by British soldiers in 1972 in an event known as Bloody Sunday.…  Seguir leyendo »

Film still from No Stone Unturned (2017), directed by Alex Gibney

On August 31, 2018, I was in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, waiting for my flight to New York, when I received this text on WhatsApp: “Trevor and Barry had their doors kicked in this morning in dawn raids and are presently in police custody for breach of s5 of Official Secrets Act.”

With a few clicks and a hasty review of a police press release from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was able to grasp the basics. Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two producers on a documentary film I had directed, No Stone Unturned, had been arrested and held for questioning for the “theft” of classified documents relating to the Loughinisland Massacre, the subject of the film.…  Seguir leyendo »

Northern Ireland is on edge and British politicians should beware

There are times when working as a journalist provides a front-row seat to some of the most important events taking place on Earth. On the downhill slope to Brexit, Derry -- also known as Londonderry -- certainly fits the bill.

Since the end of The Troubles, Derry has become a vibrant cultural hub. It hosts Europe's largest and most vibrant Halloween celebration each year, attracting thousands of tourists.

It was designated the UK's City of Culture in 2013.

But a car bomb last weekend that blasted granite chunks off the street and through windows lifted the curtain on something darker going on in this city on the border with the Republic of Ireland.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Troubles Are Back

IT is widely assumed that the Northern Ireland conflict was settled in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The war was over and the good guys had won.

Many Americans may even derive satisfaction from the role played by American presidents and political grandees — notably, President Clinton’s point man, George J. Mitchell, who presided over the negotiations leading to the agreement.

Yet the deal delivered by Senator Mitchell contained the seeds of its own destruction. In effect, the Good Friday Agreement assigned every person in Northern Ireland to either the unionist or nationalist camp, and the decision-making institutions it created, the Northern Ireland Assembly and its accompanying Executive, were designed to be balanced between the two camps.…  Seguir leyendo »

El pasado es el pasado

EL pasado es el pasado», sentenció Gerry Adams días atrás al eludir su procesamiento por el asesinato de Jean McConville en diciembre de 1972. El pasado no desaparece aunque Adams intente esconderlo y transformarlo. «Los gemelos tenían seis años. Jamás podré olvidar su llanto aferrándose a mi madre mientras se la llevaban forcejeando. Echaron la puerta abajo y apuntaron sus pistolas contra nosotros. Dos de las personas que se la llevaron eran mujeres. Mostraron la misma piedad que dos bestias. Todavía tengo pesadillas con esa escena». La tristeza inundaba el rostro de Helen aquel verano de 1995 mientras relataba la angustia de vivir sin saber dónde se encontraba el cadáver de su madre, Jean McConville.…  Seguir leyendo »

The front line in the Northern Ireland conflict has moved from the back streets of Belfast. The weapons are no longer ArmaLite rifles and car bombs; the warriors are no longer soldiers and hooded paramilitaries. In 2014, history itself is the new front line, and the battlefields are TV studios, newspapers, social media and the courts. The warriors are now politicians whose words are as full of hate as the bullets they have replaced. The body count may be lower, but mistrust and blame are not being replaced with hope and friendship.

In April 1998, when the Good Friday peace accord was signed, dealing with the conflict’s legacy was seen as too divisive.…  Seguir leyendo »

On June 17 and 18, the political world's focus will be on Northern Ireland, where the Group of Eight summit will take place.

Although this is a region defined by its violent history, the summit is already proving to be one of the most complex and wide-ranging security operations Northern Ireland has ever seen. Thousands of additional police officers are being brought in from England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland to assist.

During the 2005 event, which took place in Scotland and was the last G8 summit in the UK, four al Qaeda-inspired men detonated bombs on the London transport network, killing 52 people and themselves.…  Seguir leyendo »

A raíz de los recientes atentados de ETA y de las operaciones policiales contra la banda y su entorno he reflexionado sobre las lecciones de 40 años de lucha violenta en Irlanda, a la que hace unos años pusieron punto final dirigentes de las diversas facciones.

