I was listening to some propaganda songs of IRA (Kinky boots, Come on out ye black and tans, Go on home British soldiers).

The songs are in English (not Irish) and as British in spirit as it gets: they are not military marches, they are not glorifying violence, they are just calm and sarcastic.

Seen from outside, the Irish and the British are almost the same nation (they even drink the same beer) and North Ireland was a democratic nation. For a foreigner there was very little to fight about.

Was it all "generated" quietly by the Soviets? (Good Friday agreement was a few years after the end of the Soviet Union).

Is there something I am missing here?

  • @Mark I can go to Reddit instead, on an Irish subreddit. I need to craft the text, as it stands it would sound like trolling. Jun 30, 2021 at 1:16
  • 1
    This Wikipedia article about Ian Paisley will help also. Seems like a very similar character to Trump. Jun 30, 2021 at 1:39
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    "Was it all "generated" quietly by the Soviets?" What? This seems to be a strange addition to your question.
    – RedSonja
    Jun 30, 2021 at 8:51
  • 4
    Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions. Please revise your question to document your preliminary research.
    – MCW
    Jun 30, 2021 at 9:12
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    What's wrong with the information on Wikipedia:TheTroubles?
    – MCW
    Jun 30, 2021 at 11:26

3 Answers 3


If one sees a conflict and thinks that there's very little to fight about - they are not looking close enough. Usually, underlying reasons are more complex than what is seen at a glance.

And the roots of the Troubles run deep indeed. The Plantations of Ireland were the British efforts to reinforce their control of newly-acquired land by giving out land to British Protestant settlers. First attempts were made as early as 1550s, but these were generally unsuccessful, and the first truly succesful plantation was the Plantation of Ulster in 1609, during the rule of king James I. This created a sizable population of English-speaking Protestant population in Northern Ireland that was loyal to British crown. This was seen as a introduction of "civilization", as opposed to "barbaric" Irish.

These efforts obviously led to conflict with native population, but rebellions were routinely suppressed, and anglicisation of Ireland continued - for example, Irish Gaelic language stopped being the majority language during the XIX century. The Great Irish Famine also contributed, since it hit the poorer regions of the country harder than the rest. By 1911, there were only 500 thousand native speakers of Irish Gaelic in Ireland, out of 4.3 million people in the census (1). This, by the way, is the reason for the IRA songs being in English - by the time they were written, most of the people who would sing them spoke English as their main language.

This anglophone protestant immigration created the basis for the Irish unionist movement. While the Irish majority wanted Ireland to govern itself (Irish Home Rule), Ulster minority, which identified with Britain, were quite content to be the part of the United Kingdom. This led to the crisis in 1911, when the Third Home Rule bill was introduced to the House of Commons of the UK Parliament. Prevoius bill was passed in the Commons, but then vetoed in the House of Lords. But in 1910 House of Lords' unlimited veto power was replaced by a two-year postponement, so the bill would become law in 1914. As a response, Unionists formed Ulster Volunteers - paramilitary organisation which aimed to oppose Irish government by force. Tensions were rising, both sides were accumulating weapons, and it seemed that civil war was imminent. After the Curragh incident, where British officers threatened to resign as a response to planning military action against Unionist paramilitaries, the Partition was proposed, which would exclude Ulster from Irish self-government.

On the other hand, Irish nationalists, too, formed a radical faction. As opposed to Home Rule proponents, who intended to form a new dominion of the Birtish Empire, Republicans wanted an independent country - even if they had to use force to get it; but most importantly, they wanted all of Ireland, not just the part where republicans were supported by the majority of population. Home Rule support waned, as British seemed to support the Unionists, which resulted in Republicans taking power, and ultimately - to creation of modern Republic of Ireland.

These are the sides of this conflict. Not some amorphous, generalised average "British" and "Irish", who, as you noted, are not that different - radical Irish nationalists, who want unified and independent Ireland, and just as radical Irish Unionists/Loyalists, who want to keep the Irish Republic out of North Ireland. They might drink the same beer and they might speak the same language, but their defining interests are irreconcilable. Both parties engage in terrorist attacks, and each attack by one party spurs the other to retaliation, and the violence divides the sides further. As any civil war, the conflict self-perpetuates, until both sides manage to find a compromise. Right now, the conflict seems to subside, but its underlying reason still exists; and as the beginning of the Troubles showed, it only takes a handful of disgruntled radicals to revitalise the conflict.

