FitzGerald warned Callaghan that the failure to intervene, despite Ireland's inability to do so, would "threaten democratic government in the Republic", which in turn jeopardised British and European security against Communist and other foreign nations. The Irish government so dreaded the consequences of an independent Northern Ireland that FitzGerald refused to ask the British not to withdraw—as he feared that openly discussing the issue could permit the British to proceed—and other members of government opposed the Irish Cabinet even discussing what FitzGerald referred to as a "doomsday scenario".
He wrote in that "Neither then nor since has public opinion in Ireland realised how close to disaster our whole island came during the last two years of Harold Wilson's premiership. In December, one month after the Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 people, the IRA declared a ceasefire; this would theoretically last throughout most of the following year. The ceasefire notwithstanding, sectarian killings actually escalated in , along with internal feuding between rival paramilitary groups.
This made one of the "bloodiest years of the conflict". Three of the bandmembers, two Catholics and a Protestant, were shot dead, while two of the UVF men were killed when the bomb they had loaded onto the band's minibus detonated prematurely. The following January, eleven Protestant workers were gunned down in Kingsmill, South Armagh after having been ordered off their bus by an armed republican gang, which called itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force. One man survived despite being shot 18 times, leaving ten fatalities.
These killings were reportedly in retaliation to a loyalist double shooting attack against the Reavey and O'Dowd families the previous night. The violence continued through the rest of the s. The British Government reinstated the ban against the UVF in October , making it once more an illegal organisation. When the Provisional IRA's December ceasefire had ended in early and it had returned to violence, it had lost the hope that it had felt in the early s that it could force a rapid British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, and instead developed a strategy known as the "Long War", which involved a less intense but more sustained campaign of violence that could continue indefinitely.
The Official IRA ceasefire of , however, became permanent, and the "Official" movement eventually evolved into the Workers' Party , which rejected violence completely. However, a splinter from the "Officials"—the Irish National Liberation Army —continued a campaign of violence in By the late s, war-weariness was visible in both communities. One sign of this was the formation of a group known as " Peace People ", which won the Nobel Peace Prize in The Peace People organised large demonstrations calling for an end to paramilitary violence.
Their campaign lost momentum, however, after they appealed to the nationalist community to provide information on the IRA to security forces. The decade ended with a double attack by the IRA against the British. On 27 August , Lord Mountbatten while on holiday in Mullaghmore, County Sligo , was killed by a bomb planted on board his boat. Three other people were also killed: Lady Brabourne, the elderly mother of Mountbatten's son-in-law; and two teenagers, a grandson of Mountbatten and a local boatman.
Successive British Governments, having failed to achieve a political settlement, tried to "normalise" Northern Ireland. Aspects included the removal of internment without trial and the removal of political status for paramilitary prisoners. From onward, paramilitaries were tried in juryless Diplock courts to avoid intimidation of jurors. On conviction, they were to be treated as ordinary criminals. Resistance to this policy among republican prisoners led to more than of them in the Maze prison initiating the " blanket" and "dirty" protests.
Their protests culminated in hunger strikes in and , aimed at the restoration of political status, as well as other concessions.
The hunger strikes resonated among many nationalists; over , people  attended Sands' funeral mass in West Belfast and thousands attended those of the other hunger strikers. From an Irish republican perspective, the significance of these events was to demonstrate potential for a political and electoral strategy.
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Additionally, it received monies from pro-IRA partisans in the United States and elsewhere throughout the Irish diaspora. The INLA was highly active in the early and mids. In , it bombed a disco frequented by off-duty British soldiers, killing 11 soldiers and six civilians. Margaret Tebbit was left permanently paralysed, while her husband's injuries were less serious. Nine shells were fired from a mark 10 mortar which was bolted onto the back of a hijacked Ford van in Crossmaglen.
Eight shells overshot the station; the ninth hit a Portakabin which was being used as a canteen.
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The bomb went off by a cenotaph which was at the heart of the parade. Eleven people ten civilians, including a pregnant woman, and one serving member of the RUC were killed and 63 were injured. Former school headmaster Ronnie Hill was seriously injured in the bombing and slipped into a coma two days later, remaining in this condition for more than a decade before his death in December This became known as Operation Flavius. Their funeral at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast was attacked by Michael Stone , a UDA member who threw grenades as the coffin was lowered and shot at people who chased him.
Stone was jailed for life the following year, but was freed 11 years later under the Good Friday Agreement. They were kidnapped, taken away and shot dead by the IRA. This became known as the Corporals killings. By , the IPLO was destroyed by the Provisionals for its involvement in drug dealing thus ending the feud. He predicted the war would last another 20 years. Loyalists were also engaged in behind-the-scenes talks to end the violence, connecting with the British and Irish governments through Protestant clergy, in particular the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Roy Magee and Anglican Archbishop Robin Eames.
Signs were put up around South Armagh reading "Sniper at Work". The snipers killed a total of nine members of the security forces: seven soldiers and two constables. The IRA had developed the capacity to attack helicopters in South Armagh and elsewhere since the s,  including the shootdown of a Gazelle flying over the border between Tyrone and Monaghan ; there were no fatalities in that incident.
