This looks like a must-read; Kevin Myers’ personal history of 1970s Belfast, complete with fundamentalist landladies, Provos concerned about the morality of using a condom in the initiator for a carbomb, the only civil war in history where both sides were receiving welfare benefits from the same government, the UDA as the only terrorists in history to have a regimental blazer, and the unpleasant but undeniable fact that so many people Myers knew were enjoying the war.
This bit specifically got my attention:
While Catholics were discriminated against by the Stormont civil service they were admitted into the then imperial civil service, run from London. This included the Post Office telephone system, which recruited and trained many Catholics, who became the most sophisticated electricians in Northern Ireland; some of them were in the IRA, whose bomb-makers became the finest of any terrorists in the world, while the loyalists, supposed inheritors of Ulster’s great engineering traditions, continued to make what were in essence big fireworks.
You want historical irony? You want the sociology of technology? Right there. In a sense, nothing could be more appropriate for a bunch of reactionaries like the UDA than that precisely their aims – making damn sure no taigs got above semi-skilled in the shipyard – were actually sabotaging their military effectiveness. As for so many places up north, the second industrial revolution – electricity, chemicals and all that German stuff – was never particularly welcome.
Which is why, perhaps, this guy may have been more of a threat than I’d otherwise have thought. I mean, who hasn’t called John Reid a tyrant? But it’s this bit that’s more interesting; he’s a BT electrician. ISTR the Operation Crevice team were trying to recruit BT linesmen at one point; not just to chop the wires, perhaps.