The period, lasting roughly between c.1966 and 1998, of Northern Irish terrorism in both the Six Counties and the mainland United Kingdom. During this period, Unionists, who are mostly Protestants (Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist), and Nationalists, who are mostly Roman Catholics, fought each other over which country Northern Ireland should belong to — Unionists favoring Northern Ireland's union with Great Britain, and Nationalists wanting to belong to a united, independent Ireland.note You might hear the former referred to as "Loyalists" or "Royalists" and the latter as "Republicans", but they are not strictly synonymous. In the broad sense "Loyalist" suggests the question "loyal to whom, exactly?" and "Royalist" merely indicates support for a monarchy—which the independent Ireland had during the Irish Free State. On the other hand, it is entirely consistent (albeit extremely rare) for someone to support Northern Ireland remaining in the UK but also support the UK becoming a republic; such a person would therefore be both Unionist and (after a fashion) Republican. And then there are the Ulster nationalists, who think Northern Ireland (or "Ulster" as they call it, rightly or not) should be a separate country from both Ireland and Great Britain...Yes, this is one of those conflicts.
It's a reasonably popular setting for media and a good place to source Western Terrorists from, even today. The fact that the British security services also got up to some dodgy dealings (such as accusations and genuine instances of: some collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, internment, murders, bombings, framing of innocent victims, black propaganda, political assassinations, a shoot-to-kill policy, raiding of private homes, the jury-less Diplock Court system, tear gas, surveillance, torture, forced deportation, and kidnappings) adds to the potential drama. Expect knee-capping and bad Irish accents.
If an organization is listed as simply 'the IRA' in anything set after the 70's, then it is referring to the Provisional Irish Republic Army, or 'the Provos' as they are often called (the IRA 'proper', though not actually the oldest group with that name). There are several splinter groups and fictional ones are often invented for movies.
While pretty violent, as conflicts go, it was fairly low-level, with a total body count of 3,526... but remember, this is in a country with a population today of only 1,600,000. The vast majority of the British Army ended up doing tours in Northern Ireland, and this has created its own body of literature (see below).
Not to be confused with the even more violent all-Ireland fighting of 1919-1923 also called The Troubles (or sometimes the War of Independence), seen in such films as Michael Collins, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Ryan's Daughter — a fairly popular setting in its own right. It was this conflict that resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State which eventually became the modern Republic of Ireland.
Due to the large numbers of Irish immigrants and their descendants in the US (about ten times more than the entire population of the island of Ireland), the American media often see the Troubles through a slightly green-tinted filter. This extended beyond the media — up until about 2001 a key source of PIRA funding actually came from groups within the United States. This funding beginning to dry up post-September 11 — when for perhaps obvious reasons funding groups which engaged in terrorist activities became particularly frowned upon — is regarded as one of the contributory factors towards the disbanding of the PIRA.
As such, while seldom being explicit, the image of the romantic and noble Irish Freedom Fighter struggling against the stuffy (and occasionally baby-eating) British Establishment does pervade some films. Of course, while the British establishment engaged in a lot of activities they shouldn't be proud of during this time, such as collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, the conflict was hardly as black-and-white as some are tempted to depict it as being (ultimately, the British were responsible for less than 10% of the conflict's casualties, with republican and loyalist paramilitaries causing 60 and 30% respectively), with incredibly questionable behaviour being common to both sides. Essentially, it's like a real life case of Grey and Grey Morality.
Often, a heroic character specifically identified as being involved will decry the violent excesses of his comrades, or will leave them in disgust after they 'go too far' (expect this to involve kids dying, an unfortunately too-common result of tactics used by both sides). Villainous groups of terrorists are generally mentioned as belonging to some fictional "Ultra-violent splinter group". Sadly, there really are splinter groups (such as the "Real IRA") determined to continue the violence.
