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Home|Special Collections Exhibitions|Revolution!|Perceptions of revolution|Personal recollections of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland 

Personal recollections of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland

By Gavin Beattie, Associate Director (Research & Impact), Libraries & Collections

Cover of featured pamphletCover of featured pamphlet, The Northern Ireland problem, 1972In selecting this pamphlet, I might be stretching the definition of revolution but there is no denying that the 1970s represented a period of political upheaval, conflict and violence in my home country of Northern Ireland.

The pamphlet was published in 1972. This was both the year I was born in Belfast and the bloodiest year of the Troubles (as the ‘Northern Ireland Problem’ became known, in typical Irish understatement) with 480 deaths. My parents talked of hearing the riots and the sirens from the maternity ward and of how unsafe my Mum felt in hospital.

Harry Calvert, a professor of law at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was commissioned by the United Nations Association to look at the human rights aspect of the ‘problem’. He writes,

As I have prepared this paper, I have been constantly reminded of how difficult it is to avoid controversy in expressing practically any view on the present turmoil in Northern Ireland

This may be why his conclusions seem obvious and tempered. Perhaps that is from the perspective of 2017, although avoiding controversy is still difficult.

There were many pamphlets published in the early 1970s on the ‘Northern Ireland Problem’ and it is interesting and emotional to reflect on what it means to have been born and raised as part of a problem. It certainly didn’t feel that way growing up, although we were all aware that our ‘normal’ was very different from those of our neighbours across the Irish border or across the Irish Sea.

The ‘Troubles’ carried on until the late 1990s resulting in around 3,500 deaths, so it is hard to see what impact publications like this had in concrete terms, but it provides an interesting historical perspective.

The cover reproduced here is displayed courtesy of the United Nations Association, UK, and we are grateful to them for granting this permission.

In this exhibition

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