In Ireland (both sides) and Britain, it is considered extremely offensive, when using this term, to not speak of it with a capital "T". You say "the troubles", they say the Troubles. At its peak, you could get shot for walking down the street holding the wrong flag. Hell, flag or no flag, you could be beaten by goons with crowbars just for getting on a bus. We're not kidding. And there are still many parts of Northern Ireland that blatantly display either the Union Jack or the Irish Tricolour, and have its colours on bunting and painted on their kerbs.
Lasting between 1968 and 1998, the Troubles refers to a period of low-intensity but constant war in Northern Ireland, which sometimes overflowed into Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, and occasionally continental Europe. This was a time when the Irish Republicans, mostly Roman Catholic and of native Irish descent, fought paramilitary Ulster Loyalists, mostly Protestant (i.e., Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist) and descended from British colonists, and the armed forces of the British government, over which country Northern Ireland should belong to, with the former favoring the Republic of Ireland and the latter the United Kingdom. (The actual citizenry and armed forces of the Republic of Ireland mostly stayed out of it.) The fact that it was Catholics vs. Protestants is remarked on by Tom Clancy in one of the Jack Ryan novels by noting that "Northern Ireland is one of the safest places to be a Jew." Despite that, the actual theological differences between Protestants and Catholics had hardly anything to do with the Troubles, apart from which side you were likely to find them on.
Of course, there are other titles: "Loyalists" are sometimes called "Unionists" or "Royalists", and the Republicans as "Nationalists". The terms are pretty ambiguous, particularly the "Loyalist" title, while "Royalist" implies fealty to the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha/Windsor (which the Irish Free State had). On the other hand, it's not uncommon for someone to become a "Republican Unionist" (i.e., desirous of democratic rule from a republican Britain), or an Ulster Nationalist (i.e., desirous of an independent Ulster), which does exist.note Yes, this really is one of those conflicts, happening right around the corner.
It is a reasonably popular setting for media (as it was one of the extremely few industrialized places in the world that saw white Christians with Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon names going full partisan against each other) and a good place to source Western Terrorists from, even today. That British security services got into some shady dealings, factual or fictional (e.g., collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, internment, murder, bombing, framing of innocent victims, black propaganda, political assassination, a shoot-to-kill policy, raiding of homes, the jury-less Diplock Court systemnote , 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 '70s, then it refers to the Provisional Irish Republican Army, or "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 violent, as conflicts go, one might think it was fairly low-key, with an official body count of 3,526 (with another 719 non-combat British military deaths, for a total of 4,245)... but remember, this happened in a country with a population today of only 1.6 million. Still, the Ulster conflict was nothing extraordinary in Europe of the time as terrorist organizations of all sorts of ideological backgrounds thrived in Germany, Italy, Spain and France as well (and its scale was infinitely limited when compared to the likes of the Yugoslav ethnic cleansings of the 1990s) and thus we can make a legitimate case that had it not been for the strong Irish presence in the American entertainment industry, the Troubles would never have won today's prominence and recognizability. 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-island fighting of 1919-1923, also sometimes called the "Troubles" but more properly known as 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 Republic of Ireland. The Irish National Army is from that period too.
Due to large numbers of Irish immigrants and their descendants in the USA (about ten times as much as there are back in the Emerald Isle), the American media often saw the Troubles through a slightly green-tinted lens. As such, while seldom explicit, the image of the noble Irish freedom fighter struggling against the stuffy (and occasionally baby-eating) British establishment does pervade some films.
Of course, while London did commit actions it shouldn't be proud of, the conflict was hardly as black-and-white as some would rather have it, and even with the media recently casting the IRA in a darker light, being a stock source of Western Terrorists, it is wise to remember that both sides equally have a fair share of blood on their hands.
Often, a heroic character explicitly belonging to one side will decry the excesses of his comrades and/or leave in disgust after they went too far (expect this to involve deaths of children, a tragically all-too-common result of tactics used by both sides). Purely villainous groups of terrorists are often said to belong to some fictional ultra-violent Renegade Splinter Faction, in an attempt to avoid political controversy.