Pretty much over now (the Provos have effectively ceased function), although there are still occasional bombings of British military targets (such as recently in 2009), and tensions between Catholic and Protestant communities, largely unrelated to politics, still make themselves known from time to time (although the credit crisis led to both Catholics and Protestants joining together...to riot against Romaand other Eastern Europeans. The legacy remains though - a recent proposal by a commission to pay the nearest relatives of all the dead £12,000 compensation led to anger). Also a lot of IRA affiliated men are now involved in drug dealing gangs, due in part because smuggling guns in during the Troubles turned out to be rather good training for drug smuggling. You can find a short history of the conflict in this folder:
The Troubles, 1969- 2005
It is likely that, for want of some compromise and moderation on both sides, the Troubles may never have become the dreadful conflict that they were; like that other long-running dispute people get heated up about, the Troubles show the fine line between Tragedy and Farce. As the sorry narrative shows, compromise and moderation were in short supply in the Six Counties; history records few conflicts guided so much by passion and so little by reason (or to be perfectly blunt: almost everyone who counted acted like gibbering idiots for the longest time). The conflict has its roots in the first round of Troubles and the Irish War of Independence. At the end of the aforementioned war, the British decided to partition Ireland, giving the southern counties their independence, and keeping the six northern (and Unionist-dominated) counties part of the UK. This decision was unpopular with both the Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists - the nationalists wanted all Ireland united under Irish home rule, whilst the unionists wanted all Ireland united under British rule. However, the unionists were the majority in the North, so it was decided they could keep that chunk. For the next forty years, they alone ruled Northern Ireland, with the Catholic-nationalist minority largely excluded from public life by snobbery, poverty and bigotry. The UK Parliament, happy to be shot of the "Irish Question", washed its hands of the affair, and this system persisted for years.
Up until the 1960s, the devolved Northern Irish government had wide latitude (it was comparable, though not necessarily analogous, to a State of the Union), which it abused. Anti-Catholic gerrymandering of constituencies was common. The great shipyards of Belfast, such as Harland and Wolff, were closed to Catholics, and inequality in the allocation of council housing and healthcare resources was institutionalized. This had long been a source of official disapproval from London, and Harold Wilson pressed the unionist Ulster prime minister Terrence O'Neill to cut back on the discrimination during his visit to Ireland in 1964. O'Neill gave him some pleasant words and made some token moves toward reform. But even these inspired Protestant fury, and progress was very slow. O'Neill's government collapsed under unionist anger, and a weaker government under Chichester-Clarke was formed, which was too timid to push forward with reform. By 1969, however, an active and noisy Catholic civil rights movement, partly inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts in the Deep South, had formed, and Wilson delivered the unionists an ultimatum: get going or else. Whether the British intervention on behalf of the Catholics was a case of Even Evil Has Standards or Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help depends on one's political views.
In 1969, a loyalist group called the Apprentice Boys of Derry planned an anti-reform march on the same day and on the same route as a civil rights march. This went as well as expected. The civil rights marchers, ordered not to march, marched anyway, and were attacked by the loyalist police. There followed some of the most shocking Police Brutality ever seen in the British Isles, especially from the infamous B-Specials, an unpaid and part-time adjunct to the regular police force. Enraged, the Catholic civil rights movement went into hyperdrive, marching and protesting...and being attacked by police and loyalists again and again. In response, and likely due to prodding from an indignant London, the Ulster parliament promised wide-ranging reforms...which led to loyalist protests and more violence. At the beginning of August, there was a serious three-way riot between Catholics, loyalists and police in the center of Belfast. One MP, J Enoch Powell, suggested deporting the entire Catholic population to the South. Appalled, Harold Wilson and then-Home Secretary James Callaghan took the decision (without consulting the Cabinet) to send in the British Army to restore order, in return for the abolition of the B-Specials and serious, substantive reform. It is a myth that they were not aware of the dangers, (they estimated that it would be at least a decade before they pulled out) and some historians have called the decision to send in the Army "Jim Callaghan's finest hour."
The sending in of the Army initially sparked a rise in violence, as the IRA, at this point just a small faction, spread (untruenote At least then.) rumors that the Army was colluding with loyalist thugs, whilst loyalist paramilitaries feared that they were about to lose their "privileged" position in Ulster society. For the more nationalist Irish, the presence of British soldiers on Irish soil was intolerable. However, there were signs in the next two years that the Northern Irish situation could be resolved, until the worst possible scenario in the eyes of the Government became a terrible reality: On the 30th of January 1972, a Sunday, the Parachute Regiment, for reasons that are still unclear, fired on marchers in Derry, killing two. Then, a nationalist sniper fired on some Paras, missing. In response, the panicking Paratroopers began firing indiscriminately into the crowd, killing a further eleven marchers, and wounding several others, one of whom died of his injuries.note All facts drawn from Saville Report 2010 This was Bloody Sunday, the Darkest Hour of the troubles and a black day in the history of the British Army. The killings led to a surge in popular support, both at home and abroad, for the IRA. Whole sections of Derry declared themselves "free", rejecting British rule, and attacking any official representatives that tried to enter. Money started flowing into IRA coffers from donors in the United States. The Soviet Union and her allies, seeing an opportunity to harm Western prestige and destabilize a critical American ally, began funding some Irish republican groups as well. Later, in revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli (launched from British bases) Muammar al-Quadhafi joined in as well. In response, the British took swift, decisive and sometimes brutal action. The IRA themselves developed the "colonial strategy", the objective of which, essentially, was to make the Six Counties ungovernable except as a de facto imperial colony, the result of which would be to turn the international community against Britain. So began the long and squalid history of the Troubles.
