The present crisis in Northern Ireland has causes going back to the 1530’s. This is when England turned Protestant whilst under the control of Henry VIII, because Ireland was all Catholic there was some worry that European powers would use it as a base to attack England, so Elizabeth seized Irish Catholic land and set up plantations of Protestants. The Catholics weren’t at all happy about this so there was an Irish rebellion until the arrival of Oliver Cromwell the new English leader.
Cromwell regained power and he taught Catholics a lesson by slaughtering the Catholic inhabitants of two towns, Drogheda and Wexford, then he took the Catholics land. When Catholic King James II became king in 1685, the Protestants began to fear that their land would be given back to Catholics, so in 1688 the Roman Catholic King James II was overthrown and William Of Orange, a Dutch-speaking Protestant who was married to James’ daughter Mary became king at the request of Parliament. But James II sought refuge with his old ally, Louis XIV of France, who saw an opportunity to strike at William through Ireland.
He provided French officers and arms for James, who returned to Ireland with the French officers. William also went to Ireland and the two armies met at the river Boyne, where they battled, this battle is famously known as the Battle On The Boyne. William won this battle and James II fled to Dublin and then to France. After 1690 Protestants made sure they had complete control over Ireland, so they set up penal laws, which meant Catholics weren’t allowed to own land, and so they couldn’t vote.
In 1845-51 there was an Irish potato famine where 1 million Catholics died, this brought Ireland to the World’ attention. There were several campaigns for an Irish home rule from 1870’s but the British rejected them all and so a Catholic group the IRB seized Dublin’s Post office and declared Ireland dependant this was called the Easter Rising, but the British sent in troops and executed the main leaders. Then in 1919 Ireland is ‘temporarily divided into North and south’ and governed separately, some hardliners in the north reject this and the violence still continued.
When Terence O’Neil took control of the government of Ulster in 1963 and it looked as though the Catholics and Protestants were starting to bury their old differences. In the 1969’s British troops were brought into Northern Ireland to keep the peace between the Catholics and the Protestants. The British troops were welcomed by many Catholics, because they were not keen to see the return of the IRA and thought that the soldiers would protect them from protestant violence. Ordinary Catholics gave tea and sandwiches to the newly arrived British forces.
We used to just wander around in pairs like policemen”, says a corporal from the parachute regiment, also he says, “You drank twenty cups of tea a day because everybody wanted to give you a cup”. Some soldiers who were sent to Northern Ireland called their time there the honeymoon tour, this shows it was an enjoyable time, and what a friendly atmosphere there was. In August 1971, the Northern Ireland prime minister Brain Faulkner introduced Internment. Internment enabled the security forces to arrest anyone suspected of terrorism, and put them straight in prison.
Faulkner introduced internment because there was too much violence in Northern Ireland, between January and July 1971 there were 136 bombs that targeted Protestant shops and businesses, which were set off by the Provisional IRA who were a part of the IRA that had split because they couldn’t agree what action to take. The Provisionals also attacked Catholics they thought were disloyal, for example, they tarred and feather girls who went out with British soldiers. The Prime Minister thought internment would put an end to all the violence because it helped to deal with the last outbreak of IRA violence in 1956-62.
Internment had been used then and it had worked, Faulkner thought it would work again, but this time it was a disastrous failure. Some reasons that internment failed was that the RUC’s intelligence was badly out of date, the people who were targeted were no longer part of the IRA; in fact none of the new IRA leaders were arrested. Lots of people who weren’t guilty were arrested and tortured by being blindfolded put in a helicopter and dropped out when they weren’t very far away from the ground which the person being tortured didn’t realise. The decision to introduce internment caused outrage in the USA and the republic.
This almost certainly helped the IRA to raise funds aboard and obtain weapons from the USA. As a result of internment IRA violence went up so it caused more problems instead of solving them. Most Catholic families were scared to sleep at night because of the fear that their house would get raided and a loved one arrested. This greatly angered Catholics because most people arrested were innocent Catholics who had no involvement with the IRA. By mid-December 1971, 1,576 people had been arrested by the army under the special powers act and virtually all of them were Catholic.
Bloody Sunday added to the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. On Sunday 30th January 1972, there was a huge protest march against internment, this march was organised by the Civil Rights Movement, and fifteen thousand people defied a ban on marches and gathered in the centre of Londonderry. Parachute Regiment troops sealed off the area, and were met with hail of stones thrown by youths. The troops are said to of reacted to the stones being thrown by firing at the youths, but there is a lot of confusion over the sequence of events.
