The Troubles GUERRILLA warfare in ireland

By Peter Vigano

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell, is a nonfiction book that consists of multiple anecdotes to convey its massage. This message is that while being stronger and having more resources is often seen as an advantage, it is actually a disadvantage. By the same token, being weaker and having fewer resources can be an advantage instead of a disadvantage.

In Northern Ireland, when hostilities first broke out, one side consisted of the British Army and Protestant militias, which were very large, powerful, and well equipped, and Catholic militias like the IRA, or Irish Republican Army which had little equipment and training. Despite this difference, the fighting continued for over 30 years, and neither side technically winning, the conflict was seen as enormous loss for Britain.

In The Troubles, there were two opposing viewpoints. "The goal of the unionist and overwhelmingly Protestant majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland." This difference in viewpoints was the main cause of The Troubles.

The differences in viewpoint based on religion were due to historical means. Unionists were almost all Protestants, while nationalists were almost all Catholic. This was brought about when Northern Ireland was first being settled. The settles tended to be from Scotland, and so were staunch Protestants. Being British citizens, they supported Britain greatly. The native people that the Protestant settlers displaced were Catholics, and resented being displaced. There was fierce competition between the two groups, which resulted in opposing viewpoints.

Loyalists, who were mainly Protestants, supported Northern Ireland remaining with Great Britain. "Arising from the loyalist community were a number of paramilitary groups, notably the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Loyalist violence’s stated aim was to halt republican violence against the state but in practice their main target was Catholic civilians." Loyalists controlled politics, and used their influence to relegate Catholics to a minor role.

After violence erupted in Northern Ireland, the UK government sent troops to halt the violence. The RUC, or Royal Ulster Constabulary, could not halt the violence by itself. The troops that Britain sent, however, tended to be Protestant, so instead of siding with the Catholics, the minority in need of assistance, they sided with the Protestants. That inflamed things even more, until the army could not do anything.

In David and Goliath, the main message put forward by Malcolm Gladwell is that what are commonly perceived as strengths are weaknesses, while what are commonly perceived as weaknesses are strengths. In The Troubles, the British army, a well trained and modern army failed to defeat militias such as the IRA, who had little training and much poorer equipment.

Learning information from multiple perspectives allows you to see the ways multiple sides perceive something. In The Troubles, Catholics wanted greater representation in government. Protestants perceived this as dangerous to their power, and so refused. This escalated into violence. Having the perspective from both sides allows you to see why something happens.


“BBC - History - The Troubles.” BBC News, BBC,

“Dividing Ireland.” Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, Chelsea House, 2006, Modern World History, troubles ireland.

Hammer, Joshua. “In Northern Ireland, Getting Past the Troubles.”, Smithsonian Institution,

“IRA Man Is on Patrol in Belfast While a Family Walks by.” The Belfast Telegraph,

“Man Holding a Baby near a Street Barricade.” Funny Junk,

Newman, Jason. "Northern Ireland Troubles." Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, ABC-CLIO, 2017, Accessed 10 Jan. 2017

“The Northern Ireland Conflict 1968-1998 – An Overview.” The Irish Story, 13 Apr. 2015,

“Royal Army Soldier Crouching near a Truck.” BBC, British Broadcasting Company,

“Soldiers,Slogans,and a Street Barricade.” Britanica Image Quest,

“Woman Holding an Armalite AR-18.” Reddit,

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.