Violence increased through the 70s and 80s, with IRA bomb attacks, loyalist paramilitary assassinations and shoot-outs between the British and both sides a common feature. The British Army, previously deployed to keep order, now found itself fighting for the survival of the UK itself. Faced with the escalating violence, the British crackdowns became more severe - tanks were used to restore order to "free Derry", elements of the security forces colluded with loyalist paramilitaries. Many of the controversial features of the current War on Terror, the renditions, the torture, detention without trial, saw their bloody precursors in British actions in Ireland. Gradually, both sides became more extreme. The IRA now began bombing civilian targets (as opposed to the sporadic raids on Army bases that had characterized their earlier years), and began a tit-for-tat cycle of violence against the Protestant-unionist community. In a similar way to the War in Afghanistan, news bulletins spoke of the latest casualties. Riots were common, and a Berlin-style system of walls and checkpoints was enforced in Belfast and Derry to keep the feuding communities apart. The IRA became ever more brazen in their attacks, killing British war hero and mentor to Prince Charles Lord Mountbattennote Something of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story - Mountbatten had been favourable to Irish reunification., and trying to kill Margaret Thatcher in the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984note Thatcher began her party convention at 9:30 the next day, as planned. They failed, but killed five others. However, there were signs of hope for a peaceful solution too: In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement gave the Republic of Ireland government a "consultative role" in the government of Northern Ireland. Fearing that they were being "sold out", Loyalist paramilitaries, armed by their stooges in the Ulster Defense Regiment and weapons dealers in Africa, began a campaign of terror in response.
By the early 1990s, both sides were feeling fed-up. John Major and Sinn Fein, the political wing of Irish republicanism, agreed to a ceasefire in 1994. The USA also decided to take an interest, and the British and Sinn Fein agreed to US mediation, with Bill Clinton flying in in 1995, to the delight of both sides. His intervention in Northern Ireland is an oft-forgotten (at least in the US) triumph for his presidency. He helped lay the foundations for an end to the bloodshed. The Troubles might have ended then and there, but it was not to be. The British refused to negotiate until the IRA decommissioned (or agreed to decommission) its weapons, which the IRA flat-out refused to do. In 1996, the IRA bombed Canary Wharf, breaking the ceasefire. More bombings followed, including a massive blast in Manchester which failed to kill anyone but destroyed the city center. Finally, due in part to political maneuvering by the British (who had started separate negotiations with other republican groups), American intervention, and a series of British successes in stopping arms and cash flow, Sinn Fein and the IRA agreed to disarm. During this process, a dissident republican group bombed Omagh, killing 28 civilians. Disgusted, majority republican opinion turned towards peace.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed at Stormont in 1998, and a devolved Northern Irish administration established, where Republican and Loyalist could settle their difference at the ballot box. British troops left the country, leaving behind only the 19th Light Brigade, which has no operative role within the province. A Republican mural in Belfast bid the troops Slan Abhaile - "Safe Home"◊ The IRA formally declared an end to its armed campaign in 2005, having decommissioned its weapons in that same year. The Blair government agreed to hold an inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre. The largest and costliest investigation in British legal history, it delivered its final verdict in 2010, saying that the paratroopers had defied orders in entering Republican areas of Derry and that the soldiers had acted unlawfully in opening fire. David Cameron delivered a formal apology on behalf of the British government, to applause from republican crowds in Derry.
Today, sectarian divisions persist in Northern Ireland, and the country is just as divided as it was in the 1960s. A few furious holdouts still try to maintain a terrorist campaign, but by and large serious violence has subsided. The area still has many problems, including sectarian violence, but many British and Northern Irish people are optimistic that, in the fullness of time, these historic wounds can be healed. Hopefully, as more children are born without knowing the violence and hatred of the Troubles, they can be consigned to history. The long-term dispute at the center of the Troubles, the question of Irish unification, seems to be diminishing in relevance, with recent surveys suggesting that it it less and less of an issue. Whatever Northern Ireland's future, let us hope it will be better than its past.
