There are always three sides to the story...
November 10, 2010 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Peter Taylor (wiki) is a British journalist and documentary maker. In the late nineties, he published three books looking at the troubles in Northern Ireland from the perspective of the three main elements involved. These were turned into three documentary series. Provos: The IRA and Sinn Fein [episode 1, part 1], Loyalists [episode 1, part 1], and Brits: The War Against the IRA [episode 1, part 1] are available in 52 parts on the YouTube channel of user 26and6equals1.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian (10 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Terrific, thanks for posting. Looking forward to watching this after work.
posted by carter at 8:23 AM on November 10, 2010

"Terrific" is probably the right word - causing terror, terrifying. I should probably have put a warning on there that there are many disturbing images and descriptions in there folks.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2010

Good point, TUO.

To get a rough perspective, the relative populations of the USA and Northern Ireland are about 180:1. So you can take the NI figures and multiply by 180 to get figures for a similar conflict in the USA. It's a bit hard trying to get figures for the death tolls, but 3,250 is in the ballpark, or equivalent to about 585,000 in the US over thirty years, if the conflict was occurring now. In other words, about 50 people a day.
posted by carter at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2010

I can't watch this now at work either, but will do so later. In the meantime, those of us in that situation might enjoy this article from The Atlantic on the British efforts to infiltrate the IRA.
posted by TedW at 9:38 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember when the Provos part was broadcast on PBS Frontline here in the states. It was only recently that I discovered the other two docus. Fascinating stuff, great post.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2010

Another way of scaling the Ulster conflict is to consider it in terms of the US occupation of Iraq. Even if Iraq was considered more of a struggle between two rival gangs, as in Ulster, instead of its much more complex factional setup, then for the US to contain the conflict with the same level of troop engagement as boots on the ground that the UK did, the US would have had to maintain a standing troop presence of over 500,000, for decades. That's a lot of boots.
posted by meehawl at 9:02 PM on November 10, 2010

Great. I look forward to this immensely, even if I end up having problems with it.
posted by Football Bat at 1:41 AM on November 11, 2010

I suspect that if you didn't have problems with it, there'd be something wrong with you. Another way to scale it would be to say that a country with a population the size of Phoenix lost 20 people a week for 30 years, but reducing it all to numbers is to anaethetise oneself a bit. The individual stories (which all three series are full of) have much greater impact than statistics ever could.

The most impressive thing about them for me is that most of the key players who are still alive are interviewed quite frankly about how they behaved. In a situation so complex and with the weight of so much history behind it, of course some journalistic corners are necessarily cut, but overall, it's an impressive piece of work that offers one of the best insights into what went on in Northern Ireland at that time.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 3:04 AM on November 11, 2010

I suppose for me the pervasiveness of the conflict was brought home when I found out that one of my random University roommates was a radio listener for the Provos. I noticed he had a bunch of unusual electronics in his room and that he spent several hours every day locked away, very quiet. After a while he showed me his simple job: sit there at assigned times scanning police and other emergency service bands, write down stuff overheard and deemed significant according to a cheat sheet he had, and then every few days mail them to a random PO Box. He was no heavy guy, not really into violence, and was not strongly or loudly ideological as many could be, but this was just what he did -- for years, with no pay, out of some sense of "loyalty".
posted by meehawl at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2010

Blimey. What did you do with that information?
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2010

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