The Troubles are pretty much over now, with the IRA having effectively ceased to function, although there are still occasional flareups, and sectarian violence, largely unrelated to the conflict, still rears its ugly head. The legacy remains, though — a recent proposal by a commission to pay the nearest relatives of all casualties a compensation of £12,000 led to outrage. Also, a lot of former IRA men are now involved in drug rings, partly because smuggling guns during that period turned out to be rather good training for drug running.
You can find a short history of the conflict in this folder:
The Troubles has its roots in The Irish Revolution. At the end of the aforementioned war, the United Kingdom decided to divide Ireland between an independent state for the predominantly Roman Catholic south and a constituency of the Union for the six Protestant-dominated counties to the north, even as this proved unpopular to either side, which wanted the entirety of Ireland for their respective political entities. For the next forty years, the loyalists alone ruled Northern Ireland, while the Catholic minority was largely excluded from public life by snobbery, poverty and bigotry. The Union government, happy to be finally shorn of The Irish Question, washed its hands of the affair, and this system persisted for years.
Up until The '60s, Belfast had a wide latitude which it often abused. Anti-Catholic gerrymandering was common. The great shipyards of Belfast, such as Harland and Wolff, were closed to Catholicsnote and inequality in allocation of council housing and healthcare was institutionalized. This had long been a source of official disapproval from London, and Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister of the Union, pressed his Northern Irish counterpart, Terrence O'Neill, to cut back on discrimination during a 1964 visit. 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 loyalist wrath, and a weaker government under James Chichester-Clarke was formed, which was too timid to push forward with reform, forcing Wilson to give an ultimatum: get going, or else. Whether Britain's intervention is more a case of political pragmatism or genuine concern depends on one's views.
In 1969, the Catholics formed an active civil rights movement, partly inspired by that which occurred years earlier just across The Pond. At the same time, a loyalist fraternal order called "Apprentice Boys of Derry" planned a counter-march on the same day and route as that by the civil rights activists. This went as well as expected — the latter, ordered not to march, marched anyway, and were attacked by loyalist police. There followed some of the most shocking scenes of Police Brutality ever seen in the UK, especially from the infamous B-Specials, an unpaid and part-time adjunct to the regular police force. Enraged, the Catholics went into hyperdrive, marching and protesting... and being attacked again and again. In response, and likely due to prodding from an indignant London, Belfast promised wide reforms... which led to even more loyalist belligerence. At the beginning of August, there was a serious three-way riot between both sides and the police in the center of Belfast. MP J. Enoch "Rivers of Blood" Powell even suggested deporting the entire Catholic population to the Republic. Appalled, 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 reform. It is a myth that they were not aware of the dangers (they estimated that it would take 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."
Alas, this caused more harm than good. The IRA, then just a small faction, spread untrue (at the time) rumors that the Army was colluding with loyalists, whilst loyalist paramilitaries feared losing their "privileges". For more extreme republicans, their very presence was unforgivable. In August 1971, in response to increasing violence from partisans, the British government launched Operation Demetrius, where anyone suspected of being in the IRA would be arrested and interned without trial. Also interned was any groups of people considered a threat to the regime, such as civil rights marchers, trade unionists and communists. This caused predictable protests, along with further violence and distrust for the government among the Catholic/nationalist populace.
One Sunday — January 30, 1972 — the Parachute Regiment, for reasons unclear still, fired on marchers protesting internment in Derry, killing two, causing republican snipers to retaliate with a (missed) shot, causing the panicking paratroopers to fire indiscriminately into the crowd, killing eleven more and wounding several others, one of whom later died from injuries. This was "Bloody Sunday", the Darkest Hour of the conflict and a black eye to the face of the British Armed Forces.note The tragedy led to a surge in popular support, at home and abroad, for the IRA. Whole sections of Derry declared themselves "free", rejecting British rule and attacking any official representative that dared trespass. Money started flowing in from American donors. The communist bloc, seeing an opportunity to harm Western interests and destabilize a critical American ally, began funding other republican groups. Later, in revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli (launched from British bases), Muammar Gaddafi joined in the fray.
