The Price of Peace in Northern Ireland

“Say Nothing” Shows How Slow Reconciliation Can Be

Cathal McNaughton / REUTERS

The Northern Irish Troubles, relative to their scale, are the most studied conflict in modern history. They took place in a province the size of Connecticut with a population of around 1.6 million people, and they claimed fewer than 4,000 dead over the course of 25 years of continuous low-intensity warfare. The satirist P. J. O’Rourke called Northern Ireland “heck’s half-acre.” Early in the conflagration, the British government’s cynical policy was to maintain “an acceptable level of violence,” at least until one minister was indiscreet enough to admit it. Yet the Troubles have enthralled generations of writers and scholars. And no …