Anglo-Irish Agreement

An agreement signed on Nov. 15, 1985 between the British and Irish governments. The agreement reasserted the principle of consent for any change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. However, it gave the Irish government, for the first time, a consultative role in the administration of Northern Ireland through the Intergovernmental Conference.’

Armalite and Ballot Box

The term first arose in 1981 and was used to describe the commitment of the Republican movement to actively engage in the electoral process within Northern Ireland while at the same time maintaining its ongoing armed campaign at what it saw as the continuing British presence in Ireland.

Armed Struggle’ or ‘Armed Campaign

Armed Struggle was the name given by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to its campaign of violence against what it saw as the British presence in Ireland.

Battle of the Boyne

The Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 between the rival armies of the Protestant King William II and his father-in-law, the Catholic King James II. Although the conflict between the two men owed much to the political rivalry in Britain and on continental Europe, it took on great significance in Ireland. This was largely due to the fact that the victory of William II marked a watershed in Irish history in that it secured power for the Protestant ascendency while marking the end of the Catholic nobility and gentry in Ireland. The battle itself is celebrated each year on July 12 by parades organized by the Loyal Orders. In recent times these parades have become a contentious issue between the two communities in Northern Ireland. For Protestants the parades are considered to be a celebration of their culture, but for Catholics they are judged to be examples of Protestant triumphalism.

Bloody Friday

On July 21, 1972, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) exploded some 26 bombs across Belfast which killed nine people and injured more than 130. This event triggered recruitment into Loyalist paramilitaries. On April 16, 2002, the IRA issued a statement offering its “sincere apologies and condolences” for the “deaths and injuries of non-combatants.” Within this statement was a specific reference to the bombings on ‘Bloody Friday’.

Bloody Sunday

On Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, 13 people were shot dead by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army during an anti-Internment march in Derry. A further 14 people were shot and injured and of these one died in June the same year. While the Army claimed they had only fired after being shot at, those involved in the parade denied such claims and maintained that those shot were innocent victims. The events of the day have been the subject of much controversy and, as a result, two separate inquiries were established by the British government to investigate wrongdoing.

Bombay Street

During sectarian clashes in 1969, Bombay Street in West Belfast, a Catholic area, was attacked by Protestants, and all the houses on the street were burned to the ground. Although the street itself was later rebuilt, the events of that night were remembered and used by Republicans as a reason for never again allowing their community to be left defenseless. As a result when the issue of decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons was raised in the late 1990s, people were urged to “‘remember Bombay Street’.”


Colloquial shortening of “British.” Mostly used in a derogatory manner by Republicans and mainly to refer to the British Army.

Broadcasting Ban

In 1972 the Irish government, in the wake of the growing unrest in the North of Ireland, chose to ban the broadcasting of interviews involving members of illegal organizations. This was done by means of Section 31 of the 1960 Broadcasting Act, which prohibited the broadcasting of any sort of material seen as promoting or inciting crime. On October 19 1988 Douglas Hurd, then British home secretary, announced restrictions under terms of the 1981 Broadcasting Act. These prevented broadcasters from using direct statements by members of specific proscribed organizations and also applied to individuals who were canvassing support for the named organizations. To try to get around these measures broadcasters began to dub an actor’s voice to speak the words of paramilitary representatives whilst showing appropriate film footage. In the wake of developments in the ‘Peace Process’ in the early 1990s both governments moved to lift their respective bans. The first to act was Dublin on Jan. 19, 1994, and London lifted its restrictions on Sept. 16, 1994.

Confidence Building Measures

In the wake of the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998, there arose demands from the various parties involved for measures to be taken which would convince people that there would be no return to violence and that the Agreement would be honored. The steps to be taken by each side were known as “‘confidence-building measures’”. Examples were the scaling down of security operations; the early release of paramilitary prisoners; reform of the police and justice system; the ending of punishment beatings; and decommissioning of weapons by the various paramilitary groups.

Consent/Consent Principle

Consent, or Consent Principle, refers to the requirement that a majority of the electorate in Northern Ireland would have to vote in favor of any change to the constitutional position of the region. This principle was incorporated into a number of acts and agreements. Republicans considered this principle to be effectively a “‘Unionist veto’”.

