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"'The Troubles in Northern Ireland.' What a bloody stupid phrase. What do they think two thousand people have died from? Stress?"

In both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, 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. It ended in 1998 with the IRA signing the Good Friday Agreement ending their campaign, abandoned by their backers such as Colonel Gaddafi's Libya after the end of the Cold War, riddled with informants and outkilled by the Loyalists.

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, fought paramilitary Ulster Loyalists, mostly Protestant (i.e., Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist), 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 in order to save innocent lives, 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, "enhanced interrogation" via the "five techniques"note , 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, having descended from the faction of the rebel armed forces which supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

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 unfortunately pervade some films. The 9/11 attacks changed things radically as terrorism became taboo worldwide, drying up donations overnight.

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 (or so we hope), with the IRA having effectively ceased to function as a paramilitary organization, 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. (Drugs are easier to smuggle than guns—it's easier to disguise/hide chemicals and plant material than carefully calibrated hunks of metal.)

And then Brexit happened and led to both a flareup of political protest in Northern Ireland explicitly along sectarian lines (Unionists are very unhappy with what they deem "a border in the Irish Sea") and a seemingly endless political crisis in the Northern Ireland Executive (the power-sharing local government that was one of the results of the Good Friday Agreement) in part due to Brexit, in part due to an unrelated scandal involving Arlene Foster (leader of the DUP until 2021 and First Minister of Northern Ireland) and in part due to the faceplanting of the DUP, whose participation in Theresa May's minority government did not make Unionists very happy and who now rank lower in the polls than Sinn Fein, which would not only mark the first time since 1922 that the same party polled the highest on both sides of the Irish Border but also the first time in the history of Northern Ireland that a nationalist party would gain a plurality of seats - which would, by convention, make them entitled to the post of First Minister, even if the Deputy First Minister post (thus far held by SF) has virtually identical powers, the symbolism is seen as very undesirable by many Unionists.

You can find a short history of the conflict in this folder:

    The Sordid History of the Troubles 
It is likely that, but for want of compromise and moderation on both sides, the Troubles might never have become what they were; like that other long-running dispute people get heated up about to this day, it treads the fine line between tragedy and farce. As the sorry narrative shows, there's clearly a shortage of level heads in the Six Counties — history records few conflicts guided so much by passion and prejudice and so little by reason (or to be perfectly blunt: almost everyone who counted acted like morons and/or bigots for over half a century).

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 - and of course plain old electoral shenanigans like gerrymandering. The violence of 1919-21 had left an enduring hatred of Irish Nationalists by Unionists, seeing their friends and family murdered by the IRA who were then feted and elected to office by Nationalists. The Union government, happy to be finally shorn of The Irish Question, washed its hands of the affair, and this system persisted for years. Irish Unionists and Protestants in the Irish Free State faced much worse discrimination but by the 60s had been reduced to only 3% of the population.

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 former, ordered not to march, marched anyway, and were attacked by loyalist police. The Orange Order marches were also attacked by Irish Nationalists. There followed some of the most shocking scenes of Police Brutality ever seen in the UK, especially from the infamous B-Specials, a part-time adjunct to the regular police force whom an Irish Nationalist writer defined as "the rock all IRA efforts in Northern Ireland foundered on". Enraged, the Catholics went into hyperdrive, marching and protesting... and being attacked again and again. However many Unionists saw the Civil Rights Movement as an IRA front, pointing out it was started at the suggestion of the IRA's leader, they exclusively campaigned for Nationalist causes, contained many IRA members and campaigned for the release of IRA but not Loyalist prisoners and never campaigned against IRA violence. 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" (the IRA denying Irish Unionists very right to exist). 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 were people belonging to any group 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, fired on a man in Londonderry whom they thought was a nail bomber (he later admitted he was picking up a smoking object but denied it was a nail bomb). IRA gunmen fired on the Army who shot back, 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. Prior to this whole sections of Derry declared themselves "free", rejecting British rule and attacking any official representative that dared trespass, murdering 27 people in Londonderry in the year before Bloody Sunday (out of over 100 killed in the wider conflict), incensing Irish Unionists who considered Bloody Sunday justified retribution against the IRA. The Army later used tanks to destroy the "No Go" areas and restore law and order, forcing the IRA to flee to the nearby Republic of Ireland, where it established training camps and bomb factories, recruited volunteers, and undertook legal and illegal venues in raising funds to carry out its armed campaign. Money was also contributed to the IRA coffers from Irish communities in America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, although such funds were actually tiny compared to legal and illegal activities undertaken by IRA members in Ireland, such as protection rackets, black taxies, pub-owning, counterfeit, bank robberies, and fraud. The Eastern Bloc, seeing an opportunity to harm Western interests and destabilize a critical American ally, began funding the far-left republican groups. Later, in revenge for the US bombing of Tripoli (launched from British bases), Muammar Gaddafi greatly increased his already substantial backing for the IRA (notorious for sponsoring numerous European and Middle Eastern terrorist groups such as Action Direct, the Red Brigades, ETA etc).