The soldiers say that they were fired on and returned fire even though they had orders not to retaliate. This resulted in 14 unarmed marchers being killed, and 13 injured. After Bloody Sunday there was an enquiry, which was headed by Lord Widgery, which was made to inhibit publication of eyewitness accounts and comment, so that those responsible were shielded and the descriptions of the terrible slaughter of innocent defenceless people was hidden. It did criticise the troops by saying their shooting was, “bordering on the reckless”, but no action was taken against the troops, so the criticism was just to please the Catholics.
The report accepted the soldiers’ side of the story that IRA gunmen fired them upon first. But no one saw the IRA shoot first, a peaceful citizen who was attempting to help someone who was injured was shot in the head, so this proves the Parachute troops were very reckless. Also marchers who had surrendered with their arms up were shot in the armpits. On the hands of some of the victims there was lead power found, which would have been from a gun, but no guns were found. Some of the bodies had been moved by the troops who would have had lead power on their hands, so its possible there was a contamination of evidence.
The Catholics had tremendous anger at what had happened on Bloody Sunday, they thought there should have been a proper enquiry. The reaction outside the UK was one of outrage this event shocked the world, funding for the IRA from the USA increased, also worldwide protests led to a clash between the Stormont government and Westminster, and in Dublin 20,000 people attacked British Embassy and burnt it down. The IRA stepped up its campaign with bombs in England and Northern Ireland. These events also strengthened the argument of the hard line Republicans that defending their communities was no longer enough.
Residents of Londonderry and Belfast set up barricades with some help from IRA activists. The barricades kept out loyalist attackers, and the districts within them soon became ‘no-go’ areas, even for the security forces. These barricades enabled the IRA to make more bombs, train more activists and so increase its attack on soldiers. In some areas the troops lost their discipline and beat suspects or smashed up houses. This was a gift for the IRA’s propaganda machine and just increased support of the IRA still further.
In the 1980’s a group of people who had been at the maze prison in cells known as H blocks, in southwest Belfast, because they were members of the IRA, went on hunger strike. The IRA prisoners wanted to be treated like political prisoners and not like ordinary criminals. The British government agreed to their demands and in 1972 gave a ‘special category’ for prisoners who had committed crimes for political reasons. One of the special treatments was they were allowed to wear their own clothes and they didn’t do any prison work.
When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister everything changed, Margaret Thatcher was determined not to give the prisoners any concessions. So in 1976 the British changed the policy and abolished the ‘special category’. The IRA prisoners reacted to the abolishment of the ‘special category’ by starting the ‘blanket protest’, where they refused to wear prison clothes, remained naked except for a blanket and they sat in their cells and refused to wash or clean their cells. Some prisoners also spread faeces on the walls and urinated on the floor and their mattresses; this is why it was also called the ‘Dirty Protest’.
Despite the prisoners’ attempts the protest did not get much public attention and it slowly died away. The British still refused to grant a return to the ‘special category’, and in 1980 the IRA and INLA decided on a hunger strike. This time, there was Nationalist support and marches were organised. The first hunger strike ended in confusion in December, because the strikers believed they had been granted their demands but they were wrong. So a second hunger strike began in March 1981. Its main member was Bobby Sands who was the MP for Fermanagh. The British prime minister insisted on not giving into Sands and the other hunger strikers.
By October 10 men were dead and the hunger strike was called off. One of the men that had died was Bobby Sands, who died in May 1981 after 66 days without food; around 100,000 people (about 20% of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland) attended his funeral. The hunger strikes showed how non-violent action could generate enormous public attention, generally positive rather than negative publicity, which bombs attracted. The Catholics were greatly angered by the government’s treatment of the hunger strikers; this led to marches against the government.
Many Nationalists felt that the hunger strikers were a humanitarian issue, that the actions of the British government were cruel and unreasonable. Sinn Fein saw how successful a political battle could be, so from 1981 onwards Sinn Fein the political wing of the republican movement began to campaign actively in elections. The rise on support for the Sinn Fein caused concern for the British government because there was a possibility of Sinn Fein replacing the moderate, non-violent SDLP, as the voice of the Catholics of Northern Ireland. After Bobby Sands died, his election agent Owen Carron was elected to Westminster as a Sinn Fein MP.
