Europe

Conflict in Northern Ireland Part 2

The island is divided

From the second half of the 19th century, more and more Irish people began to demand increased self-determination, and in 1916 they revolted. The so-called Easter uprising was quickly crushed, but the British were eventually forced to realize that they had to let go of Ireland.

Protestants in the Northeast opposed any talk of self-government and threatened to use force if forced into an Irish state. They also considered breaking away from Britain and forming an independent state. As a compromise, an agreement was reached at the end of 1921 where the island was divided.

The Irish Free State in the south gained limited autonomy, while six counties in the north remained British. Contradictions over the agreement led to civil war in the south in 1922–1923 (see Ireland: Older History ). The Northern Ireland issue became an infected topic in Irish politics and caused tensions in relations with Britain for a long time.

Northern Ireland came to be ruled without any major interference from the London government. The Northern Irish Parliament, Stormont, founded in 1920, came to be completely dominated by the conservative Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The Protestants made up about 65 percent of the population, which gave them a clear advantage over the Catholic minority. Many Catholics refused to accept the division of the island and did not participate when the new administration was built.

Increased prosperity

According to ebizdir, Northern Ireland Catholics were discriminated against in several areas: for example, they had more difficulty finding work and housing than Protestants, and the electoral system benefited the economically stronger Protestant population. The Northern Ireland police force consisted almost exclusively of Protestants. In order to advance in society, both in business and politics, one must be a member of the Order of Orange, which brought together Protestants from all walks of life.

Violent protests and clashes between Catholics and Protestants flared up from time to time, especially during periods of economic decline. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) had been formed in 1919 to fight British rule. The group continued to fight for a united Ireland during the 1920s, 1940s and 1950s, but support for the IRA’s struggle waned in the early 1960s.

After World War II, a period of increased economic prosperity followed. In Northern Ireland, it was now easier for Catholics to get jobs. The British Government’s expansion of social welfare and better educational opportunities for all led to the emergence of a Catholic middle class. But Northern Ireland continued to be a segregated society, where both Protestants and Catholics identified with their religion and had little to do with each other.

The Troubles

In the late 1960s, the violent period in Northern Ireland, commonly known as The Troubles, began. What began as a protest against the discrimination of the province’s Catholic minority set off a wave of violence that for more than 30 years claimed more than 3,700 lives. After long and complicated talks, the parties managed to reach a peace agreement in 1998, but it took another number of years before a provincial government was in place and groups such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Corps (UVF) laid down their arms.

In 1967, a civil rights movement was formed, Nicra (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association), which peacefully protested against discrimination against the Catholic population and demanded that Protestants and Catholics be treated equally. For these activists, the issue of a united Ireland was not important; they required changes within the existing system.

Protestants who felt threatened by the authorities responded to the protests by force. In the summer of 1969, Northern Ireland was shaken by violent confrontations between Protestants and Catholics. Until then, the population lived more mixed than today, but violence forced hundreds of families (most of whom were Catholic) to flee their homes.

The British army was called in to end the violence. In 1970, parts of the IRA, which called itself the Provisional IRA , took up arms again. The Provisional IRA (hereinafter referred to as the IRA ) launched a bombing campaign against both civilian and military targets.

Attempts to carry out reforms demanded by both Nicra and the predominantly Catholic Social Democrats and Labor (SDLP) came too late to dampen Catholic dissatisfaction, while all changes met with stubborn opposition from many Protestant unionists. Among the loudest opponents were Protestant pastor Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party .

Terror begins

The Catholic people initially regarded the British soldiers as their protectors. But the army’s harsh methods of gaining access to the IRA led to the military being seen with increasing hostility. Support for the IRA grew. Getting the British troops out of Irish soil became increasingly important to the IRA, whose main goal was a united Ireland.

The situation became even more acute when British soldiers in January 1972, the so-called Bloody Sunday, shot dead 13 Catholic protesters in Londonderry (as the Catholics call Derry). Seven of the victims were teenagers. The Government of Northern Ireland resigned and a few months later the Government of London took control of the province (see Towards Peace ).

The spiral of violence took off and semi-military groups on both sides were guilty of bloody attacks. The worst period was 1971–1976. In 1972 alone, nearly 500 people were killed, almost half of them by the IRA. Thereafter, the terror claimed about a hundred lives a year until 1994. Most of the victims were civilians.

The IRA carried out bombings in Northern Ireland, England and the Republic of Ireland.

Protestant groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Corps (UVF) and the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), which wanted to preserve ties with Britain, targeted their attacks on civilian Catholics, both in Northern Ireland and in Ireland.

At the same time, the Northern Ireland economy deteriorated, partly due to the conflict, and partly as a result of a general crisis for heavy industry. Northern Ireland became increasingly dependent on financial support from the British state.

Conflict in Northern Ireland 2