In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the first sign that Celestial Being were having a palpable effect on the world was the ceasefire message sent out by the "Real IRA" group in Ireland. Considering the show is set in the 2300s, that's a seriously persistent splinter group.
The 1997 Nights into Dreams comic book featured the eponymous dream-whatever fighting Irish terrorists.
Belfast-born comic writer Garth Ennis has mined the setting for all it's worth, starting from his earliest strip Troubled Souls. His views on Irish-Americans who supported the IRA can be seen in a Punisher story where one such man spots an evil disfigured terrorist (thanks to an "own goal" premature detonation) and gets the whole bar to raise a glass to the man's struggles... which directly leads to him being used as a hostage and human shield by said terrorist.
There was also an issue of his "regular Marvel continuity" Punisher ongoing that had the eponymous character go to northern Ireland and end up shooting an extremist from both sides in the kneecaps, yell at them and then leave a Kalashnikov automatic rifle before them. Unlike the usual recipients of his bullets he let them live... only for them to decide that they wanted to use that rifle against each other. Though he'd planned it out that way, leaving it with no bullets, knowing they'd bleed out before even reaching it.
Both the IRA and the Ulster Unionists turn up as frequent enemies of Kev, Ennis' ex-British S.A.S character, who was demobbed after various activities during the Troubles that earned him a death sentence from both sides and who routinely send assassins out to kill him. Unfortunately for Kev, they have a tendency to surprise him just when it's most inconvenient for him (when he's sitting on the toilet, having sex or on A Date with Rosie Palms). Unfortunately for them, they're either spectacularly incompetent, outclassed by Kev despite these handicaps, or attack him at the same time as one of their bitter enemies, resulting in them just killing each other instead.
For that matter, Cassidy from Preacher fought in the Irish War of Independence (the other 'The Troubles' alluded to further up the page), and has a number of not-too-kind words to say about the whole ordeal.
Of course, the sequel also gets it wrong, being set in 2003, while The Troubles ended in 1998.
It didn't exactly 'end' in 1998. The Provos broke apart, but the RIRA continue to wreak havoc, though much less.
Slipping Between Worlds - set partly in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, and partly in the Discworld. It is believed the author is drawing on (slightly embellished) direct personal experience of havng served in Northern Ireland in the early 1980's. The author has said his reasons for writing this include breaking away from a mere pastiche of Terry Pratchett and seeking to find his own voice as an author. Reading about the bitter mutual antagonism between Dwarfs and Trolls on the Discworld made him link back to Northern Ireland and his experiences there, and to the realization that there are more similarities between N.I and the bizarre distorted-mirror Discworld than might be apparent at first glance. The Northern Ireland scenes are written with a certain black humour characteristic of British soldiers, but also with restraint and a certain sympathy for the people of N.I. The author stresses he was seeking to avoid giving gratuitous offence, expressing any bitterness, or trivialising of the issues. Among other highlights, an account of a memorial service for six dead British soldiers sticks in the mind. This is apparently part-based on reality.
Ronin (when Seamus O'Rourke is killed and the briefcase lost by the Irish faction, it leads to an IRA ceasefire)
Bloody Sunday, an acclaimed TV film turned cinematic film and one of many works on the eponymous topic, the shooting of 13 people by British soldiers (the inquiry on which finished in June 2010, 38 years after the event). A demonstration on why it is not a good idea to do riot control using pissed off military types and live ammunition.
It turns out that the hero had been the villains friend and protege (and was even dating the villains sister). The villain sought revenge because the hero had attempted to stop one of his bombs from going off resulting in the death of the sister/girlfriend, the imprisonment of the villain and the hero fleeing to America to start a new life.
Both the movie and comic of Sin City has a group of IRA terrorists that mention blowing up churches and pubs. Apparently, they now act as mercenaries for the mob in America. Bonus point: one of them is depicted with a Glasgow Grin.
In The Name Of The Father, a dramatization of the Guildford Pub bombing in London by the IRA and the torture, threatening, and false imprisonment of Gerry Conlon, the young men and women he was staying with in London, and his father and a handful of family members who were falsely convicted of providing the explosives. The film opens with a riot in Belfast and Gerry accidentally fleeing through an IRA weapons stash, resulting in him nearly being kneecapped as punishment.
