Identity Politics: Troubles

art by Kathe Kollwitz

The “Troubles” refers to the three-decade conflict in Northern Ireland between nationalists (mainly self-identified as Irish or Roman Catholic) and unionists (mainly self-identified as British or Protestant), a violent sectarian conflict from about 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the republic of Ireland.

The world watched in despair as Northern Ireland unravelled into rage, unrest and violence. Paramilitary groups on both sides, like the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) operated outside the law, using violence and terrorism to impose their political will. Over 3,600 people were killed and thousands more injured, many of them civilians and innocent children caught in the crossfire.

Nick Laird in NYRB:

“Much of our lives in the Troubles were spent in a defensive crouch, being wrong by just existing. We were liable to be anxious. An old friend of mine, a Catholic and a fellow poet from Belfast, was in New York City last week and described being told once to “check her privilege.” She had replied that the privilege her identity had given her was a mild form of PTSD. The phrase “identity politics” has a darker resonance in Northern Ireland. Every evil act I’ve ever seen committed was done in the name of identity.

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