Violence increased through The '70s with the British government continually releasing IRA prisoners in a disastrous attempt at appeasement (as they had in 1919-21). By the late 70s they abandoned this policy and sought military victory, halving the number of murders in 1977 and reducing it to double figures the next year for the first time in nearly a decade. By The '80s the violence had been reduced to a fraction of what it had been, reaching a low of 57 in the mid-eighties (as opposed to over 400 in 1972). Elements of the security forces colluded with loyalists, allowing them to target suspected IRA members rather than just random Catholics/Nationalists. In a spectacular own goal the IRA demanded an investigation into such activities but with the security forces' informers within the Loyalists arrested the number of Nationalists killed by them tripled, outkilling the IRA for the first time in the 90s. 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 Army intelligence known as the FRU began an assassination campaign, killing IRA members in retaliation for IRA murders. 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 causenote ), and nearly doing in Margaret Thatcher, then in Brighton for a 1984 Tory convention (though with five deaths). The Loyalists paid them back in kind, killing over 40 people in a single day of bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan

In 1981, 10 internees 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 (the IRA supported the Nazis in the Second World War and even hid their war criminals afterward). Unionists despised Nationalists for their sympathy with men whom they considered simply sectarian murderers and callous disregard for their victims. In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement gave Dublin a "consultative role" in the government of Northern Ireland, to outrage by the Loyalists and Unionists but to no real effect.

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 enough was enough and it was time to end the war, the IRA having lost their backers in Libya after the end of the Cold War, riddled with informants (the head of their "internal security", tasked with killing informers was actually himself an informer) and outkilled by the Loyalists by the 90s. By the Omagh Bombing in August of 1998, the tide had almost entirely turned. The Provisional IRA had declared a cease-fire in July of 1997, Sinn Fein had been admitted to the peace talks, and in April of 1998 the Good Friday Agreement had been created. The Real IRA splinter group carried out the Omagh bombing in response to the agreement, but in the aftermath, and in the face of local, national and international outragenote  they issued a denial that the bomb had been intended to cause civilian casualties and actually apologised, declaring a cease-fire themselves not long after.

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 centernote . 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 deployed on anti-terrorist duties left Ireland, leaving behind the 19th Light Brigade with no operational role, the same military presence as the rest of Britain and the Royal Ulster Constabulary finally able to act as a normal police force. 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 Londonderry and acted unlawfully in opening fire. However it also established beyond doubt that there were numerous armed IRA members in the Bogside, several of who admitted firing on the soldiers. David Cameron delivered a formal apology on behalf of the British government, to applause from Republican crowds in Derry. Unionists by contrast consider Bloody Sunday to have been given undue attention in comparison to many more terrorist murders both before and after and propose a blanket amnesty for the security forces actions' during the Troubles, pointing out the hypocrisy of the IRA using the British justice system they tried to destroy to gain revenge on those who defeated them.

See also: The Irish Question for the pre-Partition era.