Violence increased through The '70s and The '80s, with IRA bombings and shootouts with the British being a common feature. Faced with escalating violence, crackdowns became more severe — tanks were used to occupy free Derry, while elements of security forces colluded with loyalists. Many of the controversial features of The War on Terror — the renditions, the torture, the detentions without charge or trial, and the like — saw their bloody precursors here. Gradually, both sides became more extreme. Some branches of the IRA now began to target civilians on the British mainland, and loyalists, aided by a branch of MI-5 known as the FRU began a pogrom, killing random Catholic civilians in retaliation for attacks by IRA partisans. 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, killing Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, naval war hero and mentor to (and great-uncle of) Prince Charles, on his fishing boat off the coast of County Sligo in 1979 (and it's something of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story — Mountbatten was favorable to the Irish cause), and nearly doing in Margaret Thatcher, then in Brighton for a 1984 Tory convention (though with five deaths).
In 1981, 10 hunger strikers went on hunger strike in the Long Kesh internment camp protesting their poor treatment and demanding prisoner-of-war status. Hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected to parliament, and after his death protests and memorials took place throughout the world - particularly in America and former Nazi-occupied countries such as France. In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement gave Dublin a "consultative role" in the government of Northern Ireland, to outrage by the Loyalists and Unionists.
By the early 1990s, public opinion on both sides had soured on the continued strife. What is widely believed to be The Last Straw was the second Warrington bombing on 20 February 1993. IRA-supported terrorists exploded two bombs in Warrington, Cheshire, England. The only fatalities were two children. Although there were some loyalist reprisals in the immediate aftermath, by that point both sides had decided it was time to end the war.
John Major and Sinn Féin, the political wing of the republicans, agreed to a ceasefire in 1994. The USA also decided to act as mediator, to which both sides agreed, with Bill Clinton personally acting as middleman in 1995, to the delight of both sides — an oft-forgotten (at least in the USA) 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. London refused to negotiate until the IRA decommissioned (or at least lay down arms), which the IRA flat-out refused to do (because Major's government had a very weak majority, and was dependent on loyalist backing to survive). In 1996, the IRA bombed Canary Wharf in London, breaking the ceasefire. More attacks 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 started separate negotiations with other republican groups) and American intervention, the IRA agreed to disarm.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed at Stormont in 1998, and a devolved Northern Irish administration was established, where republicans and unionists could settle their differences at the ballot box. British troops left Ireland, leaving behind the 19th Light Brigade, which has no operative role. The IRA formally declared an end to its armed campaign in 2005, having decommissioned its weapons in that same year. The Tony Blair cabinet agreed to hold an inquiry into Bloody Sunday. The largest and costliest investigation in British legal history, it delivered its final verdict in 2010, declaring that the paratroopers defied orders in entering republican patches of Derry and acted unlawfully in opening fire. David Cameron delivered a formal apology on behalf of the British government, to applause from Republican crowds in Derry.
See also: The Irish Question for the pre-Partition era.
Media set in this setting:
- In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the first sign that Celestial Beings 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 its worth, starting from his earliest strip Troubled Souls. His views on Irish-Americans who supported the IRA can be seen in a Punisher MAX story "Kitchen Irish", 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. Yorkie Mitchell, the SAS guy who sent him there, calls it a hellhole that's "bloody good on-the-job training".
- Frank also runs into a guy issuing drunken threats and calling him "wee man"... when he has to crane his neck to look at Frank, two heads taller than him. The next panel is Frank moving on, while the dumbass is staring in disbelief at the fingers on his hand which are now pointing the wrong way.
- Both the IRA and the loyalist militants 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. Specifically, that would-be revolutions against the British Empire, lead by Poets and fought by people who have never experienced actual combat before, are going to work just exactly as well as you would think. Ennis' take is that the leaders of the 1916 uprising did not think it would work in the first place, and threw their appropriated forces into combat purely to provide a heroic "blood sacrifice" to inspire another, hopefully more successful, uprising.
