chapter  2
27 Pages

British Policy on Terrorism: An Assessment

WithPaul Wilkinson

Britain's major experience of acts of terrorism in the period 1780 to 1970 stemmed from the campaigns of the Irish Republicans. Northern Ireland terrorism, occasionally spilling over into mainland Britain, developed into the worst-protracted and most deadly terrorist conflict experienced in the post-war history of Western Europe. There were some cases where terrorism was far more than simply an auxiliary weapon against British rule. The British Army's experience in countering terrorism stood it in good stead when, in August 1969, the Labour government of the day decided that it had to put the army into Northern Ireland to maintain public order. When one looks at the escalation of terrorism in Northern Ireland in 1972, with 467 killed, it is easier to understand why the British government was fully prepared to support a determined crackdown on the terrorists by the army, combined with the use of internment, introduced in 1972.