Media set in this setting:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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, and seeing both Irish sides of the conflict as a case of Evil Versus Evil. 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 masturbating). 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.
  • Punk Rock Jesus: Chris's bodyguard Thomas grew up in the Troubles, and was a Child Soldier for the IRA.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 Harry'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)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ronin (1998): When Seamus O'Rourke is killed and the briefcase lost by the Irish faction, it leads to an IRA ceasefire.
  • Belfast: Belfast native Kenneth Branagh's Coming of Age Story based on his own childhood in the late 1960s, with The Troubles in full swing.
  • Bloody Sunday (2002), 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 notably features a lone sympathetic British soldier, the officer in charge who realizes too late that his men are shooting civilians, and has to watch in real time as they convince themselves that they were shooting gunmen while returning to base.
  • In Blown Away, the bad guy (played by Tommy Lee Jones) is an IRA Mad 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: The main character, Fergus, is a fugitive Provo who falls in love with the girlfriend of a deceased British soldier, only to be torn between his love for her and his loyalty to his comrades.
  • 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. It's also infamous for featuring a classic drawn-out Hollywood firefight between the IRA and the British Army, something that was very rare in the actual conflict.
  • Patriot Games has an IRA splinter group, of whom Ned Stark is the most prominent. They shoot at Brits first, then Americans. See Literature.
  • Hidden Agenda, a Ken Loach thriller about the death of an American human rights activist at the hands of British security forces in Northern Ireland that leads to the revelation of a massive conspiracy inside the British government.
  • 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 unit during a riot and gets tangled up in the conflict. Notable for showing all sides as heinous, with the British Army only being the most sympathetic in that they're horribly naive bunglers rather than callous murderers like the other factions.
  • 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 Long Good Friday is a 1980 film about Harold Shand, a London Gangster whose business comes under vicious attack. He thinks it's The Irish Mob, but he's shocked to discover it's actually the IRA, pursuing revenge on one of his lieutenants.

  • 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 McLiam 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 their twin five-year-olds, a son and daughter, 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.
  • Shibumi was written in 1979 when the IRA was a force to be reckoned with and their influence is felt during the first quarter of the novel due to Hannah Stern's ties to them. Notably, the protagonist and Professional Killer, Nikolai Hel, has nothing good to say about the group, comparing them unfavourably to the Basque-nationalist ETA in Spain. Mind you, Hel has no problem with the IRA's morals, only their competence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Life On Mars had apparent IRA bombings, although Sam Tyler insists it can't be the IRA, both because it's too early to be them (he's marginally wrong about that, as the Aldershot bombing took place in 1972, a year before season 1 was set, and there were five car bomb attacks in London in 1973, although the earliest IRA attack in Manchester was 1975, which would be later than Season 2), and because the explosive used was Dynamite rather than Semtex.
  • 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 (2013) 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; and the finale special revolves around the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
  • 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 Mad TV 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”.
  • Season 4 of The Crown (2016) opens with the assassination of Lord Mountbatten by the IRA bombing his boat, with Margaret Thatcher swearing revenge before the Queen.
  • Blue Lights is set in the modern day of 2023, but the Troubles still make their presence felt:
    • The PSNI officers are seen checking for car bombs under their personal cars before driving to work.
    • There is a memorial board for officers killed in the line of duty. A character gets added to it at the end of the first season
    • An officer from the Catholic community is reluctant to reveal she is a police officer to her sports team. When she does, they know already because her mother has been hanging her uniform out to dry and are completely fine with it
    • There are a group of paramilitaries, who while happy to use IRA iconography, are far more interested in drug dealing than any actual terrorism. Their leader turns out to be an informer, working with MI 5

  • 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 (U2 Album). The most famous live performance of it is on the film version of 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. His song was more confrontational, angrily scolding Brits in Northern Ireland ("you Anglo pigs and Scotties") and telling them to leave.
    • Later, they would produce "Peace on Earth" for 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, which was written following one of the last attacks of the Troubles, the Omagh bombing of 1998.
  • Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers early songs were frequently about The Troubles on the side of peace, discussing topics such as Small Town Boredom and difficulty with romance ("Alternative Ulster, Barbed Wire Love") to death of bystanders ("Johnny Was") and being preasured to join militant groups ("Wasted Life", "Nobody's Hero").
  • 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". Like John Lennon's "Bloody Sunday" mentioned above, it was directly inspired by the Bloody Sunday massacre. 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 was written off the heels of the 1981 Belfast hunger strike, and expresses a hope that the Troubles will eventually end in peace.
  • Gary Moore, Irish-born rock-blues guitarist, recorded a 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 Recruiters Always Lie 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.
  • Elton John had a go at this with his song "Belfast".
  • The Fun Boy Three's single "The More I See (The Less I Believe)" was about the Troubles, inspired by meeting refugees from the violence while playing on the Isle of Man. It didn't get much radio play, and was by far their worst-performing single.
  • Peter Gabriel's 1978 song "Animal Magic" is about a boy who joins a paramilitary group to fight in the Troubles, using magician metaphors to convey his belief that War Is Glorious.
  • Wolfe Tones sung very open anthems to rebellion, and despite the end of the conflict, some of the songs are still quite popular on the internet.

    Western Animation