- Ireland: A Graphic History by Morgan Llywelyn, Michael Scott and Eoin Coveney tells the history of Ireland through the Reincarnation Romance of two Star-Crossed Lovers destined to always be on opposite sides of a divide. The last two chapters are "The 1916 Uprising" and "The Troubles".
- The X-Men spin-off comic Muties #6 is about a young Northern Irish mutant named Liam with explosive powers, and who is therefore forcibly recruited by terrorists (the comic carefully doesn't specify what side they're on, but they're bombing their own community to derail the peace process).
- What Could Have Been: There was very nearly a Captain Britain story in is which Brian would resolve the Troubles singlehandedly. Editorial were worried about political content, and artist Alan Davis thought it was trivialising the issues, so it was shelved. (If it was the story that became Marvel Superheroes #386 [with all Northern Ireland references removed] the solution would apparently have involved everyone drinking magic civilising tea.)
- In Action Comics Annual #3 (which was part of the Armageddon 2001 event of 1991), Superman as President of the United States in one of his future timelines is attempting to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland in 2001 but the parties aren't cooperating with either him or each other.
- Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness handles the subject remarkably well considering it's a Harry Potter fanfic. DA partisan Seamus Finnigan, who in the DAYDverse is from Belfast, uses the Troubles as a counter-example to wizards' overly romanticized view of the Muggle world. The conflict plays a major role in the plot of Sluagh. Of course, Sluagh also gets it wrong, being set in 2003, while The Provos broke apart in 1998. The "Real IRA" has a tendency to set itself apart from the Regular IRA, which many members consider 'quitters'.
- Another reference occurs in Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past wherein Wormtail tricks a cell into attacking Hogwarts during Hary's Third Year (1993-1994).
- Child of the Storm has the subject mentioned in reference to Sean Cassidy's backstory, in which his pregnant wife was killed in an IRA bombing (resulting in his devastation of the cell responsible) and explained as why the Death Eaters' attacks weren't really noticed by the muggle populace - or at least, could be explained away. It is acknowledged to be a touchy subject in the narrative and presented fairly neutrally with Hermione mostly explaining the historic facts of the matter to Harry - who knows the basics - and Ron - who doesn't. It's handled rather carefully, with the author noting that his mother grew up in Belfast during the Troubles and almost never talks about it for damn good reason, and the focus is on the general devastation on both sides, with no moral judgement being made on either side. In general, the tone is tilted towards What a Senseless Waste of Human Life. It is also accurately noted that the violence didn't completely end with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
- Slipping Between Worlds is 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 having 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.
- for original story see here
- In Emperor, the Troubles are more or less controlled... but at the price of Northern Ireland pretty much becoming a military state.
- Kid Icarus Uprising 2: Hades Revenge references the Troubles, with the heroes landing in Ireland in order to think of a plan. Cloud Angle narrates that he isn't saying which part of Ireland it is, since he doesn't want to cause Troubles.(With the word capitalized to drive the point home)
- 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.
- In Blown Away, the bad guy (played by Tommy Lee Jones) was an IRA bomber who escaped prison and went to the US to get revenge on a Boston bomb-disposal expert (Jeff Bridges).
- It turns out that the hero had been the villain's friend and protege (and was even dating the villain's sister). The villain sought revenge because the hero had attempted to stop one of his bombs from going off as it was near children, resulting in the death of the sister/girlfriend, the imprisonment of the villain and the hero fleeing to America to start a new life.
- The Crying Game. Come for The Troubles, stay for All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game". Or vice versa.
- In the 90's version of The Jackal, the sniper played by Richard Gere is a straight version of the "Decry the violence" version mentioned at the top of the page.
- The Devil's Own, in which Brad Pitt plays an IRA member sent to the US to acquire surface-to-air missiles from an arms dealer, while staying as the guest of a New York City cop (Harrison Ford). It especially shows the IRA's support among many Irish-Americans, though doesn't portray this as a good thing.