In October 1982 Sinn Fein gained 10% of the vote in Northern Ireland local elections. In the general election of June 1983, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams won the west Belfast seat with 73% of the vote in that constituency. Across the whole of the province Sinn Fein picked up 13. 4% of the vote. In Britain there was evidence that events in Northern Ireland were affecting the UK, because in 1974 two members of the Birmingham Six were jailed for life after 21 innocent people were killed in two bombs in pubs near the centre of Birmingham on Thursday 21st November 1974.
With their 4 co-accused, the men who were Johnny Walker and Hugh Callaghan had always stressed their innocence, and in 1991 they were eventually released when the original verdicts were overturned. The two members of the group demanded the British government apologized to them for their years in prison; so all suspicion hanging over their innocence was removed. In similar cases such as the ‘Guildford Four’ and the ‘Eikenhof Three’ innocent people were also imprisoned for Irish Republican Army bombings they didn’t commit, the more evidence built up to prove their innocence, the harder police and prosecutors fought not to admit their mistakes.
I think the British government tried to imprison anyone for the bombings and they didn’t care if the had the right people because the unionists were happy. Some of the people imprisoned weren’t even republican’s so this proves the government didn’t care who they put in prison. Overall I think that each side wanted nothing to do with each other, and because the Protestants were in control the Catholics caused violence.
But the Protestants did things to cause anger from the Catholics, for example they introduced internment, which led to the torture of innocence Catholics. This just caused the Catholics to create violence because they weren’t at all happy with how the Protestants were treating them. In some cases the Catholics didn’t show their anger by violence but by peaceful marches, such as the event of Bloody Sunday where the Catholics held peaceful marches against internment but still this led to 14 Catholics being killed by troops of the Parachute Regiment.
I think if each side tried to consider each other, for instance if the Catholics thought about how the action they’re taking against the Protestants would affect them before taking any action against them and vice versa then maybe none of the current conflicts would be as bad. Different Groups Attitudes Towards The Current Peace Process In late 1993 the Peace Process started to come about. The British and Irish Governments looked at the situation and realised that the conditions were now right to begin a new Peace Process.
For the first time ever all the terrorist groups had political representatives who were prepared to negotiate. The people of Northern Ireland had suffered 24 years of violence and there was a feeling that something had to be done to end it once and for all. So the two governments met and on 15th December 1993, they announced their positions on Northern Ireland this was called the Downing Street Declaration. Which committed both governments to developing new political frameworks and permitting any party that gave up violence to join the talks. It set the ‘agenda’ for the talks, which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement.
The UK declared that they had accepted that a united Ireland was possible if a majority so desired and promised to work towards an agreement. The Irish agreed that a united Ireland could only happen with majority consent and would set up a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. The Good Friday Agreement meant that a Northern Ireland Assembly with 108 members would be set up, all key decisions would require thee consent of both communities in the province. Also a new North – South Council of ministers would be set up, made of members of the new assembly and ministers from the Republic.
The unionists were suspicious about these plans for a North – South Council of Ministers: would it lead to a united Ireland? The Good Friday Agreement also meant that the Irish Government would remove articles 2 ; 3 from its constitution, which clamed North as part of it’s territory, there would be a review of policing in Northern Ireland because the police were 90% Protestant and this wasn’t fair on the Catholics, also early release of Paramilitary prisoners was promised but this could cause conflict from the families of the victims.
In September 1995, the new Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble confirmed his full support for the Peace Process. In October, a an international commission under former US Senator George Mitchell was set up to work out a process for decommissioning weapons and achieving a settlement which everyone could accept. Mitchell had enormous experience as a negotiator and peacemaker. In January of 1996 Senator Mitchell set out the ‘Mitchell Principles’, plan for achieving decommissioning of Paramilitary weapons.
Sinn Fein agreed to the principles, but the IRA leadership said it did not, and refused to hand ever any arms. The British Prime Minister John Major wanted to see how much support the Paramilitaries had and so elections were demanded. This outraged the Nationalists because it meant a delay in the Peace Process. Strains within the IRA reached new levels as Sinn Fein tried to hold them together. However on 9th February 1996, at 7am the IRA announced their ceasefire was over, 60 seconds later a massive bomb exploded at Canary Wharf in London killing two civilians and causing millions of pounds in damage.