Hunger, starring Michael Fassbender, is about the the 1981 hunger strike of IRA inmates to obtain political prisoner status.
The titular heroes of The Boondock Saints are supplied with their weapons by an arms dealer who's heavily implied to be involved with the IRA.
The Kevin and Sadie young adults novel series involving the forbidden love between a Protestant (Sadie) and a Catholic (Kevin), the first book of which was titled The Twelfth Day of July (the day of the annual Orange Marches, some of which usually end up in a riot even today, and did in the novel). The most famous is the second (of five) in the series "Across The Barricades".
Tom Clancy's Patriot Games draws his regular characters into the whole mess when Jack Ryan saves Prince Charles and his family from an assassination attempt by the Ulster Liberation Army. In the novel, the ULA is a Marxist splinter faction of the Provisional IRA. In fact, the ULA's actions often contradict the Provos own mode of operations. It turns out the ULA's goal is to eliminate or discredit the PIRA leadership, and have their leaders take over. Clancy also used the PIRA in Rainbow Six, being hired by the villains in an attempt to take out the Rainbow team.
Forms the subject of a George Gently mystery, set in 1964. An MI5 character warns that unless London does something about disgruntled Catholics in Stroke Country, it will result in a war. Oh, how right he was.
Jack Higgins (of The Eagle has Landed fame) loves to use The Troubles (and the preceding 50 years of hostility) as background and motivation for his antiheroes. He favours cynically disillusioned IRA gunmen, but doesn't limit himself.
Jonathan Coe's The Rotters Club has occasional mentions of the IRA bombings going on in the Midlands at the time. Then the protagonist's sister and her boyfriend are caught in one. He dies, and she goes into Heroic BSOD for several years.
Bernard MacLaverty is a writer from Belfast, so this comes up in his work now and then...his 1983 novel Cal, in which the title character deals with some of the fallout of having driven the getaway car for one of his buddy's IRA actions a year earlier, was made into a film starring Helen Mirren and John Lynch.
Alan Judd's debut novel A Breed of Heroes sees the Troubles through the eyes of a naive young officer in the British Army, Charles Thoroughgood, on his first tour of duty with an elite unit which is never identified but which can be inferred to be the Parachute Regiment. The multiple absurdities, hypocrisies and bungles of the Army, politicians, terrorists, media and others pile up throughout, while the focus is always on the privations and everyday lives of the often-forgotten soldiers.
George MacDonald Fraser, in the third of his semi-autobiographical short story collections, The Sheikh and the Dustbin, adds a postscript concerning later meetings with his former commanding colonel, forty years on from their post-war soldiering in 1947-48. This extraordinary old man, a prisoner of the Japanese for most of WW 2, in his early eighties donned Army uniform and a flak jacket and went out onto the streets of Belfast with a patrol from the Gordon Highlanders, to get an idea of the difficulties presented to the young soldiers of his old regiment in a new age...
In Andrew M. Greeley's novel Irish Gold, Chicago author Dermot Michael Coyne teams up with an Irish college student Nuala Anne McGrael to translate the diaries of his grandmother, who emigrated from Ireland during The Troubles, possibly because she knew the truth about the murder of Michael Collins. According to the novel, Collins was killed on orders of Winston Churchill.
An episode of Life On Mars had apparent IRA bombings, although Sam Tyler was sure they weren't by the IRA because of his modern knowledge.
An IRA bomber (played by Brit Ricky Gervais) features in an episode of Alias.
Spooks has featured various ex-IRA terrorists during its run, including a splinter group similar to the 'Real IRA' in series 1's Cliff Hanger. Harry's back story is that he got into intelligence work when serving with the Army in Northern Ireland.
In the JAG episode "Trinity", Harm and Mac go to Belfast to investigate the disappearance of an infant child whose mother is an American naval officer, and the father, who is an active member of the IRA.
An episode or two of NCIS has someone who worked with the IRA leave and run guns in other places after "peace broke out." (For bonus Irish accuracy points, she travels under the name "Grace O'Malley")
As in the NCIS example above, Burn Notice's Fiona is a former IRA explosives specialist who's gone freelance in recent years.
Dr. Cal Lightman from Lie to Me worked with British intelligence in the province in 1986. He failed to recognise the facial expressions of a man who then killed six people in a pub.
