Symbolic number falls short of a full equation: David McKittrick examines the unrelenting toll of violence during more than 20 years of the Troubles

THE figure of 3,000 deaths is largely symbolic, as there is no universally agreed statistic on the number of people killed in the Troubles. This particular figure comes from the RUC, but it omits several controversial deaths and the killings outside Northern Ireland.

It excludes, among others, a republican suspect who hanged himself in police custody in 1978, and the RUC officer who committed suicide after killing three men in a Sinn Fein office in Belfast this year.

If deaths outside the province are included, the figure rises to well past 3,000, as there have been more than 100 deaths in Britain, exactly 100 in the Irish Republic and 18 on the Continent.

Similarly, there are no definitive figures for the numbers killed by each agency active in Northern Ireland - the republicans, the extreme loyalists and the security forces. Until a few years ago, the authorities listed the number of killings carried out by republicans and loyalists, but they have now stopped this practice.

The most useful figures have been compiled by a retired Belfast teacher, Michael McKeown, but no truly authoritative study has yet emerged. An estimate can be made, however, using Mr McKeown's figures together with those the RUC once issued, and files kept by the Independent.

There are so many unclear killings, however, that the following estimates should be regarded as guidelines rather than accurate figures:

Killed by republicans: 1,720

Killed by loyalists: 780

Killed by security forces: 350

Others/unclassified: 150

The republican total is mainly made up of IRA killings, together with a much smaller number of victims of two splinter groups, the Irish National Liberation Army and the Irish People's Liberation Organisation.

Killings in the republic have been carried out by republicans and loyalists, while deaths on the Continent are almost entirely the responsibility of the former.

More than 90 per cent of loyalist killings are believed to be the work of the two main extreme Protestant groupings, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

The RUC classifies the dead as either members of the security forces or civilians, but the latter category is diverse, and contains former members of the security forces, prison officers, judges and magistrates, suspected terrorists, those shot as informers and others.

The pattern of deaths has changed greatly over the years. The security forces have never looked like eradicating the violence, but in the past 15 years the toll has not exceeded 113 in any one year. Compared with pre-1977 death rates, it can be argued that even that level of death represents success of a sort for a policy of containment.

Almost half of all deaths, 1,477, occurred from 1972 to 1976 when violence rose to heights not seen since.

Last year was considered a bad one with 94 deaths, but in 1972, 95 people were killed in July alone. The total for that year was 467, with the regular Army suffering 103 casualties. There were more than 10,000 shooting incidents - an average of 29 per day - and an average of nearly four explosions per day.

Since 1977, the security forces, while unable to defeat the paramilitary groups, have held the violence to a certain level. The terrorists remain unbeaten, but they lack the capacity to render Northern Ireland ungovernable.

The net result is a stalemate: neither the authorities nor the terrorists have the upper hand. The death rate rises and falls, but does so within certain statistical limits. One of the few consolations is the thought that, bad as things have been, it could all have been much worse.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on