after reading Tim Pat Coogan’s history of the Troubles, I figured I had a pretty comprehensive grasp of the scope and nature of tensions in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. of course, reading about something is nothing to visiting places that endured such turmoil or hearing people who lived through the experiences share their stories. perhaps the most suprirising thing that I learned about the Troubles, however, was that in the tumult of 1969, the Taoiseach at the time, Jack Lynch, had plans for the Republic to invade the North. there’d been massive rioting in Belfast in addition to the Battle of the Bogside. other nationalist towns, such Armagh and Newry, saw violence as well.
while I was in Drogheda, RTE One aired a special that postulated the outcome, had Jack Lynch given the call for Ireland to invade. (The Guardian comments here) I had absolutely no idea that Ireland had it’s own 60’s “Bay of Pigs” moment. the general consensus of the Irish people with whom I discussed this? it would have been a complete and total disaster for the Republic. taking on the Britsh Empire, even in its twilight? insane. and, as some critics have argued, at the time the IRA was in no position to provide tactical military support. in 1969 it was still a relatively small, guerrilla force that simply could not provide the assistance that the army of the Republic would need to succeed, should they invade the North.
obviously, Ireland chose not to invade, and history took a different turn, but the documentary was an interesting look at a possible outcome.