After a bloody civil war and partition in the 1920s, Northern Ireland had about 40 years of peace. This was despite the many grievances that the Catholics had at that time. This resulted in violence in the 1970s. Why did it take so long for the violence to happen?

4 Answers 4


Revolutions and uprisings tend to occur when youth population booms coincide with political or economic oppression. Ireland had a post-WWII baby boom like many Western countries and the 1970's was when enough of those people were in their twenties and unhappy with the situation they were born into.

There is something unique about being between 15 and 30: the energy of youth, not having the responsibility of children yet, the desire for mobility whether the system you live under allows it or not. You can read a brief summary of the "youth bulge" concept in this article from the Council on Foreign Relations.

You could also read:




There are numerous articles out there that apply this concept to everything from the 2011 Arab Spring, to the uprisings of 1968, to what many expect will be coming up soon in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa.

  • Interesting. I wonder if anyone can apply it to NI specifically.
    – Ne Mo
    Apr 26, 2015 at 11:48
  • 1
    @NeMo sure scholar.google.com/…
    – Mike
    Apr 26, 2015 at 11:57
  • 1
    Or for a more personal/psychological study: jstor.org/discover/10.2307/…
    – Mike
    Apr 26, 2015 at 12:00
  • Cool work. Yeah interesting
    – Rohit
    Apr 26, 2015 at 15:41
  • Ireland in the '70s? The Easter Rising, the War of Independence, all began in 1919. The Civil War 1922. In the 1970s most of the island of Ireland was fairly stable; the Republic of Ireland has never had a majority left-wing government, events in Northern Ireland however were another matter altogether.
    – user17846
    Jul 18, 2019 at 8:42

I think a few issues were important in the timing of the Troubles. Free secondary education came in after World War II and this helped create a vibrant, Catholic middle class. The civil rights movement in America was hugely influential and this came together with a housing crisis which highlighted the discrimination in the allocation of council housing. In 1966 the UVF initiated a bombing campaign which it blamed on the then dormant IRA. Into this heady mix entered the Rev. Ian Paisley and the rest, as they say, is history.

  • 6
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:16

It should be mentioned that the IRA did have campaigns in both the 1940's and 1950's but were heavily repressed by the governments in the North and South.

  • I assume they failed partly because the IRA did not have as much popular support as later, and I was wondering why that was. But I suppose other explanations are possible for their failure.
    – Ne Mo
    May 6, 2016 at 12:27
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    It largely goes back to the first answer, there was a new younger generation in the 60's. The 'Official' IRA of the 30's to 50's were a different movement, the remnants of the anti-treaty forces in the civil war.The border campaign in the 1950's was suppressed more in the South than in the North, but in the late 60's members of the government in the South were supporting the IRA - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_Crisis .
    – smwk
    May 6, 2016 at 13:47

I'm gonna guess the Depression of the 1930's, WWII and the aftermath that lasted well into the 1950's. From there, actual growth in Wester Europe and the US probably kept folks decently employed.

The social and economic turmoil of the late 1960's and early 1970's was a common theme across western society.

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