- Patriot Games has an IRA splinter group, of whom Ned Stark is the most prominent. They shoot at Brits first, then Americans. See Literature.
- Ken Loach's film Hidden Agenda.
- An Everlasting Piece is about a Protestant and a Catholic who team up to sell toupees to customers on both sides of the conflict and Hilarity Ensues. It seems to subvert this trope by staunchly opposing the IRA; supplying for them is depicted as a despicable Moral Event Horizon while making wigs to young British soldiers who have lost their hair from stress is viewed kindly.
- Although, as its Catholic hero points out, it's about making a peace gesture—since the Catholics are the ones being oppressed, he as a Catholic can make a peace gesture by helping the British soldiers with their alopecia. His Protestant partner objects to the implication in this statement that the Catholics are in the right.
- 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 bombings in England 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 house with British soldiers pursuing, 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.
- '71: A rookie British soldier on patrol in Belfast, 1971, gets separated from his squad during a riot.
- For the James Bond film Skyfall, this is part of the backstory for Gareth Mallory (the new M), who was a Lt. Colonel in the SAS and survived getting tortured by the IRA.
- Odd Man Out (1947), directed by Carol Reed, features James Mason as the leader of "an illegal organisation", who goes on the run in "a city of Northern Ireland" after being injured when an Armed Blag goes wrong. Reed had to recut the Downer Ending after it was criticized for being too violent.
- The 1972 Made-for-TV Movie A War of Children depicts the friendship of a Protestant and Catholic family imploding due the ongoing violence around them. Features a harrowing scene in which Jenny Agutter is tarred and feathered by her own mother for sleeping with a British soldier - which not only is Truth in Television but still had reports of it happening in the 90s.
- Holy Cross is a dramatization of a real-life conflict that happened after the Troubles are considered to have ended (it happened in 2001). The violence was kickstarted when Catholic school girls (not that kind) were walking through a Protestant area on their way to school.
- Boogaloo and Graham is about two young boys who adopt pet chickens—in Belfast in 1978, at the height of the Troubles, which are a running background theme.
- 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".
- Stephen King's The Langoliers had one British character who is sent to Boston to kill Provo sympathizers and arms smugglers.
- 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 (this would be a more likely name on the other side-i.e. a loyalist group). In the novel, the ULA is a Marxist splinter faction of the Provisional IRA (and Clancy mistakenly believed the Provos were also Marxists). 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, a bit of anachronism: as the book was written in 1998, but set in 2000, characters talk as though the conflict is ongoing but winding down, instead of essentially halted, and make reference to the amnesty agreement for the IRA members, which only affected crimes already prosecuted, and did nothing for those that were never arrested and tried.
- Some of the poems from Colin Dardis's The A to Z of Belfast deals with the city in the aftermath of the Troubles (and not always in a bleak way).
- Eureka Street, the novel by Northern Irish author Robert Mc Liam Wilson,is set in Belfast during The '90s, the shortly before the ceasefire is declared. The protagonists are a Catholic and a Protestant thirty-something who despite the Troubles have a lifelong friendship.
- 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.
- Frank Herbert's The White Plague, where the premise is that a biologist loses his wife and son to a bombing during this time period. His response is to plot a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and try to wipe out humanity.
- 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 film) 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.
- In Anna Korosteleva's The School in Carmarthen, one of the characters (a Fomorian), apparently invokes an N-Word Privileges by dismissing The Troubles, of which he's just read in a ten-year old newspaper, because "there's always someone massacring someone in those parts." Implying that he himself could've been one of either parties several thousands of years ago. Quite an unusual attitude for a Harry Potter Affectionate Parody.
- 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 WW2, 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.
- Diana Wynne Jones's novel Dogsbody is set during the very peak of The Troubles, with a small Irish girl called Kathleen being the daughter of an imprisoned Loyalist terrorist. During the story, her father escapes prison, and is subsequently murdered by Republicans. Her father however plays no role in the story besides his death.
