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THIRTY YEARS OF CONFLICT - Wednesday 27 December 21:00-22:00

Burnt out car in the Lower Shankill area of Belfast

Disagreements between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland have existed for centuries, but the problems escalated into all-out conflict in the late 1960s when the British army became involved. Since then, thousands of people have died in bombings and shootings carried out by both sides. Taking Bloody Sunday as a key turning point in The Troubles and using music as the linking thread, this Ballad tells personal stories from three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.


"I didn't know what religion the guys were when I joined; the currency was how good you were at playing your instrument."

People from both traditions recount how the Troubles have affected them and their communities. Radio Foyle presenter and musician Gerry Anderson tells of the bombs he's survived in the place he dubbed 'Stroke City' (Derry/Londonderry) and, in a particularly moving sequence, survivors of the Miami Showband tell their stories of the day in 1975 when three of the band were murdered by terrorists. Both these accounts inspired powerful songs from songwriter Jez Lowe.


The bodhran - symbolic drum of the Catholic Nationalists.

Two drums - the Lambeg, symbol of the Protestant Unionists and the bodhran, symbol of the Catholic Nationalists - are nowadays used in workshops by the organisation Different Drums in their work towards community integration. Writer Julie Matthews composed a beautiful song on this theme, which is performed in the Ballad by Dungiven singer Cara Dillon and features both Lambeg and bodhran.

Julie Matthews

"Unite or divide us when the time comes, We all dance to different drums."

The programme also considers how music has been used as a force for peace, to pull the two communities together. Veteran Civil Rights activist and peace campaigner Tommy Sands contributes several songs to the Ballad including the finale, Carry On, which he sang with politicians outside Stormont in the days leading up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Thirty Years of Conflict is a Radio Ballad full of harrowing stories that stands as a testament to the power of music.

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What is your view on Northern Ireland? Were you, your family or friends affected by the Troubles? What role do you think Irish folk music has played? Send us your comments.

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Read what others have said.

Martin ~ Afghanistan
What a brilliant piece of work - if anyone needs convincing of the power of radio as a media must listen to this. Wow - well done!

Lawrence KIDLINGTON Oxfordshire
I find no mention of "The Soldier" by Harvey Andrews. This is a much mis-interpreted ballad; claimed by both the "antis'" and the "pros'", but in fact a simple comment on the bravery and fate of British soldiers who, for the most part, had no axe to grind. What is clear is that the Army was originally brought in to defend Catholic enclaves - and then the process was hijacked by the IRA. Incidently the soldier in question was buried about 500 yards from where I was living at the time. Harvey did apply a bit of poetic licence in the song and has always not attributed the story - but I am absolutely sure that this is the man. The "Terrible Beauty" (Leon Uris) has seen so many victims.

Andrew, London
Programme is totally biased towards the nationalist minority. Astonishingly, once again the BBC is making the unionists out to be the baddies and appealing to the ignorant people outside Northern Ireland. Couldn't believe the hype and rubbish said about "Bloody Sunday" (typical IRA propaganda, used to insight hatred in nationalists, say no more) and agree with Colin below about the exlcusion of the IRA attrocities from the discussion. As Jackie said too, the IRA have murdered significantly more people and caused more destruction than loyalist terrorists and neither cause should be justified or romanticised.

Ray , Belfast
I had quite a lot of songs recorded during what were euphimistically called "The Troubles". You don't hear too many of them now, except at football matches and working class bars. Incidentally, I was barred,along with my band, the Wolfhound, from the airwaves in N.I. Don't worry RTE banned us as well, and the UVF did us the honour of naming us in "Combat" with instructions we were to be shot on sight. None of us worked on the building, or we probably would have been "shot on site"

Stephen, Middle East
As a former army officer, also disappointed by the caption to picture 4 "The Miami Showband, summer 1975. Three of their members were killed in July 1975 during a failed bomb-planting attempt by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)" This makes it appear that the UDR were a terrorist organisation, not a part of the British Army, whilst it is beyond dispute that the loyalist terrorists who carried out this attack contained amongst their number men who had been or were serving members of the UDR, not all of them were. Considering the efforts of the republicans to prevent Catholics from joining the UDR through a campaign of intimidation, this resulted in a polarised organisation, however over 20 000 service personnel served in the UDR, 197 of them paying the ultimate price of being killed in action, and a further 67 killed after they left. Out of the numbers involved, it is not surprising that a number of bad apples slipped through the net, I find your reference insulting to the many soldiers who served with the regiment, as well as inaccurate, Oh and by the way pic 14, the SA80 rifle is not made by Heckler & Koch.

Jackie. Lisburn.
I would like to answer Colin Macdonald's comments....I understand that there were many astrocities carried on the Protestant community, just as he identifies. I was there at the time. It seemed to me the programme was trying to explain to a larger audience outside of N.I and including N.I., why the "Troubles" began, something most people in the UK don't understand, and how music was and is part of the healing process. Looking at your comments as a Protestant in N.I. how clear is it, that Catholics were living in a unfair, prejudiced society, to the majority of Protestants who live there today? Should we add up how many Catholics died and how many Protestants died? And then how far back in history would you like you go? Each community both North and South, and in the UK also paid a price. But you know what? most people today want to live in peace.

Kevin Byers, County Down
Simplistic, lacking any real depth, and yet perversely a deeply moving broadcast. The choice of songs was not great compared with some of the previous Radio Ballads, although Tommy Sands stood out as his songs came from his own very real experience. A good attempt that almost worked, but not quite.

Ian, Colchester
Was pretty good but ruined for me by the failure to discuss or acknowledge the part played by the British political establishment, which was largely the cause of the Troubles after all.

Ciara - Co. Derry
Excellent, excellent show. Happened to tune in by accident last night and ended up listening to the whole thing. Once again showing that music can cross the divide and be appreciated by both communities. Particulary enjoyed Gerry Anderson's commentary.

colin macdonald suffolk ( NI protestant )
Never have I heard a more one sided, biased program about the troubles. While "Bloody Sunday" and the "Miami" got many minutes the "Dropping Well Inn" got one spoken line. Totally ignored were the many, many IRA bombings - La Mon, Bloody Friday, Warrenpoint,Shankill, Enniskillen, Kingsmill and above all Omagh.Gerry Anderson's experiences were dwelt on but what about my father's shop on the Ardoyne which was blown up 3 times by the IRA, the last one nearly claiming his life. I have so much enjoyed the standards of these radio ballads as I did the previous ballads in the 50 /60s. Sadly this blatantly biased program has left a sour taste in my mouth and has devalued the series.

Gabriel, Bristol
A wonderful programme which caught so many emotions perfectly. It could be added that there was slum housing, poverty and exploitation in both communities, and political leaders in both communities used the divisions to keep themselves in well paid jobs. Music and song can, and do, divide and insult as well as unite and heal. But we should be enormously grateful to those who have used it's power in order to promote peace.


Classic songs, covers, songwriting and more.


An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding

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