Constitutional Nationalist

The term refers to Nationalists who reject the use of physical force as a means of achieving a United Ireland. Instead they would advocate nonviolent or constitutional means to try to persuade their opponents of the merit of reunification.


The term is used to describe initiatives that involve the two main communities in Northern Ireland — the Catholic/Nationalist community and the Protestant/Unionist community. In particular it refers to attempts to improve community relations by encouraging cross-community contacts.

Declaration of Intent to Withdraw

The central aim of the Republican movement was to force the British government to withdraw from Northern Ireland. During secret talks between the IRA and British officials, and during political negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British government, Republicans attempted to secure a “‘declaration of intent to withdraw”‘ from Northern Ireland in the absence of immediate withdrawal.


Decommissioning in the context of the Irish Peace Process refers to the hand-over, or verified disposal, of weapons by paramilitary groups. The issue has proved to be a stumbling block during the whole process of trying to find a solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.


Derry, or Londonderry, is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and is situated in the west of the region close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. Following the Elizabethan conquest of Ulster and the beginnings of the Jacobean plantation of the region, the name of the city was changed to Londonderry on March 29, 1613. Nationalists have always referred to the city as Derry. Before the beginning of “The Troubles” most Unionists also referred to the city as Derry. Since the onset of the present conflict the name of the city has been a source of contention with Unionists using the official name. The official name of the city remains Londonderry and can only be changed by royal charter.

Devolved Government

Any government in Northern Ireland which has substantial legislative and executive powers delegated to it by the Westminster (British) Parliament. This has occurred at different times since the partition of Ireland: The Stormont Parliament (1921-72) had wide-ranging powers, as did the power-sharing Executive of 1974.

Direct Rule

The system of governing Northern Ireland whereby the Westminster Parliament has responsibility, through the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), for legislative and executive control of the region. Direct rule was imposed on Northern Ireland in March 1972, was suspended during the operation of the power-sharing Executive of 1974, and then re-imposed until Dec. 2, 1999 when powers were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly under the Good Friday Agreement. During suspensions of the institutions of government in Northern Ireland (when local Northern Irish parties were unable to agree on power-sharing), Direct Rule was re-imposed in 2000, briefly in 2001, and again in 2002.

Downing Street Declaration

A document issued on Dec. 15, 1993 by the British and Irish governments. A key part of the Peace Process which was eventually to lead to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire of Aug. 31, 1994. The document reiterated the fact that the British government had no “selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland” and, subject to the wish of a majority of the electorate, would introduce legislation enabling a United Ireland.

Falls/Falls Road/The Falls

A large working-class Catholic area in west Belfast. Many people in the area support the Republican movement.

Good Friday Agreement (GFA)/Belfast Agreement

On Good Friday, April 10, 1998, after almost two years of negotiations the Northern Ireland multi-party talks resulted in a political agreement between the parties present at the negotiations. The agreement was later referred to as the “‘Good Friday Agreement’.” The Agreement has also been referred to as ‘the “Belfast Agreement,”‘ ‘the “Stormont Agreement’,” and the “‘Agreement Reached in the Multi-Party Negotiations’.”

Hume-Adams/Hume-Adams Talks

In the early 1990s, John Hume, then-leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Gerry Adams, then-president of Sinn Féin (SF), engaged in a series of discussions in an effort to encourage the prospects of a political settlement. This process became known as the ‘Hume-Adams’ talks and, on April 24, 1993, they released their first joint statement.

Hunger Strikes

This term refers to the main hunger strike by Republican prisoners in the Maze Prison during 1981. Ten prisoners died during the strike, which was undertaken to achieve “‘political status”‘ for Republican prisoners. Several of these prisoners had been elected to the British Parliament while in prison. The masses of Catholic supporters that attended their funerals and subsequently supported the IRA or its political party Sinn Féin triggered the IRA’s decision to devote more resources to its political strategy.

