Friday 20 November 2009

Superannuated hard men

The media has reported the arrests of numerous people recently in connection with the murders of PSNI Constable Carroll, two British soldiers, and yesterday's attempted mortar attack in Armagh.

What is remarkable about many of those arrested (and in many cases, it should be noted, released without charges) is their age.

Amongst the men arrested in connection with the Constable Carroll murder were:
  • Brendan McConville, age 37
  • a 17-year-old youth
  • two men, aged 27 and 31, who were being questioned in connection with the murder were released without charge
Amongst the 14 people arrested in connection with the murders of the two British solders were:
  • Colin Duffy, age 41
  • Brian Shivers, age 44
  • Marian Price, age 55
  • A 39-year-old man from south Tyrone
And the man arrested in connection with yesterday's Armagh mortar find is 42.

During the hotter parts of the troubles the average age of activists was generally in their teens and 20s. It was relatively rare for men, or women, in their thirties or forties to be on "active service". The leaders – on both sides – were often only in their thirties.

So the very visible increase in the ages of many of the perceived activists of today is interesting. It shows that for some people in their 40s, at least, the 'war' is far from over. But it also implies that for those in the 'prime military age' the war is indeed over. The flood of young recruits that the IRA received during the 1970s and 1980s is not now being repeated for the dissidents. The only young recruit that the arrests show is the 17 year-old arrested in connection with Constable Carroll.

Despite the increasing number of young adult Catholics at present, the military urge seems to remain quite restrained amongst them, unlike amongst the smaller group of middle-aged Catholics. The implication would appear to be that the younger generation do not share the 'unfinished business' urge of their elders – in the military sense at any rate. This younger generation seems to have opted for Sinn Féin's strategy rather than that of the dissidents.


Anonymous said...


as I'm sure you would agree it might only take the collapse of Stormont (reasonably likely) and a Tory government to row back on GFA committments(much less likley) for that age profile, in terms of violence, to drop significantly.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are Loyalists more than ready to meet any challenge head on...

Anonymous said...

Kill a taig then?

Anonymous said...

Is that a suggestion?

Anonymous said...

I am probably being incredibly naive here but would it possibly be within the Old IRA's ability to "clean up" the problem with the dissidents? The protestant paramilitaries dealt with their trouble makers,(Mad Dog et al.) Couldn't the republicans do the same?