- One of the Malko Linge novels (Furie à Belfast/The Belfast Connection) uses the Troubles as a backdrop.
- Despite being set nearly a century before The Troubles even began, the book (and subsequent Mini Series) Scarlett also makes reference to the tensions between the British and Irish—Scarlett goes to Ireland to visit her father's relatives, only to see them frequently clash with their British landlords, and for her to be viewed as a Category Traitor for beginning a relationship with one, who is indeed an Evil Brit (which readers/viewers are supposed to realize just by virtue of his accent) with nothing but contempt for the Irish people and in the Mini Series, is even worse, having forced a young peasant girl to be his Sex Slave.
- Anna Burns' Booker Prize-winning 2018 novel Milkman is a Coming-of-Age Story set during the Troubles. Burns was the first Northern Irish author ever to win the Booker.
- Country by Michael Hughes is a retelling of The Iliad set in Northern Ireland in the '90s.
- 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 while Not Even Bothering with the Accent) is featured 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 Cliffhanger. 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. Funnily enough, when the show began airing in the UK, Character Development revealed that she left the IRA upon realizing her idealism wasn't as welcome in the group as her ability to blow shit up. Ironically, Fiona's actress Gabrielle Anwar is actually British.
- Dr. Cal Lightman from Lie to Me worked with British intelligence in the province in 1986. He failed to recognize 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 DoD (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 among the Irish-American community depicted, including one who's actually a member of the IRA. Prosecutor Ben Stone, an Irish American, is notably not one however.
- Law & Order: UK offers the briefest reference to the long-running tension between the British and the Irish when DS Matt Devlin, who is of Irish descent, mentions being called "Mick" during his rookie years.
- 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.
- The IRA is pitted against the Taliban on the Season 1 finale of Deadliest Warrior. The IRA win.
- They return to face the Russian Spetsnaz in the "Modern" half of Season 1's "Back for Blood" special. They don't fare as well this time.
- 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.
- The 2013 BBC Northern Ireland series The Fall features a London detective superintendent being sent to Belfast to help the local police track down a serial killer, with the Troubles providing a constant backdrop (including a memorial plaque to police officers murdered during the conflict displayed in their headquarters).
- Oz had an IRA terrorist, Padraic Connelly, put into the titular prison while awaiting deportation to the UK. The Irish-American Ryan O'Reilly palled up with him and basked in the reflected glory... until he discovered that Connelly was completely Axe-Crazy and planning to blow up the entire prison wing.
- In Silent Witness Sam's father was thought to have been killed by an IRA car bomb. The revelation of the truth behind his death was what made her leave her job and the series.
- Call the Midwife: Although set several years before the "proper" beginning of the Troubles, Series 3, Episode 6 reveals the, erm, trouble brewing in NI with the Doyles, who eloped from Belfast to London because he was Catholic and she was Protestant and in 1959 there was no way their families would ever let them get married.
- Mission: Impossible: In "Banshee", the IMF has to shut down an Arms Dealer who is deliberately inflaming the Troubles in order to sell weapons to both sides.
- Guilt: Alluded to when someone notices that Kevin has an Irish tricolor tattoo on his arm, accusing him of being an "IRA sympathizer" over this.
- Derry Girls: Set in Derry in the early/mid 1990s. One source of humour comes directly from jokes about how inconvenient the bombs being dropped are, but the horror does break through on occasion. Season one closes with a particularly bad bombing breaking through the veneer of normalcy the cast has assumed, while season two closes with celebration at the 1994 ceasefire.
- Soldier Soldier opens with the King's Fusiliers completing a deployment to Northern Ireland.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The High Ground," Data mentions that Ireland was reunited in 2024 as a result of a successful terrorist campaign, a line that resulted in this being a Banned Episode in the UK and Ireland for many years. Additionally, the episode's plot centers around a thinly-veiled allegory for the Troubles, in which a planet's civil war has one side using terrorism in its fight for independence from the other side. The conflict is portrayed as Grey-and-Gray Morality.