That said, IRA did have contacts with the Soviets, and at least one weapons shipment was organised by the KGB during the Troubles; but saying that the whole conflict was generated by Soviets is a definite stretch. IRA and other radical Irish republicans in general weren't very picky with where their support came from, and collaborated, for example, with German Empire during WW1 and Nazi Germany during WW2.

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    Your admirable answer could be extended with an explanation of why Northern Irish Protestants -who would then be in a minority - did not wish to be ruled by the rest of the island (who were for most of that time very ardent Catholics).
    – RedSonja
    Jun 30, 2021 at 8:54

If you want to know why someone is fighting someone else, the safe (if unhelpful) answer is always because they were fighting each other last week.

The Soviets have a lot to answer for, but I don't think you can dump this one on them. This goes back a long way.

You mentioned that Britain and Ireland are culturally similar, at least compared to Ireland and Germany or Peru or Indonesia. Of course that's true. However, the reason this is so also partly explains why they're in conflict. Starting with the Normans, the ruling class in England and later Britain has attempted to subjugate Ireland, suppress Irish culture and Anglicise the country. I say ruling class because the Normans were not really English, although they gradually became assimilated into Englishness. I'm not aware of attempts by the Anglo-Saxons to conquer Ireland, but perhaps someone more knowledgeable can fill that in. In any case, ordinary English and later British people have definitely participated in this campaign of subjugation. In my parents' lifetime it was still not unknown for landlords to advertise rooms with the words 'no blacks or Irish'. (note: I know this because I am British).

In some respects, the British succeeded in their campaign of oppression - as you pointed out, Irish people speak English and not Gaelic. When English lords came to control parts of Ireland, they refused to learn the local language, as conquerors always do - the conquered had to learn a new tongue. This was a gradual process, not fully completed until the 18th century. From the 16th century on, there was a religious element too - Catholics vs Protestant. In the 17th century, the British sent local Protestants from Scotland over to Ireland in order to have loyal supporters there - these are the ancestors of the loyalists in Ulster. This act alone has caused terrible suffering down the ages, for everyone.

As I said, I am British. I don't want you to come away with the wrong idea here - discrimination against Irish people in Britain is much less prevalent than it once was. Many British people - and remember that the United Kingdom comprises to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so NI is not Britain - would prefer Ireland to be reunited. Many British people have opposed heavy-handed tactics in Northern Ireland - part of the reason why the Good Friday agreement, which moved the situation towards the wishes of the Catholic Nationalist side - enjoyed public support in Britain. And few people on either side would describe the IRA's campaign of murder against British people and Unionists in Northern Ireland as justified.

To your question - why are two similar peoples fighting each other - the answer is because they are similar, and because of how that came to be so.


In a nutshell, this was basically about religion and race:

  • in the Provence Ulster, predominantly Protestant (Presbyterian) of Scottish Gaelic heritage
  • in the other Provences, predominantly Catholic of Irish Gaelic heritage

Add to that the english dominance since 1542 and anti Catholic attitude after 1606. The industrialization in the North (Belfast area) in the 19th century led to further devision of the country.

The Irish Home rule movement in the late 19th century was seen by the Protestants in Ulster as a danger to their influence.

red Ulster hand: 'we will not have home rule'.
The Third Home Rule Bill introduced in 1912 was as in 1886 and 1893 ferociously opposed by Ulster unionists, for whom Home Rule was synonymous with Rome Rule as well as being indicative of economic decline and a threat to their cultural and industrial identity.

This fear of being dominated by a catholic majority lead to the situation that you have today. In the late 1960s, this again came to head.

A major goal of the Good Friday Agreement was to remove this fear, which was easier then because no customs border existed.

In the present situation, the fear exists that history is repeating itself.

Between July 1968 and February 1969 I went to school in Dublin while my mother was working at the Trinity Collage. All-through the autumn of 1968, seeing Ian Paisley making 'unfriendly' remarks on television was an everyday affair. They were often accompanied by similar statements by nationalists within the republic.

Our impression at the time was that people were generally concerned about the rhetoric being exchanged, but were otherwise blissfully unaware that these rumblings were the prelude of what would later be termed The Troubles.


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