Another in Manchester followed this bomb in June. In July violence erupted at Drumcree near Portadown, as Catholic residents objected to an Orange Order march through their neighbourhood. On the positive side the Loyalists held, and in June the election to the Northern Ireland Forum took place without violence incidents in Northern Ireland. The Forum was a new body; its full title was the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue. Its job was to consider and examine issues relevant to promoting dialogue and understanding within Northern Ireland.
In May of 1997 a new Prime Minster was elected in the UK: Tony Blair, and in June there was a new Irish Taoseach (Southern Irish Prime Minster), Bertie Aherne. Blair appointed Dr Mo Mowlem as a Northern Ireland Secretary. She organised many events at Stormont and encouraged people mainly from the Nationalist community not to associate Stormont with their bitter memories of the past. Mo Mowlem played an important role in the Peace Process, and both Nationalist and Unionist politicians admired her abilities as a negotiator.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is main republican group and is considered the armed wing of Sinn Fein. The IRA believes that violence is the way to achieve their aims. The IRA or IRB as the called was called earlier, first formed from members of the Fenian Brotherhood, and in 1916 the group with their General Patrick Pearse seized the General Post Office and other public buildings in Dublin, and declared Ireland independent but the British sent in soldiers and executed the main leaders. This led to growing support for breaking the link between Ireland and England.
After World War I the British Government was seen to be going back on its promise to give Home Rule – an independent parliament – to Ireland. This led to the IRA commanded by Michael Collins, beginning a Guerrilla war against soldier and police. The bloody violence ended by the British Government passing the Government of Ireland act which permitted two parliaments to be created in Ireland. There was one parliament set up for the 26 southern countries and one for the 6 northern countries. Michael Collins was one of the signatories to the treaty, which ended the violence in 1921.
The treaty was accepted by the Dail (Irish Parliament) but the IRA, which had around 100,000 members, rejected it. This led to the Irish Civil War during which Collins was killed in an IRA ambush. The Irish Government locked up 12,000 IRA activists and there were numerous atrocities committed by both sides before the ceasefire was signed in May 1923. In the 1930’s the IRA resurrected the anti-British campaign by sending bombing teams to England. A total of 127 devices were set off. During the Second World War the Irish Government introduced internment, which was the right to arrest anyone suspected of terrorism without charging them.
As a result of this 400 republicans were locked up, which stopped fears that the IRA would formed an alliance with the Nazis. Many of the people arrested were not involved in the IRA, and this increased further Catholic anger. The result was completely counter-productive – far from destroying the IRA, internment strengthened the IRA. There was some Republican involvement in the Civil Rights campaign, which began in Northern Ireland in 1968, but activities were largely confined to stewarding marches. When sectarian violence flared in Belfast in 1969, the IRA was totally unprepared to defend Catholic areas.
The movement had taken a Marxist leaning during the 1960s and weapons had been passed on or sold to other terrorist groups in Europe. In December 1969 the IRA split over Dublin leadership. The IRA voted to give at least token recognition to the parliaments in London, Belfast and Dublin, some members disagreed with this and so they walked out of the meeting to form the Provisional IRA. The following month of the walk out Sinn Fein confirmed the split when it held the Ard Fheis (annual meeting). The breakaway group of the IRA was called the Provisional IRA or known as the Real IRA.
The new organisation attracted Belfast veterans of previous campaigns as well as many young people. By the middle of its first year it was estimated to have around 1,500 members, 800 of them in Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA lost little time in increasing the violence in NI, leading to the Stormont Government introducing internment on August 9th, 1971, which just led to more violence because it greatly angered the Catholics having innocent people tortured. There were more than 700 explosions and 1,400 shootings.
During in 1970s the IRA took its campaign of violence to Britain where security was less. There was bombing of public houses in Birmingham and Guildford with large-scale loss of life. The British government arrested lots of people for these events but all of them said over and over again that they were guilty and in 1989 someone who was supposedly a member of the Guildford four named as Paul Hill was released from prison after 15 years because his conviction as over turned by the Court of Appeal. Mr Hill received i??200,000 as an interim compensation payment and was apologized to by Tony Blair.
