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New evidence uncovered in Northern Ireland Troubles book by IR academic

2 October 2023

Secret talks between the British Army, the IRA, and loyalist paramilitary groups were discovered by a Cardiff academic whilst researching his new account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Uncivil War: The British Army and the Troubles by Reader in International Relations Dr Huw Bennett casts fresh light on British decision making, the nature of the violence and why the conflict lasted so long.

The book reveals extensive evidence that explains the British Army’s thought and actions at multiple levels, from Cabinet committees down to the streets of Belfast and Derry. It shows how military strategy succeeded in suppressing the level of violence but only by making the conflict more geographically dispersed, more sectarian in character, and by radicalising the participants to the point where endless war seemed inevitable.

In Uncivil War Dr Bennett describes how he encountered substantial official obstruction whilst researching and writing the book. He tells how the Ministry of Defence intervened to block access to numerous sources; how after a lengthy Freedom of Information Act struggle the National Archives released some sources, but in heavily redacted form; and how military museums removed documents before his arrival, or backtracked and refused him access when trustees became concerned about potential controversy.

Speaking of the book Dr Bennett said, “The pain suffered during the Northern Ireland conflict is still with us today, affecting politics as well as the many lives changed forever by the violence. For too long the British Army's part in the conflict has been ignored as too difficult to examine or has been portrayed in simplistic terms by its detractors and supporters alike. Uncivil War looks in detail at what the army did, how its actions affected ordinary people, and suppressed or exacerbated republican and loyalist violence. Though some parts of the Ministry of Defence would prefer this story not to be told, the book asks questions many people in Britain and Ireland want answers to.”

Uncivil War: The British Army and the Troubles is available from Cambridge University Press from 5 October 2023.

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