Like most Englishmen or women, nothing made me hit the TV zapper faster than reports of the latest misery in Northern Ireland. The drizzle of death rarely impinged on our lives, unless there was some oblique personal connection to the latest killing. Most of the time, for most people, the Troubles were a bore, involving two unattractive sets of murderers playing their own version of tit-for-tat, with the British Army doing a little bit of killing on the side. There was a reason for this lack of interest: the conflict, not quite a war, seemed intractable. As nothing could be done to end it, nothing new needed to be understood.