Las denominadas luchas de liberación nacional son un conglomerado de numerosas contradicciones que los combatientes, sobre todo los más jóvenes, son incapaces de ver durante más o menos tiempo; sin embargo el velo se les cae finalmente de los ojos durante esos largos años en prisión -que son la recompensa principal de todo acto violento-, aunque casi nunca se les permita reconocerlo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pocos días después de los asesinatos en el Ulster, los irlandeses hacían algo que saben hacer muy bien y que es muy sano: reírse de sí mismos. En la Opera House de Belfast se representaba The history of the troubles, accodin' to my Da (La historia de los conflictos, según mi padre), de Martin Lynch, un autor local, en la que se ironiza sobre la parte más sórdida de los seres humanos al más puro estilo de Sean O'Casey o de tantos otros dramaturgos irlandeses. La obra, que ha agotado entradas y ha recibido aplausos en pie, empieza en 1969, cuando Gerry Courtney, un católico de un barrio obrero, espera en el hospital de Belfast el nacimiento de su hijo.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Northern Ireland the squalid and brutal murders of two unarmed, off-duty soldiers taking delivery of pizzas, followed by the execution of a police officer who was responding to a call for help, achieved what all acts of terrorism intend — the release into the body politic of the poisonous spores of fear.

In this case, the fear was all the more potent because it infected the psyche of all those who had lived through the Troubles, regenerating the memories of the darkness. The stigmata of those partly repressed memories were suddenly uncovered and they seemed as vivid as when we first encountered them.…  Seguir leyendo »

I wonder if Gerry Adams, the Sinn Finn leader, remembered his old adversary Margaret Thatcher as he stood in Government Buildings in Dublin last week and said that dissident republicans “shouldn’t have room to breathe”? He liked the image so much, he repeated it in a press statement. “It is crucial that there is no breathing space given to these unrepresentative groups and that there is no sense of ambiguity about our collective opposition to their actions.”

It was a remarkable echo of the Iron Lady’s call for the Provisional IRA to be denied the “oxygen of publicity” when its campaign was going full tilt in the 1980s and Adams was a leading spokesman for the terrorists.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is Easter Day - the most sacred day in the Irish Republican calendar.

In the drizzling rain last year the Provisional movement is assembling to march through the tawdry streets of West Belfast to celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising and Pádraig Pearse, the IRA's bloodthirsty founder.

The flute bands strike up, the drummers roll and the procession slowly snakes its way forward. But something is wrong. Under the orders of Gerry Adams the marchers are not allowed to unfurl their banners - which bloodcurdlingly commemorate recently dead IRA volunteers. Anything resembling a modern, military-style uniform has been banned.

And oddly, as if this were the Irish equivalent of Morris dancing, a group of marchers has dressed up in historical outfits to entertain the crowd.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ya han transcurrido casi 15 años desde el inicio del proceso de paz en Irlanda del Norte. Son muchas las cosas que han pasado desde entonces: rupturas de treguas, escisiones en grupos terroristas, atentados brutales o el paso al crimen organizado de antiguas bandas terroristas. El 3 de septiembre de 2008 la Comisión de Supervisión Independiente (IMC), organización creada en 2004 por los gobiernos británico e irlandés para supervisar el desarme de los grupos paramilitares norirlandeses, emitió su decimonoveno informe. En él afirmó que el IRA Provisional había dejado de ser una amenaza para la seguridad ya que su mando, aunque siguiera existiendo, no era ni operativo ni funcional.…  Seguir leyendo »

Don't we know, for we are told it often enough, that however unjustified terrorism is, it springs from real social and political conditions? That this is the sequence: from the feeling of grievance, through a growing belief in the need for violence, finally to the subsequent act of terror? From this it follows, solve the grievance somehow - through concessions or talks or even military measures - and the terror will stop. There will be no reason for it.

