Symbolic number falls short of a full equation: David McKittrick examines the unrelenting toll of violence during more than 20 years of the Troubles
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Saturday 29 August 1992
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
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.
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Jennifer Lawrence: 'It should be illegal to call someone fat on TV'
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Ian Watkins: Police probed over earlier allegations as paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences
DNA from a 50,000 year old toe shows Neanderthals were highly inbred
Devyani Khobragade: India-US row escalates over arrest of diplomat in New York
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
UK evangelist says Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Police probed over earlier allegations as paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£10 - £12 per hour: Pro-Recruitment Group: An opportunity has arisen within th...
Flexible, Competitive, Weekly.: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad ...
£9600 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are...
£500 - £680 per day: Harrington Starr: Murex Business Analyst - 1000 CHF per d...