Northern Ireland (The Troubles) – Stefan Deitrich

Brief Summary/History of Conflict -include DATES

The Troubles refers to a violent conflict in Northern Ireland between the unionist Protestants and the Republican/Nationalist Catholics. It lasted roughly thirty years, from late 1968 until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10th 1998. The conflict can be traced back to the early English  colonization of the island when much of the north was colonized by English and Scottish Protestants, setting it apart from the rest of the Catholic region. The north and south also grew apart during the 1800’s due to economic differences and unequal standards of living. Early in the 20th century, the issue of Irish home rule divided the population into warring political parties, largely made up of Protestants and Catholics. The British government tried to diffuse the situation in 1920 with the Government of Ireland Act, which would divide Ireland into two political bodies that each had some elements of governmental power. This was accepted by the north but not by the south, which resulted in the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest. Although the arrangement had temporarily halted open hostilities, it did not last. Violence erupted again in 1968 and 1969 with the Londonderry and Belfast Riots. British troops were sent to calm the situation but the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Protestant military groups continued using terror tactics such as bombings. In 1972 the British government was forced to disable the parliament and take direct control from London. The first major attempt at peace was the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement which gave some power in Northern Ireland  to the Irish, but the extremists from both sides rejected the proposal and halted peace talks. The net serious attempt came in 1985 with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which gave Ireland more power in the north, but provided no Irish unification. However, this alienated a large portion of the unionist party, and received little support. The US became involved in 1995 when George Mitchell was sent to mediate peace talks. Multiparty peace talks finally began in June of 1996, eventually resulting in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This agreement resulted in an elected assembly, cross party cabinet, and more connection to the Republic of Ireland.

Catholicism_in_Ireland                              ireland

One of the key actors was the Republican & Nationalist party, who were almost exclusively Catholic, which was the minority in Northern Ireland. They wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join the rest of Ireland, which had become its own sovereign state in 1922 as part of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. They believed that there was not enough action by the parliament of Northern Ireland to stop the institutional discrimination of the Catholic minority.

The other key actor was the Unionist party, which was primarily made up of protestants who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom. Naturally, they had the support of the British government. They felt that the actions being taken to solve the social and political problems involving the discrimination of Catholics were moving too quickly, and feared losing control of the parliament that they had controlled for almost 50 years.

My solution for peace would have been to allow the people of Northern Ireland to vote on whether to join the rest of Ireland or to remain a part of the United Kingdom. UN peacekeeping troops could be used to maintain order during and after the vote. It would be difficult to do this though, because the UK holds a seat on the security council and would be unlikely to allow any international interference.

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