Let us presume that it was indeed the Real IRA, as claimed to the Sunday Tribune, whose “volunteers” shot up a pizza delivery to the Massereene Barracks on Saturday night, badly wounded two pizza “collaborators” - a new category in the history of terror attacks - and then finished off at least one of the four wounded soldiers as he lay bleeding on the roadside.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thirty years ago, two nervous Sunday Times reporters sat in a country inn outside Dublin waiting for an IRA contact to show up. Neither I nor my colleague David Blundy had ever met this shadowy figure before, and we knew nothing of his motives. But he had held out the promise of solving one of the darkest secrets of the Provisionals' terror campaign against the British - the truth about the murder of the undercover army intelligence officer, Captain Robert Nairac.

Even by IRA standards Captain Nairac's death was shocking. Taken from the Three Steps public house in South Armagh, where he had gone undercover to gather information about republican operations, he had been beaten, tortured and finally shot.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Rogelio Alonso, profesor de Ciencia Política, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (EL CORREO DIGITAL, 09/05/07):

No hay nada que el IRA pueda lograr ahora que no hubiese podido conseguir en los últimos veinticinco años». Con estas palabras, pronunciadas poco antes de la aprobación del Acuerdo de Viernes Santo en 1998, Merlyn Rees, ministro británico para Irlanda del Norte entre marzo de 1974 y septiembre de 1976, resumía el fracaso de la violencia perpetrada por el grupo terrorista dirigido durante décadas por Gerry Adams, también presidente de Sinn Fein. Esta formación acepta ahora un acuerdo político que le permitirá compartir el Gobierno de Irlanda del Norte junto al Partido Unionista del reverendo Ian Paisley, el DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Ian Gibson, historiador (EL PERIÓDICO, 05/02/07):

A los surrealistas les intrigaban las coincidencias, el azar, las cosas raras que nos ocurren sin aparente explicación racional pero que, cuando se producen, parecen tener su propia lógica. Grandes maestros en el arte de vivir, receptivos ante las oportunidades que nos brinda nuestro discurrir cotidiano --aunque no siempre las sepamos reconocer, apreciar o aprovechar--, bucearon en el inconsciente y siempre abominaron de una sociedad que consideraban miserable, pacata, acobardada. Luis Buñuel no fue excepción a la regla. En sus memorias, recuerda la fuerte sacudida que le produjeron las primeras lecturas de Freud cuando era estudiante en Madrid, con Dalí y Lorca a su lado.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Niall Stanage, a correspondent for the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post (THE GUARDIAN, 10/10/06):

Will Ian Paisley wreck hopes for peace in Ireland again? Or will the fundamentalist cleric, nicknamed "Dr No" for the glee with which he kiboshed past deals, finally bend to become Northern Ireland's first minister?These questions hang in the air as the North's political parties prepare to meet tomorrow. The talks, aimed at restoring devolution, follow last week's Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report - which confirmed what fairminded observers have known for years: the IRA's armed struggle is at an end.

The roaring reverend, who leads the Democratic Unionists (DUP), has been showing signs of moderation.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Kevin Toolis, a terrorism expert working on a film for Channel 4 on female and Western suicide bombers (THE TIMES, 02/06/06):

Could the man we all believe to have launched a thousand car bombs and to have twice ordered the assassination of the British Cabinet at Brighton in 1984 and in the 1991 mortar attack on Downing Street really have been working for the British Secret Service all along? Our very own Derry version of 007?

A few months ago such a thesis would and could be dismissed as even too fantastical for the plot of a James Bond movie.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rogelio Alonso es profesor de Ciencia Política en la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, y autor de Matar por Irlanda. El IRA y la lucha armada (EL PAIS, 26/08/05).

La excarcelación de los presos por delitos de terrorismo en Irlanda del Norte se justificó como una medida necesaria para la pacificación y la normalización. Sin embargo, la impunidad política, jurídica y moral que ha garantizado dista mucho de haber favorecido dichos objetivos. En realidad, políticos y responsables del sistema penitenciario que la defendieron en su día han llegado a reconocer cuan contraproducente ha sido.

La excarcelación vino precedida de una eficaz propaganda política a través de la cual se extendió la creencia de que no era realista que las organizaciones terroristas mantuvieran sus treguas mientras los presos permanecían en la cárcel.…  Seguir leyendo »