- A MADtv sketch parodying Touched by an Angel has George Carlin ask an Expy of Roma Downey (star of the series and a native of Derry) to describe Heaven. She responds that it looks like Ireland, without the pipe bombs.
- 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" from their album War. The most famous live performance of it is on Rattle and Hum when Bono denounced Irish-Americans who ignorantly cheered the bloody partisan violence in Ireland. John Lennon previously released a song of the same name a decade earlier after the event took place.
- 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) 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.
- "Sunrise" by The Divine Comedy is about the songwriter's experience of growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
- See the Horslips YMMV page for possible allusions to the Troubles in the work of this noted and influential Irish celtic-rock band.
- Public Image Ltd.'s "Careering" from Metal Box makes multiple allusions to the Troubles, some subtler than others. Considering that John was raised as an Irish Catholic and openly told stories about going to Ireland as a child and encountering issues there, it isn't surprising that he'd write about it at some point.
- Eric Bogle's "My Youngest Son Came Home Today". It is a song about the tragedy of the Troubles and we are never even told which side the son was on.
- "Invisible Sun" by The Police.
- 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 Lizzy'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.
- Flogging Molly's song Drunken Lullabies is about The Troubles, and the hope that they may come to an end (may these shadows rise to walk again With lessons truly learned).
- "That's Just The Way It is" by Phil Collins is intended as an anti-war ballad about the Troubles. Though it can also apply to pretty much any war.
- Although not directly about the Troubles, the first part of "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due" by Megadeth is inspired by an incident where the band was touring through Ireland in the 80's, and frontman Dave Mustaine found out that a group of youths were selling bootleg Megadeth shirts in the parking lot. He was eventually persuaded to leave them alone by someone who explained that they were raising money for "the cause" (i.e., the IRA), and then later that night, he vocally supported the youths by introducing a song with "This one's for the cause! Give Ireland back to the Irish!", thinking it was a "harmless homeland pride" quote. Instead, he found the audience dividing in half like the Red Sea; Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other, ready to beat the living shit out of each other - and the band. Dave then penned the "Holy Wars" section of the song on the police escorted bus ride out of the city as a "Take That!" to himself for not being aware of what he was talking about, and as a commentary on religious conflict.
- The line, "And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control" on the track "The Gunner's Dream" from Pink Floyd's The Final Cut is a reference to the Droppin Well bombing, where a small explosive device placed in a dance club in December 1982 by Irish National Liberation Army members in Northern Ireland was detonated, killing 11 British soldiers and six civilians.
- Billy Connolly's "Sergeant Where's Mine?" is partly a "Join the Army," They Said lament that he's not getting the "computers, sunshine and skis" promised in the recruitment material, and partly horror at where he's found himself instead. "And what can ye dae wi a gun in yer hand, when yer facin a hundred-odd weans?"
- Any Celtic Punk song that mentions Róisín Dubh is likely based on or inspired by the Troubles or older conflicts with England.
- The Rolling Stones' "Blinded by Rainbows", which sort of mixed this with Religion Rant Song by asking which side truly had God's approval in the fight.
- La ballade nord-irlandaise ("The North Irish ballad") is 1991 song sung by Renaud, on the tune of The water is wide. He sing about how wars can't last as long as beer, music and friendship will make men sing.
- The infamously badly-researched Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "If It's Doomsday, This Must Be Belfast". Dialogue example: a Catholic saying "Fenian Prods". Look it up on YouTube. For obvious reasons anyone who grew up during The Troubles finds it amazing.
- The above picture comes from The Simpsons episode "Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes". When Springfield celebrates St. Patrick's Day, a group of Nationalist Irish led by the Green Leprechaun encounters a group of Unionist Northern Irish led by the Orange Leprechaun, causing tensions between the two. Just when it seems Lisa manages to defuse a riot by having both groups sing the Irish Lullaby together, the Leprechauns start fighting each other, leading to a city-wide riot.