Belfast Telegraph

British won the war on IRA, claims writer Taylor

By Rebecca Black

The British won the war in Northern Ireland, according to veteran journalist Peter Taylor.

The seasoned broadcaster has come to the conclusion that the UK and unionism can claim to have emerged from the conflict victorious because of the disappearance of the IRA and the lack of a united Ireland.

The English broadcaster, one of the most recognisable faces in journalism, has been covering the conflict in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years and has made almost 100 programmes about it.

He has now made a new BBC documentary called Who Won The War? to be broadcast on Monday, which examines the price of peace and who, if anyone, can claim a victory after the Troubles.

And while he concludes that the British won, he adds that he would not rule out a united Ireland some time in the distant future.

The journalist interviewed a number of senior political figures for the documentary, including the DUP and Sinn Fein.

First Minister Peter Robinson told the programme that the Union was secure and ruled out a united Ireland ever happening.

"Unionists are capable of extracting a defeat from the jaws of victory, and nationalists and republicans are capable of gaining victory from the jaws of defeat," he said, adding that the dream of a united Ireland held by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and others was over.

"It just isn't going to happen... we have come out with our objectives intact, but that isn't always the way it is seen on the ground," the First Minister added.

Mr Adams denied this, saying "the struggle isn't over".

"I believe we will get a united Ireland, I believe it has to be a united Ireland in which unionism feels secure."

In contrast, ex-IRA hunger striker Gerard Hodgins was adamant that the British won the war.

"We lost. We just didn't get our united Ireland and now we are pretending it wasn't about freedom, that it was really about equality," he said.

"The IRA are too clever to tell the full truth of what was actually negotiated and unionists are just too stupid to recognise the enormity of what they have achieved in bringing the IRA to a negotiated settlement which accepts the six county state."

However, UDA leader Jackie McDonald and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said loyalists had not been served well by the peace process.

"Working-class unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland feel they haven't gained anything from the peace process," Mr Hutchinson told the programme.

"You'll see educational underachievement, you'll see poverty, you'll see deprivation but as well as that you'll see people whose culture has been trailed away from them."

Mr Taylor said he has seen transformation in Northern Ireland to somewhere that looks like "any other part of the UK".

He tracks down people he interviewed during the Troubles to see if they agreed with what they had said then.

Mr McDonald, watching footage of an interview he gave in the 1970s, said he and loyalists were wrong.

Mr McDonald joined the UDA in 1972 after Bloody Friday in which nine people died when the IRA planted bombs across Belfast.

"Some of my best friends are killers, and they took the fight to the republicans to show that the IRA was not this invincible army. It was to terrorise the terrorist."

Mr Taylor concludes: "Viewed through the prism of the present it is clear the British and the unionists won because the Union is secure and the IRA is no more."

"But nobody knows what the future may hold.

"The unimaginable has already happened with Martin McGuinness up there at Stormont as Deputy First Minister and dining at Windsor Castle with the Queen."

He added: "I wouldn't be surprised if at some stage in the long years ahead a united Ireland did emerge."

Who Won The War? will be broadcast on Monday on BBC1 at 9pm

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