Quotations: Background to Northern Ireland

These pages contain quotations from or about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. They contain statements and remarks about Northern Ireland and the Troubles by notable political figures, military and paramilitary commanders, contemporaries and historians. New quotations are constantly being added to these pages and suggestions are most welcome. If you would like to suggest a quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“Few would dispute that Ireland has had a troubled history… It presents a fascinating example of the overlapping layers of conflict and how they seep into the history, politics and culture of the people caught up in it. Centuries of troubled history were crystallised into a generation of political violence from the 1960s until the 1990s. This helped to fuse historical, political, cultural and social divisions into a heady cocktail of sectarian violence…”
Feargal Cochrane, Anglo-Irish academic and author

“If the characteristic mark of a healthy Christianity be to unite its members by a bond of fraternity and love, then there is no country where Christianity has more completely failed than Ireland.”
William Lecky, Irish historian, 1892

“Nationalism, as known to Tone and Emmett, is almost dead in the country, and a spurious substitute, as taught by the Irish Parliamentary Party, exists. The generation now growing old is the most decadent generation nationally since the Norman invasion, and the Irish patriotic spirit will die forever unless a blood sacrifice is made in the next few years.”
Sean MacDermott, Irish Republican Brotherhood, 1914

“All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”
W.B Yeats, Easter 1916

“I know all the English arguments. They only take account of England’s position. It is quite natural that they should only take account of England’s position, but they are all founded upon the English delusion that Ireland is a part of England.”
Captain D. D. Sheehan, Irish nationalist, 1918

“The speeches heard from Northern Orangemen remind one of the unrolling of a mummy. All old bones and rotten rags.”
Sir Edward Carson, Ulster Unionist leader

“Drogheda beware – If in the vicinity a policeman is shot, five of the leading Sinn Feiners will be shot. It is not coercion – it is an eye for an eye. We are not drink-maddened savages as we have been described in the Dublin rags. We are not out for loot. We are inoffensive to women. We are as humane as other Christians, but we have restrained ourselves too long. Are we to lie down while our comrades are being shot down in cold blood by the corner boys and ragamuffins of Ireland? We say ‘Never’ and all the inquiries will not stop our desire for revenge. Stop the shooting of the police or we will lay low every house that smells of Sinn Fein.”
Black and Tan poster, 1920

“We used to say that we could not trust an Irish parliament in Dublin to do justice to the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that reproach can no longer be made against your parliament… let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority.”
Sir Edward Carson, Ulster Unionist leader, 1921

“On these unfortunate beings the fury of the Orange Specials and Orange mobs falls daily and nightly. These people have committed no offence unless it is an offence to be born a Catholic… On the simple charge of being Catholic, hundreds of families are being continually driven from their houses… In these operations the Specials provide the petrol, firearms and immunity from prosecution.”
Manchester Guardian, May 1921

“I have always said that I am an Orangeman first and a politician and a member of this parliament afterwards… All I boast is that we have a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state.”
Sir James Craig, Northern Ireland prime minister, 1934