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Blogs not bullets

Peter Barron | 12:54 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

For me the most striking story of the week was the end of Operation Banner, the 38-year-old British army operation in support of the police in Northern Ireland. Having grown up in Belfast, I can only very barely remember a time when there weren't troops on the streets.

Newsnight logoWe lived in a peaceful part of town, but I still remember the chilling feeling if you got stuck in a queue of traffic at night behind an army Land Rover, with a couple of blacked up, anxious squaddies peering out the back. It was a relief all round when the traffic started to move again.

Later, I remember the very different reactions of friends from "over the water" who visited Northern Ireland. Some were horrified at the sight of the heavily tooled-up armoured cars - everyone called them pigs - on the streets of a British city, others were surprised the army weren't on every street as they'd been led by the news bulletins to expect.

The BBC's coverage of the end of Banner has led to something of an outbreak of hostilities on the Northern Irish blogs, particularly from Unionist bloggers (here and here). But the really striking thing is that nearly 40 years of troubles and thousands of killings have now been reduced to little more than an online skirmish.

For Newsnight's coverage (which you can watch here) of the end of the longest military operation in the history of the British army we sent our producer Jonathan Bell back to the streets of Derry where he had once patrolled as an infantryman. In the Creggan estate he told locals what he'd being doing on those streets 20 years ago - then a shooting gallery, now a tourist attraction.

Their extraordinary response: "Oh aye?"

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 07:31 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Steven Martin wrote:

Things could have been very different if the British government had listened to continuous calls for an international peacekeeping force to take over from British forces.

Like Israel today, they were not interested.

  • 2.
  • At 09:21 AM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • chris wrote:

it is remarkable that this item has only one post and yet anything to do with 'islamic terrorism' (apologies to those who resist this label) is inundated with posts immediately.

we seem as a species to prefer to watch catastrophe unravel than to learn from experience, such as deploying UN rather than Brit forces as noted by poster 1.

the cyber pen can be mightier than the bomb, "nearly 40 years of troubles and thousands of killings have now been reduced to little more than an online skirmish" and yet...

the current attacks on 'the west' (is this the 'culture with no name'?) are, and were virtually from the start, recruited, coordinated and promoted on the web and so, despite the welcome communications from the Baghdad bloggers, the suicide bomb is so far proving impervious to the greater glory that can be obatined through peaceful dialogue.

  • 3.
  • At 11:56 AM on 05 Aug 2007,
  • shella wrote:

Would like to know why I have been banned from Newsnight blog - sent to the Gulag!

Can only think it was comment on this item that does not appear - it was a very mild comment!

I found your statement 'The BBC's coverage of the end of Banner has led to something of an outbreak of hostilities on the Northern Irish blogs' amusing and inaccurate. One, what you term as a blog, has an 'outbreak of hostilities' by commenter's on nearly every post.
I regularly read over 90 Northern Irish blogs and out of those there was hardly even a mention of Operation Banner, never mind any hostilities caused by BBC reporting.

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