There were two similar cases to this one where people who were meant to be members of the Birmingham Six and Eikenhof Three where put in prison even though they weren’t guilty and in the Eikenhof Three’s case confessions were tortured out of them and they were sentenced to death. The IRA was involved with the event known as Bloody Sunday, where Parachute Regiment soldiers killed 14 peaceful marchers. The march was organised by the Civil Rights Movement, and was meant to be peaceful even though the ban on marches was being defied.
This event led to even more violence from the IRA because the Parachute Regiment shot innocent people who were only standing up for what they believe in, also Bloody Sunday caused outrage outside the UK and more funds were raised by America. Overall Bloody Sunday was a poor attempt by the Parachute Regiment soldiers to try and stop the Catholics, also Bloody Sunday gave the IRA more support because everyone thought the soldiers had no reason to shoot innocent people. The IRA was also involved in the Hunger strikers of 1981.
Where ten prisoners – seven of them members of the IRA – starved them selves to death in protest of the abolishment of the ‘Special Category’. This gained the IRA even more support from America and outside the UK, and this support showed at Bobby Sands’ funeral when 100,000 people (about 20% of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland) attended the MP for Fermanagh funeral. Although the campaign to try and get the British out of Ireland continued, the IRA knew it could never force the British Government out of Northern Ireland at gunpoint while the British Government knew it could never defeat the IRA.
Behind the scenes negotiations began to try and persuade the IRA to declare a ceasefire and let it’s political wing, Sinn Fein, come to the negotiating table. As a result of these talks an IRA ceasefire was declared on 31st August 1994 but after 18 months, frustrated at the lack of political progress, the IRA detonated a Bomb at Canary Wharf in London in February 1996, killing two people and plunging Northern Ireland back into a cycle of violence. Eighteen months after the bomb at Canary Wharf a new Labour Government came to power in England under the control of Tony Blair, and brought with it a new climate for change.
That change was reflected on 21st July 1997, when the IRA announced an unequivocal restoration of its ceasefire, allowing Sinn Fein to take its place at the all-party talks at Stormont. That ceasefire still holds today. I think that the IRA have also agreed to the ceasefire because America has stopped raising funds for the IRA to buy weapons because of what happened on 11th September 2001: they don’t want to promote terrorism in other countries, also they have an aim to “wipe out all terrorism”. Real IRA is a hardliner Catholic splinter group of the IRA, who broke away from the IRA in protest against in peace process.
The Real IRA is led by the man who resigned as the IRA’s quartermaster-general in protest at the peace process. He lives in Dundalk, Co Louth in the Irish Republic, and is thought to have taken with him a number of the IRA’s bomb makers as well as details of arms dumps. This has increased pressure on Sinn Fein to ensure that weapons are handed over before they get into the wrong hands. Reports put membership of the Real IRA – also based largely in the Republic at anything up to 100, and growing. Police south of the border fear that the Real IRA is forming links with the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).
The INLA was formed in 1975 mainly from disaffected members of the IRA unhappy at a previous ceasefire. The Real IRA’s attitude towards the peace process is that they don’t want it mainly because they don’t want to take part in disarmament because they are scared that if the ceasefire breaks they will have no weapons. But Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein said on 22nd October 2001 that disarmament will happen. Proof that the Real IRA are not in support of the Peace Process is the Omaha bombing in 1998, which attacked the Republics police force, and killed 29 people; this demonstrates the carnage a small group can inflict.
Unlike the IRA the Real IRA want all of Ireland to belong to the Catholics. Events in the past show that the Real IRA haves always been against peace. Evidence of this is mainly all the bombings, which have taken hundreds of innocent peoples lives. This just shows that the Real IRA had no regard for human life. Also in 1970 the Real IRA had killed 46 British Soldiers, and in March 1971 they lured three soldiers to a party and shot them in the back of the head. On 8th August, one soldier was shot dead and six more injured.
The response to this campaign by the British was more searches were made by the troops. In 1971 the Real IRA changed the nature of the conflict: it now became a bitter, war where they didn’t hold back, so there was more violence than ever. They were not just defending their community; they were now attempting to achieve their long cherished aim of completely removing any British presence from Ireland. The Orange Order, also known as the Orange Institution, is the largest Protestant organisation in Northern Ireland, where it has a membership of 60,000 – 80,000.