We learn more about that in "Sweet Sixteen". Turns out the man (Jimmy Doyle) really was IRA, but because Cal identified him, the Do D (American Department of Defense) carried out a hit on him that failed and killed his wife and daughter instead. He blackmails Cal into finally bringing the case to light seven years later.
In the 2001 The Bill spin-off Mini Series, Beech Is Back, Dirty Cop Don Beech used a recognized IRA bomb threat codeword to lure police away from where he was executing a safety deposit box robbery.
An early episode of Law & Order focuses on the Troubles from the U.S perspective; there's plenty of sympathizers to the cause amongst the Irish-American community depicted. Prosecutor Ben Stone, an Irish American, is notably not one of them.
In Sons Of Anarchy the club has longstanding ties to the IRA. It buys its illegal weapons from an IRA splinter group and Chibs is a former IRA member who was exiled to the US. In Season 3 they go to Belfast and end up in the middle of a conflict between two factions of the group. The faction the Sons usually deal with has turned more and more toward organized crime and the other, more conservative faction wants them purged.
Unsub Ian Doyle from Criminal Minds turns out to be involved with the IRA; he tries to kill everyone who put him in jail (and almost succeeds.)
A critically acclaimed play by BBC Northern Ireland about the troubles was called The Shadows on Our Skin and took its title and incidental music from Irish celtic-rock group The Horslips.
In the final episode of the original Columbo series, "The Conspirators", the villain is an IRA gun-runner named Joe Devlin, played by Clive Revill. He's portrayed as a philosophical Knight Templar, who works as a poet and author in his legitimate life. He also raises funds for an organization called American Friends of Northern Ireland, which is more-or-less an Expy of Noraid (with the fact that the money really goes to the IRA being less of an Open Secret than in real life). The requisite murder is of an Arms Dealer, who was planning to take Devlin's money and flee the country.
Tommy Sands' famous "There Were Roses," is about a true incident from the Troubles involving two of Sands' friends.
The U2 song, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday". The most famous live performance of it is in Rattle And Hum when Bono denounces the Irish-Americans who ignorantly cheer the bloody partisan violence in Ireland.
And The John Lennon song of the same name, written almost 10 years earlier.
Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers early songs were frequently about The Troubles, although they supported neither side and decried violence from all terrorist groups, the RUC and the British Army.
Richard Thompson's song "Guns are the Tongues" seems to be about a female provo cell leader seducing a young man into becoming a terrorist, though he's deliberately avoided confirming the hypothesis in interviews.
Paul McCartney and Wings' 1972 single "Give Ireland Back to the Irish". Despite being completely banned from UK radio, it reached the Top 20 on the charts there and went all the way to #1 in the Republic of Ireland (no surprise there) and Spain (after being bought by Basques).
The Roches' song "The Troubles" is about the group visiting Ireland, presumably while on tour, and includes a line about trying not to get in the way of the guns.
The Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" is a particularly nightmarish song about the eponymous gang of UVF thugs who ended up just killing anyone they wanted (Catholic or Protestant).
The Cranberries' "Zombie" is half the troubles, and half just how much war sucks.
Elvis Costello's "Oliver's Army". The title refers to Oliver Cromwell, who formed the modern British Army and invaded Ireland in 1649. It also refers to the British Army occupation of Northern Ireland at the time the song was released in 1979.
Gary Moore, Irish-born rock-blues guitarist, recorded a powerful song called Wild Frontier (Forty Shades of Green) about growing up in Belfast in the Troubles.
Many Irish traditional songs are thinly-disguised allusions to the fight for independence from the British. Thin Lizzie's first hit, Whiskey in the Jar (a traditional Irish folk song), is on the face of it a song about a roguish highwayman whose luck runs out and who is awaiting execution. When you listen closely, it becomes apparent that his holding up and robbing a British Army officer only to be betrayed by a faithless girlfriend is a metaphor for something else entirely. Folk-rockers Steeleye Span had a hit with All Around My Hat (I will wear the green willow). Not just a song about a girl remembering her distant boyfriend by wearing a sprig of willow in her hat, but subtly advertising other loyalties by wearing something growing and green. (And why is the boyfriend "far, far, away"? To get out of reach of the British...)
Marillion's track Forgotten Sons is a lament for Scottish soldiers killed in Northern Ireland, and a swipe at the politicians responsible for sending them there and the religious divide - also a big thing in Scotland - that sustains the terrorists.