While there is some contention and uncertainty over the precise figures, authors and researchers generally agree that just over 35% of the fatalities inflicted by Irish republican paramilitary organisations during the course of the so-called Troubles in Ireland and the United Kingdom (Great Britain) from 1966 to 2005 were non-belligerent civilians. During that same period over 51% of the fatalities inflicted by the the UK military, paramilitary and intelligence services were also non-combatant civilians. Of the fatalities inflicted by the loyalist or UK-allied terror gangs nearly 86% were uninvolved civilians. Cumulatively almost the entirety of war-related civilian deaths took place on the island of Ireland and around two-thirds were sustained by the country’s majority nationalist community.
Of course the percentages above belie the actual numbers of slain men, women and children and those responsible. When one examines the real figures, it is largely accepted that Irish republican insurgents killed around 720 civilians, the British forces killed around 186 and the associated pro-British terror gangs slew at least 878. If one combines non-combatant deaths inflicted by the UK counterinsurgency side in the conflict as whole, a not unfair conflation given the decades of cooperation and collusion between the British state and its loyalist proxies, that gives an astonishing 1064 civilian deaths by those “defending” the union (though it should be recognised that this is something of an underestimate given that most of the 80+ civilian killings labelled as “organisation unknown” can also be attributed to pro-union groupings).
I mention all this to draw attention to the fact that despite the conventional media narrative in Ireland, the United Kingdom and much further afield, the story of the Troubles is far more complex and far less binary than the propagandists on either side would have it. In a war where all actors, state and non-state, clearly believed that differing levels of civilian casualties were unavoidable, or in the case of the UK’s loyalist gangs, civilian murders were the explicit objective, no party emerges with clean hands or a blemish-free record from the conflict. Indeed, one can cogently argue that for better or worse, in the 1966-2005 Troubles recognising who was or wasn’t a terrorist was merely a matter of perspective.
Which leads me to this recent video by the YouTube channel Renegade Cut, using the controversial final season of HBO’s acclaimed fantasy series Game of Thrones to examine the not unrelated issue of violence in modern warfare and the question of the deserving and undeserving dead.