Interface Areas

The boundary between Catholic (Nationalist) and Protestant (Unionist) areas, especially where two highly segregated areas are situated close to each other, are known as interface areas. In many such areas of Belfast the interface is marked by a physical barrier known as a peaceline.


On August 9, 1971, the Northern Ireland government, with the support of the authorities in London, decided to intern without trial those suspected of paramilitary-related activities. Initially the measure was used exclusively against suspects within the Catholic community.


Strictly speaking, the term Loyalist refers to one who is loyal to the British Crown. The term in Northern Ireland context is used by many commentators to imply that the person gives tacit or actual support the use of force by paramilitary groups to “‘defend the union”‘ with Britain.

MP/Member of Parliament

Those elected to Westminster or Stormont parliaments.


In Northern Ireland, the term is used to describe those who hold a long-term wish for the reunification of Ireland. The majority of those people who are from the Catholic community are Nationalists. It should be noted that not all Nationalists support Republican groups.

“No” Campaign

In the referendum campaign in May 1998, those within the Unionist community opposed to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) pooled their resources together in order to try to persuade the electorate in Northern Ireland to vote “‘no” —’ hence their campaign was known simply as the ‘No’ campaign.

No First Strike Policy

The term was first used in the wake of the ceasefire by the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) in October 1994 and was used to suggest that Loyalists would refrain from violent attacks provided that Republican paramilitaries stuck to their ceasefire. Later other organizations such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) adopted this “no first strike policy.”

No Guns - No Government

This slogan was used to sum up demands by elements within the Unionist community that their political leaders should not enter into any power-sharing executive with Sinn Féin without complete decommissioning of weapons by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

No Surrender

A popular slogan used by the Unionist/Loyalist community to sum up their opposition to any attempt to change Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom. The slogan first was used by Protestant defenders during the Siege of Derry in 1689.


Adjective used to imply a Unionist bias.

Orange Order

The Orange Order is a Protestant association founded in 1795. It is believed that its membership reached a peak of approximately 70,000 in 1965. In 2012 it was estimated that membership stood at 34,000. In the past the order had strong links with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The Orange Order holds around 2,000 parades each year in Northern Ireland. Members are called “Orangemen.”


Strictly speaking, the term refers to a person who supports the style of government based on a republic over a monarchy. In the Northern Ireland context, the term Republican is taken to imply that the person gives tacit or actual support to the use of physical force by paramilitary groups with Republican aims. The main aim of Republicans being the establishment of a United (32 county) Ireland.

Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was the name of the Northern Ireland police force from June 1,1922 to Nov. 4, 2001. The RUC was responsible for dealing with politically motivated crime as well as ordinary law enforcement. During most of the period of its existence, the RUC was almost entirely made up of Protestants (93% in the 1990s). Many Catholics had little trust in the impartiality of the RUC. On Nov. 4, 2001, the name of the RUC was changed to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Siege Mentality

This particular phrase is often used by Nationalist and Republican politicians in an attempt to explain the mindset of the Unionist/Loyalist community in Northern Ireland. It refers back to the fact that the minority Protestant population in Ireland has always considered itself “under siege” from the majority Catholic population.


Stormont refers both to the Unionist-controlled government of Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972 and to the grand buildings in east Belfast in which the government sat between 1932 and 1972.


This is a term frequently used, mostly by Unionists, to describe Northern Ireland. It refers to the fact that the six counties that make up Northern Ireland were (and remain) part of the province of Ulster. Some people, mainly Nationalists, take exception to the use of the term.


In Northern Ireland the term is used to describe those who wish to see the union with Britain maintained. The majority of those people who are from the Protestant community are Unionist. It should be noted that not all Unionists support Loyalist groups.


Refers to the parliament of the United Kingdom based in the Palace of Westminster in London.

“Yes” Campaign

During the referendum campaign on the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in April and May 1998, those who supported the GFA came together in a “Yes” campaign in order to persuade the electorate in Northern Ireland to vote “Yes” for the GFA.

This is a concise version of a longer glossary that was prepared by Ariel Heifetz Knobel. The longer version is available at:

1Selected definitions, with slight alterations to the wording, are taken from: Glossary, Conflict Archive on the Internet, INCORE at the University of Ulster.