Members belong to lodges, which are based on those of the Masonic Order. Orange lodges exist not only in Northern Ireland; they are also found in the Republic of Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and West Africa. The Order was founded in 1795 after a Protestant victory at Lough gall, Country Armagh, in what became known as the Battle of the Diamond. The Orange orders’ name was chosen to commemorate the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II the Battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690.
The Orange Order sends 102 delegates to the 860 – strong Ulster Unionist Council. The Order has rejected the all – peace agreement in Northern Ireland and has urged its thousands of members to vote ‘no’ to the deal in the May referendum. The Order holds annual parades to shows its allegiance to the crown and Protestant beliefs. The Orange Orders’ attitude towards the peace process is that they don’t want it, because they believe Protestants would be discriminated against, and all their benefits would be lost.
Proof that they’re against the peace process is the recent event of Holy Cross Primary School where Catholics had to walk through Protestant land to get to school and the Protestants were shouting and throwing things at them. Also the Orange Order hold annual marches to show their Protestant beliefs. Events in the past show that they’ve always been against Catholics because they cause violence and they want Ireland to be a separate country and have its own government. The current day attitude the British Government has of the peace process is that it is in support of it, because of the attacks in America.
Also the British government doesn’t want any more bombs in England from the Real IRA or the IRA and so they are trying to make peace. The British Government’s attitude has changed, in the past the British had a hard-line approach, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster, she was determined not to give the Catholics any concessions, but this caused more violence. All previous attempts at peaceful strategies by the British Government failed for example the British Government sent in troops to keep the peace in Northern Ireland but they just led to violence.
Events in the past show that the British haven’t always been in favour of the peace process, way back in 1602 Elizabeth seized Catholic land and set up Protestant plantations this was because the British didn’t want enemy’s such as Spain to use Ireland as a base to attack them. The Irish Catholic people weren’t very happy about the Protestants trying to take over their land, this caused an Irish Rebellion. In 1993 the British started to try and stop the violence in Northern Ireland and they lost interest in making Ireland united with the UK.
Now there is a peace process in place, which aims to keep everyone happy and stop the violence. The American Government’s attitude towards the peace process is that they are currently in favour of peace in Northern Ireland; because of events of September 11th America is now against terrorism. Evidence we have is that when the Good Friday Peace Agreement was first drawn up SDLP leader John Humes had many contacts with Irish – Americans, Humes and the Irish diplomat Michael Lillis played a key part in convincing Irish Americans to take a stand in supporting Irish unity but rejecting violent methods.
Also in February 1994, the USA permitted Sinn Fein’s leader Gerry Adams to go there for the first time, and he received huge publicity. Afterwards, President Clinton urged the IRA to call a ceasefire. Eventually on 31st August 1994 and after 25 years of violence, the IRA announced a ‘complete cessation of military operations’. America’s attitude towards peace in Northern Ireland has changed over time. Evidence of this is George Mitchell previously a US Senator’s involvement with peace in Northern Ireland in 1980s. George Mitchell set out the ‘Mitchell Principle’, a plan for achieving decommissioning of Paramilitary weapons.
Sinn Fein agreed to the principles, but the IRA leadership said it did not, and refused to hand over any arms. When the troubles broke out in 1969 many Irish Americans became interested and involved in Irish affairs. They were generally pro – Nationalist. However, while events such as Bloody Sunday created support for Republicanism, IRA violence could destroy this support just as quickly. As a result, the Republican movement in the USA consisted of a core of dedicated hardliners, and was never a mass movement. Some of these hardliners helped to supply the IRA with weapons.
The American Armalite rifle became part of Republican folklore when IRA activists first acquire it. It was powerful, accurate and could be dismantled, which made it the perfect weapon for the campaigns the IRA was waging. Estimates varied, but US officials believed that around 50% of IRA weapons in the 1970s came from the USA. British and Irish estimates put the figure at nearer 80% organisations such as the Irish Northern Aid Committee raised money for victims of the troubles, but it was generally believed that most of the money went to support the IRA.
Previous to this in 1846 there was a total failure of the potato crop in Ireland. Ireland was filled with peasant Catholic farmers who rented land from the Protestants and grew potatoes and other food on the land they rented. The peasants sold their food they grew, and ate the potatoes; with the money they had from the food they sold, they paid for the land. When all the potato crops failed the peasants were forced to eat the other crops they grew this meant they didn’t have any to sell and so they couldn’t pay for the land they lived on.
