Over the past decade Northern Ireland has emerged from a seemingly intractable sectarian and political conflict and has started to reclaim an identity of its own. The legacy of the ‘Troubles’, when civil strife and unrest were defining features of life in the country, nonetheless remains palpable.
The conflict which for so long defined Northern Ireland had its roots in both the British colonisation of Ireland and in the civil tension between Catholics and Protestants. The two issues were intrinsically connected and lead to a deeply entrenched sense of discord between nationalists and unionists, both of whom were backed by paramilitary organizations; the discord inevitably, and regularly, erupted into violence.
Whilst this violence still scars the province, years of hard fought political compromise and the disarmament of paramilitary groups have brought about a sense of relative calm. The culture of Northern Ireland is still however largely determined by the persistent legacy of conflict and the efforts to rebuild a sense of national identity.
The ‘Troubles’ are dissected in David McKittrick and David Mc Vea’s Making Sense of the Troubles which analyses both the complex roots and tragic consequences of this conflict. Ed Moloney looks at the role the Irish Republican Army played in in the years of the conflict in A Secret History of the IRA, which traces the move towards disarmament on the part of the IRA.
Northern Ireland’s cinematic output is also largely devoted to scrutinizing its past; Bloody Sunday offers a visceral documentary style portrayal of the 1972 massacre of innocents by the British Army in Derry. The Devil’s Own traces the personal costs of the conflict and also looks at the part that Americans of Irish descent have played in influencing events.