On 7 February , the IRA attempted to assassinate prime minister John Major and his war cabinet by launching a mortar at 10 Downing Street while they were gathered there to discuss the Gulf War.
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The mortar bombing caused only four injuries, two to police officers, while the prime minister and the entire war cabinet were unharmed. After a prolonged period of background political manoeuvring, during which the Baltic Exchange and Bishopsgate bombings occurred in London, both loyalist and republican paramilitary groups declared ceasefires in The year leading up to the ceasefires was a particularly tense one, marked by atrocities. The IRA responded with the Shankill Road bombing in October , which aimed to kill the UDA leadership, but killed eight Protestant civilian shoppers and one low-ranking UDA member, as well as one of the perpetrators, who was killed when the bomb detonated prematurely.
Twelve people were killed at Greysteel and Castlerock, all but two of whom were Catholic. On 31 August , the IRA declared a ceasefire. The loyalist paramilitaries, temporarily united in the " Combined Loyalist Military Command ", reciprocated six weeks later. Although these ceasefires failed in the short run, they marked an effective end to large-scale political violence, as they paved the way for the final ceasefires. In , the United States appointed George J.
Mitchell was recognised as being more than a token envoy and someone representing a President Bill Clinton with a deep interest in events. The attack was followed by several more, most notably the Manchester bombing , which destroyed a large area of the centre of the city on 15 June. While the attack avoided any fatalities due to a telephone warning and the rapid response of the emergency services, over people were injured in the attack, many of them outside the established cordon.
This bombing discredited " dissident republicans " and their campaigns in the eyes of many who had previously supported the Provisionals' campaign. They became small groups with little influence, but still capable of violence. Since then, most paramilitary violence has been directed at their "own" communities and at other factions within their organisations. There have been internal struggles for power between "brigade commanders" and involvement in organised crime.
After the ceasefires, talks began between the main political parties in Northern Ireland to establish political agreement. These talks led to the Good Friday Agreement of This Agreement restored self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of "power-sharing".
A security normalisation process also began as part of the treaty, which comprised the progressive closing of redundant British Army barracks, border observation towers, and the withdrawal of all forces taking part in Operation Banner — including the resident battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment — that would be replaced by an infantry brigade , deployed in ten sites around Northern Ireland but with no operative role in the province. The power-sharing Executive and Assembly were suspended in , when unionists withdrew following " Stormontgate ", a controversy over allegations of an IRA spy ring operating at Stormont.
There were ongoing tensions about the Provisional IRA's failure to disarm fully and sufficiently quickly. IRA decommissioning has since been completed in September to the satisfaction of most parties. Similarly, although political violence is greatly reduced, sectarian animosity has not disappeared. Residential areas are more segregated between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists than ever. On 8 May , devolved government returned to Northern Ireland.
There were many incidents of collusion between the British state security forces the British Army and RUC and loyalist paramilitaries. This included soldiers and policemen taking part in loyalist attacks while off-duty, giving weapons and intelligence to loyalists, not taking action against them, and hindering police investigations. Of the loyalists arrested by the Stevens Inquiries team, were found to be state agents or informers. During the s, the Glenanne gang —a secret alliance of loyalist militants, British soldiers and RUC officers—carried out a string of gun and bomb attacks against nationalists in an area of Northern Ireland known as the "murder triangle".
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The Stevens Inquiries found that elements of the security forces had used loyalists as "proxies",  who, via, double-agents and informers, had helped loyalist groups to kill targeted individuals, usually suspected republicans but civilians were also killed, intentionally and otherwise. The inquiries concluded this had intensified and prolonged the conflict. FRU commanders say they helped loyalists target only suspected or known republican activists and prevented the killing of civilians. Nelson also supervised the shipping of weapons to loyalists in It found that Special Branch had given informers immunity by ensuring they weren't caught or convicted, and blocking weapons searches.
During the s and s, republican and loyalist paramilitaries abducted a number of individuals, many alleged to have been informers, who were then killed and secretly buried. They are referred to informally as " The Disappeared ".
All but one, Lisa Dorrian, were abducted and killed by republicans. Dorrian is believed to have been abducted by loyalists. The remains of all but four of "The Disappeared" have been recovered and turned over to their families. British government security forces, including the Military Reaction Force MRF , carried out what have been described as " extrajudicial killings " of unarmed civilians.
Republicans allege that the security forces operated a shoot-to-kill policy rather than arresting IRA suspects.
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The security forces denied this and point out that in incidents such as the killing of eight IRA men at Loughgall in , the IRA members who were killed were heavily armed. Others argue that incidents such as the shooting of three unarmed IRA members in Gibraltar by the Special Air Service ten months later confirmed suspicions among republicans, and in the British and Irish media, of a tacit British shoot-to-kill policy of suspected IRA members.
Inter-communal tensions rise and violence often breaks out during the "marching season" when the Protestant Orange Order parades take place across Northern Ireland.