Troops Out Movement

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The Troops Out Movement (TOM) is an organisation formed in the UK in 1973[1] following the attacks by the British Army on the minority Catholic/Nationalist populations, particularly the murders of unarmed civilians in Derry and Belfast by British paratroopers. The single aims were to secure the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland and self-determination for the Irish people as a whole. This required other demands such as the demilitarisation of the local police and paramilitary police support (the B Specials) as well as opposition to UK Government policies that maintained discrimination against Catholic people in areas such as elections, housing, education, cultural pursuits, jobs and social welfare. This led TOM to seek partnerships and joint working with like-minded organisations in the UK, Ireland and internationally.

As the political and civil defence situation (Catholics defending their areas from the police, their official paramilitary arm and unofficial paramilitary groups drawn from the Unionist organisations) developed in Northern Ireland (six of nine counties of the region of Ulster partitioned off by the British in 1921), the TOM became closely linked to Sinn Féin. The TOM trod a path to distance itself from the Provisional IRA while simultaneously claiming that armed struggle was a reasonable choice by oppressed Irish people in response to their experiences of struggling against the policies and actions of British governments and their Unionist allies in Northern Ireland.

TOM's two demands, "British troops out of Ireland" and "self-determination for the Irish people as a whole"[2] were based on the removal of the British political and military presence in Ireland, as they considered that this was fundamental to a peaceful solution to the Troubles, and that only when that happens could the people of Ireland truly determine their own future. However, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement recognised "Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom" and declared "that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people".[3]


The movement was founded in west London in late 1973. Its first main event, a large public meeting, took place at Fulham Town Hall in 24 October 1973. By the end of the year there were branches in Manchester, Coventry, Birmingham and north and south London. By 1975 the TOM claimed to have a membership of over 1,200 people.[4]

The TOM was a 'single issue' organisation, but its membership generally comprised people who were also members of left-wing, socially progressive and humanitarian organisations. This shaped its campaigns but also caused some friction with views of the various groups it worked with in Ireland; this was particularly true for issues such as women's liberation, gay rights and anti-racism.

The TOM campaigned very actively across UK politics, drawing lessons from British action over Ireland and the way it shaped events and approaches by successive governments in Britain. This saw TOM creating solidarity links with many political, social and cultural events in the UK among Britain's Irish communities, Trade Unions. Faith Groups, anti-Nazi and anti-racist groups, international support groups, etc.

The TOM provided a resource for people who wanted to learn about Britain’s role in Ireland, including public meetings, conferences, concerts, a UK-wide branch meeting structure, frequent demonstrations and protests in every major UK city, annual and other delegations to Northern Ireland, managed visits to Ireland, publications, etc. Notably TOM organised "Black Flag" protests on the day every Hunger Striker died[5]. By the 1990s TOM recognised both the value and limitations of the Good Friday Agreement; endorsing the issues of justice, policing, equality, demilitarisation, employment discrimination, cultural rights and the Irish language, while also highlighting sectarian attacks on nationalist communities from loyalist paramilitaries.

Increasingly the TOM campaigned against the policies and actions of the Irish Republic as these became linked to those of the British government, including the shoot-to-kill policy, use of torture, false imprisonment, covert military and paramilitary actions, abuse of informers to frame the innocent, and manipulation of the media to misreport events. They protested for the immediate end to the use of rubber and plastic bullets.

Since the relative peace in Northern Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement and ceasefires, TOM activity declined. By the mid-2000's very few, if any active Branches existed, the monthly TOM paper ceased and the ad-hoc on-line briefing had also stopped.

One notable member of the TOM was Paddy Prendiville, who later went on to edit the satirical magazine The Phoenix.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dawson, Graham; Dover, Jo; Hopkins, Stephen (2016-11-19). The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain : impacts, engagements, legacies and memories. Dawson, Graham, 1956-, Dover, Jo,, Hopkins, Stephen, 1967-. Manchester. ISBN 9780719096310. OCLC 950450765.
  2. ^ "An Phoblacht/Republican News". 1999-08-19. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  3. ^ Clause 1(iii)
  4. ^ Dawson, Graham; Hopkins, Stephen (2016-12-28), "Introduction: The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain: impacts, engagements, legacies and memories", The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain, Manchester University Press, pp. 118–119, doi:10.7228/manchester/9780719096310.003.0001, ISBN 9780719096310
  5. ^ "The Hunger Strikes". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  6. ^ Archived from the original on May 10, 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

The Bishopsgate Institute in London has a reasonable archive of political and cultural material accumulated by a TOM member over the 1970's to 2000's, including documents from the East London TOM Branch[1].

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Bishopsgate Institute - Troops Out Movement - Troops out Movement". Retrieved 2019-02-09.