Imperial War Museum
Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles
The United Kingdom came into existence in 1801, after the British & Irish parliaments decided to unite the two kingdoms, which had been headed by the same monarch since Henry VIII, and to make London the seat of government. In the 1870s, Irish nationalists started to press for home rule, and after the 1916 Easter Rising, for independence. In 1922, after the Anglo-Irish War (1919–21), Ireland became a self-governing Dominion of the Commonwealth, but six north-eastern counties opted out and remained within the UK. In 1931 Ireland was granted full independence, and after the country became a republic in 1949, the British unfriended the Irish from the Commonwealth. Northern Ireland continued to be an issue: loyalists wanted to maintain the status quo, while republicans wanted Northern Ireland to leave the UK & join a united Ireland, and in the late 1960s, a low-intensity civil war euphemistically known as The Troubles started, in which more than 3,500 people were killed. In 1998, by which time the conflict had reached a stalemate and everybody had had enough of all the violence, a peace agreement was signed, yet many aspects of the Troubles remain unresolved to this day and are highly contested by those who experienced & participated in the conflict.
On until 7 January 2024, the exhibition Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles at the Imperial War Museum in London unpacks this complex chapter of history through the multiple perspectives of people who lived through the period, from republican & loyalist paramilitaries to British soldiers, local police & ordinary civilians. While there are key events & defining moments that make up the history of the Troubles, there seems to be no single story that everyone involved agrees on. Rather than offer a narrative history of the conflict, this compact exhibition provides just a snapshot, introducing four themes to explore the events, communities and paramilitary factions that underpin this difficult & complex 30-year period: the Battle of St Matthew’s, a gun battle in Belfast between the IRA and loyalist groups on the night of 27–28 June 1970; the heightened violence of the 1970s & 1980s; the everyday experience of those affected by the Troubles; and the legacy of the conflict within Northern Ireland today. This exhibition at the IWM only scratches the surface, but it nevertheless allows visitors to better understand what happened, why it happened, and why the Troubles still cast a long shadow over many aspects of present-day life in Northern Ireland.iwm.org.uk