I’ve recommended the historical analyses of Pat Walsh in a previous post and this sample from his forthcoming publication, “Resurgence”, the second and final volume of “The Catholic Political Predicament in Northern Ireland”, gives a good indication of why.
“The famous British jurist, F.E. Smith (Lord Birkenhead), who introduced the 1920 Act into Parliament and prosecuted Roger Casement, once stated that the measure of success in war and “who wins is found in the answer to the question: who is punished? There is no other test” (The Speeches of Lord Birkenhead, p108). At the conclusion of the War the Republican POWs were released and Sinn Fein took their place in government.
The 28 Year War could not be won by the British Army. It goes against the grain for Britain not to win in war, or at least to give the appearance of having won. In 1998 it admitted in effect its inability to win and, by the settlement it agreed, de facto at least, that the War waged against it by the Republican Army was legitimate. But the only sense that can be made of its policies in the years which followed is that it continued hoping to free itself from the concessions it had had to make in order to end the War. The idea is to restore a modified version of the system it set up in 1921, an arrangement more to its liking. Its intention has been to recover the ground, all or in part, it had to concede in 1998.
The first manifestation of this was in the attempts to ‘roll-back’ the policing reforms. This has involved a subversion of the Patten changes, which were intended to introduce a new culture into the police…
￼￼￼Further British measures against the settlement included the arrest of pivotal Republicans for alleged IRA activities not covered by the 1998 Agreement—because they occurred after it and were therefore beyond its scope…
The strategy of embarrassing Sinn Fein with arrests of Republicans was presumably directed towards dividing and fragmenting the Republican base. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of the Provos was to hold the Republican movement together, except for some fragments, as they negotiated the Agreement and carried it through. They said at the outset that their great concern was to prevent a repetition in the North of what happened in the South in 1922. And they have succeeded in this for now.”
That last caveat is an important one, especially as a number of post-conflict issues, taken with the more egregious Brexit threats emanating from the nationalist right-wing in Britain, have the very real potential of turning a cold peace into a hot war. Those believing that an immediate casus belli no longer exists in relation to the UK’s continued authority over the north-east of this island nation may need to think again if British military engineers start blowing up “cross-border” roads and bridges. Returning to the era of the early 1990s could occur in more ways than one, and the City of London doesn’t look any more resilient now than it did back then.