Re: Northern Ireland
The IRA started out fairly non-violent,
I doubt if people who lived through the civil war in the 20s would agree with you, the anti-treaty forces were in no way "fairly non-violent". The split to form the Provisionals in 1969 was driven more by what they saw as the failure of nationalist politicians to take a hard line and their willingness to see the Army as peacekeepers. To suggest that it was only because of the violence from the UVF et al is disingenuous, the PIRA had it's own agenda well planned. I suggest reading Tim Pat Coogan's "The I.R.A." for a detailed overview from that side of the fence.
is it any wonder that the IRA became increasingly violent in response
"he started it first" is hardly an excuse, even if it were true.
Northern Ireland history is a complicated mess and not the black and white IRA = bad, everyone else = good that was spoon fed to the British public by the media over 30 years.
It is indeed complicated, but the mainstream UK and Irish media did an excellent job of portraying the reality, although the same can't be said for US and some European media.
On that subject, did you see Fergal Keane's recent "Story of Ireland" series? I thought he did a reasonable job of giving a high-level balanced view.
t was the culmination of 400 years of oppression in Ireland that saw millions die unnecessarily in the famines of the C19th.
You're conflating two separate issues. The (lack of) reaction to the famine was mostly due to ignorance from absentee landlords rather than any deliberate oppression, and the real roots go back much further than 400 years. More like 900, when Derrmot invited the Normans in, or arguably before that to celtic/gaelic fighting. In any case it serves no useful purpose to keep going back in time until you find someone to blame for "your tribe" losing, and hence to justify present-day violence.
If you're going to condemn the IRA, then you must also condemn the RUC and UVF at the same time
I'll happily blame the UVF, UDA, LVF etc. along with the republican groups, but I will take great offence at you lumping the RUC in with them as terrorists. I wouldn't claim they're perfect, far from it (and especially the long-disbanded B Specials) but I have and had many friends in the RUC and PSNI who took great risks to protect everyone in NI. To group them in with IRA/UVF is an unjustified and offensive slur on their professionalism and courage.