The Provisional IRA may have persuaded Britain to the negotiating table, however their relentless campaign of homicide powerfully dissuaded Irish unification and effectively rendered extinct protestants who self-identified as Irish. That fact alone speaks for how the armed separatism was not only immoral and wrong, but also spectacularly counterproductive. What justification is there for the PIRA armed campaign of destruction of persons and property if the result was to dissuade and create a vehement rejection of being Irish among the very people who they wanted to be Irish in an Irish Republic?
Brian Kennaway said:
"The horrors of the IRA drove Protestants away from a cultural identification with Irishness."Rev John Dunlop, former Presbyterian moderator, wrote:
"Twenty-five years of IRA violence have, for many, all but destroyed whatever identification with Irishness there may have been."Dean Godson asked:
"What chance of building a united, socialist Ireland on a heap of Protestant corpses?"
"We cannot afford to give up a single Irishman."It is indisputable: the Provisional IRA campaign was spectacularly counter-productive.
Anecdotally, as Michael Longley said: "I would like to see a united Ireland, but that’s a generation in the future—thanks to the IRA."
Quantitatively, as Richard Rose's 1968 Northern Ireland Loyalty Survey, found:
1. Protestant self description as Irish dropped sharply after 1968, and especially after 1978.
2. Protestants tended to define their identity much more strongly as British after 1968.
Newton Emerson wrote in The Sunday Times of February 16 2014:
"Unionists were once happy to call themselves "Irish", as Sinn Fein reminded us in a recent row over Irish language. There are many reasons for the declining Irishness of unionists, many self-driven or emerging from partition, but to the extent that it correlates with the overtly "Irish" violence aimed at them, that violence was not just unwarranted but spectacularly counterproductive."In a paper from 2014, 'Public opinion and the future of Northern Ireland', Professor John Coakley looked at the Northern Ireland Loyalty Survey from 1968.
Here’s what I found most interesting from John’s paper: Protestants moved more and more away from being “Irish” from 1968 onwards.
"Protestant self description as Irish dropped sharply after 1968... Protestants tended to define their identity much more strongly as British after 1968, at the apparent expense of the Irish and Ulster categories."He explained in more detail:
"Given the extent to which Northern Ireland was born as an entity where careful computation of the proportions of Catholics and Protestants was of central concern, it is not surprising that politicians and commentators alike have remained profoundly focused on matters of sectarian demography, and that this has resulted in simplistic political analysis, with naive assumptions about one community “overtaking” the other, and sensationalist media reporting, with the depiction of stark consequences in a demographic “race” (McEldowney, Anderson and Shuttleworth, 2011). In reality, it is clear that public opinion had ceased to conform to traditional stereotypes as early as 1968, when the first survey evidence showed that the stark polarisation of earlier decades seemed to have softened. Almost half a century later, to what extent has public opinion evolved further? Attitudinal shift may be considered at three levels: identity (normally seen as a relatively deep-rooted human characteristic that changes only slowly, and which may be further subdivided into communal identification and national identity), party support (also generally seen as a relatively stable feature of individual attitudes), and constitutional preference (a specific matter on which we would expect basic attitudes to be enduring, but which is likely to be highly sensitive to sharp changes of political context).
For the past 25 year or so, Northern Ireland surveys have regularly asked a question inviting respondents to indicate the community with which they would identify (“generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a unionist, a nationalist or neither?”). Answers over time show relatively little variation, as may be seen in figure 9, which reports responses at selected years since 1989. Protestants identify strongly as unionist (about 60-70%), with the remainder opting for “neither”; Catholics identify less strongly as nationalist (about 40-60%), with a large proportion identifying as “neither”. Strikingly, virtually no Protestants identify as nationalist.
This is mirrored on the Catholic side, where virtually no-one identifies as unionist – even if, as will be seen below, many “non-unionist” Catholics support the union. This binary labelling systemis clearly seen by respondents as referring to communal identification, not necessarily to constitutional perspective.
National identity is assessed more explicitly in a question that dates back to 1968. In that year, Rose’s survey asked “which of these terms best describes the way you usually think of yourself?”, with options British, Irish, Ulster, sometimes British-sometimes Irish, and Anglo-Irish. By 2012 this question was still similarly phrased: “which of these best describes the way you think of yourself?”, with a new option dating from 1989 (Northern Irish), but dropping two of the earlier options (sometimes British-sometimes Irish, and Anglo-Irish).
Figure 10 reports the results at selected points in time. Most Protestants (except in the 1968 survey) described themselves as British, and most Catholics described themselves as Irish, but three other interrelated developments are worth noting.
First, Protestant self description as Irish dropped sharply after 1968 (when 20% opted for this category), and especially after 1978.
Second, Protestants tended to define their identity much more strongly as British after 1968, at the apparent expense of the Irish and Ulster categories – paradoxically, given the gulf between Protestant political preferences and British policies that had opened up in the 1970s (Moxon-Browne, 1983: 6).
Third, when the Northern Irish option was introduced in 1989 it was adopted by significant proportions of both Catholics and Protestants.Although we do not know whether this label means the same thing to Catholics as to Protestants, it seems to imply a refocusing of identity on the territory of Northern Ireland for a significant section of the population."Brian Walker wrote about the Richard Rose survey from 1968 and subsequent analyses of identity in Northern Ireland:
"In the late 1960s Professor Richard Rose conducted a survey of opinion in Northern Ireland about national identity. Of the Protestants, nearly all of whom we can assume were unionist and carried British passports, 20% saw themselves as Irish, 32% as Ulster, 39% as British, and the rest as a mixture of these identities.
The following decades, however, would witness a dramatic drop in the percentage of Protestants who viewed themselves as Irish. The figure fell to 8% in 1978, 4% in 1989 and 1% in 1993.
Writing in 1995, Rev John Dunlop, former Presbyterian moderator, observed that: “Twenty-five years of IRA violence have, for many, all but destroyed whatever identification with Irishness there may have been.” He also argued that Irish nationalism, north and south, had developed an ‘exclusive and excluding Irish identity’ which had helped to undermine the sense of Irishness held by many unionists."Another cleft that divided protestants and catholics, or the British and Irish in Northern Ireland was the existence of the B-Specials. Rev Ken Newell asked:
"Does anyone here that I thought my daddy, the B-Special, was a bad man?"Derek Mahon said:
"I didn’t look at these people as terrifying B-Specials and so on—they were my family."For protestants this was fair and just civil organisation. For Catholics this was a rogue force who dealt in fear and oppression of that religious minority.