Border Protestants and Republican Violence

  • Kenneth Funston

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The title of this thesis is ‘Border Protestants and Republican Violence’. It is a historically informed ethnological examination of the experiences of the minority community of County Fermanagh in the Northern Ireland Troubles, during the years 1969–94 inclusive. Those experiences are recounted through the qualitative interviews conducted by this researcher, and access to interviews recorded by the victims’ charity, the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF). These interviews are supported by further excerpts from the secondary data, principally from the local Fermanagh newspaper, The Impartial Reporter. It is the previously unrecorded and unwritten research that gives meaning to the memory politics of the past, and will potentially shape the meaning of Northern Ireland’s future (Schauble, 2017, p.8).
The thesis also focuses on the subjective reality of the Troubles, and how the violence is examined beyond the actual deed. That includes the reality that the actions of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) were not always driven by ideology; other motives included historical animosity, jealousy and personal grudges, which were used at times in an opportunistic way.
Fermanagh has a border with the Republic of Ireland on three sides, and rather than provide a protective barrier for the pro-union people living on the northern side of the border, it left them vulnerable to attack from the south. The British authorities struggled throughout the Troubles to secure the border and protect its citizens from what many deemed the ‘safe haven’ of the Irish Republic (Patterson, 2013, p.506). The constant cross-border attacks caused many deaths and injuries, and the destruction of countless commercial properties. Hundreds of people were forced to move inland, away from the border; many more emigrated, unable to live under the constant threat of terrorism.
The relentless attacks led Protestants living in the border area to believe that not only was there a terrorist campaign directly aimed at them, it was also a part of a strategy to drive them away from the border areas, giving the PIRA freedom to control those areas, unrestricted by the presence of pro-British people. Those who did not move claimed that there was an erosion of their culture and values, making them feel unwanted in their own country. During 30 years of terrorism, these local people bore the brunt of the attacks at a micro level, and that is something that has, to date, remained largely unexamined.
Date of AwardOct 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMaire Braniff (Supervisor) & Cillian Mc Grattan (Supervisor)

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