Eventually most of the peasants were homeless and starving, also lots of them had fever which led to over a million of them dying. Some tried to escape misery and death by emigrating. There was a lot of support for Catholics in America so most people emigrated there. Sinn Fein is a political party, which represents the view of Republicans in Northern Ireland. The party is dedicated to the achievement of a united Ireland. SF supports the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and is viewed as the political wing of the IRA.
The party has consistently refused to condemn the use of force by the IRA, but it has on occasion said that it regretted the loss of innocent life that occurred in some IRA attacks. The party was formed out the split in the IRA in January 1970 when the original SF split into the Official SF and the Provisional SF. The party began to take part in elections following the success in Westminster by – elections by Republican prisoners who took part in the ‘Hunger Strike’ of 1981. In the Assembly election in October 1982 SF obtained 10% of the vote, which represented a major breakthrough for the party.
In the Westminster election of 1983 SF attacked 13. 4% and Gerry Adams won the West Belfast seat. The standing of the SF in the polls, and the fear that it would surpass the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) as the main voice of Nationalists in Northern Ireland, was one of the reasons why the British Government signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. At the SF Ard Fheis (annual meeting) on 2nd November 1986 the party decided to end its abstentionist policy, and to take any Dail seats won in future. The new policy led to a number of members leaving to form Republican Sinn Fein (RSF).
In 1993 the party entered into renewed talks with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), these meetings marked the beginning of the current peace process. SF currently attracts around 17% of the votes of electorate. Sinn Fein’s attitude towards peace is that they want it to happen. Events that tell us Sinn Fein is in favour of the Peace Process are that when Sinn Fein met with the British Government on 9th December 1994, the first such meeting since 1972, and again in the first half of 1995. This showed Sinn Fein was in favour of peace but they didn’t really trust the British Government.
Also we know that Sinn Fein is in favour of peace because Gerry Adams the leader has tried to persuade the Real IRA to abandon their arms, but they have refused. Events in the past show that Sinn Fein has always been against the British Government ever since they wrongly blamed Sinn Fein for the Easter Rising where 1,500 rebels took over the Dublin Post Office and other key buildings in the city. This mistake contributed greatly to the home Rule Party’s defeats and Sinn Fein’s success in the next election. In July 1917, Eamonn De Valera became the President of Sinn Fein.
He had taken part in the Easter Rising, but had not been executed. He stood in the Cure East by – election, openly declaring his belief in an Independent Irish Republic. He won easily, but refused to take up his seat at Westminster as part of Sinn Fein’s policy of abstention. The Sinn Fein candidates became popular because the British had blamed them incorrectly for the Easter Rising, and had executed the leaders of the rising. This provoked much sympathy towards Sinn Fein amongst Irish voters, and Sinn Fein did not attempt to set the record straight.
Sinn Fein gained even more support when they led the successful fight to prevent conscription in Ireland to feed the First World War trenches in 1918. After the war, which ended with Germans defeat in 1918, Sinn Fein won 73 seats compared to the Home Rule Party’s 6. The Irish Unionist Party won 26 seats, mostly in Ulster. All 73 Sinn Fein MPs refused to go to Westminster, and instead sat in their own Parliament in Dublin called Dail Eireann, it first met on 21st January 1919 although it had no power to exercise.
These events show that Sinn Fein hasn’t always been in favour of peace, they were only in favour when the British weren’t interested in taking over Ireland because the Catholics want Ireland to be an independent country. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) is the largest of the Nationalist parties in Northern Ireland. The party was formed on 21st August 1970 and its first leader was Gerry Fitt. Many of those who were members of the Nationalist Party joined the SDLP. The party receives about 22% of the vote in elections and its support comes from middle-class and working-class Catholics.
The SDLP is a constitutional democratic party, which wants to see the reunification of Ireland by agreement. The party withdrew form the Stormont in July 1971 in protest at the introduction of Internment. It also supported the civil disobedience campaign, which involved the withholding of rent and rates. In September 1972 the party proposed a form of joint sovereignty over Northern Ireland. The proposals were contained in the document Towards a New Ireland. The SDLP refused to take part in the Darlington conference in 1972. The party took part in the power-sharing Executive, which lasted from January to May 1974.
The party took part in the Constitutional Convention election in May 1975 and secured 23. 7% of the vote. In 1977 Paddy Devlin was expelled from the party following his criticism that the SDLP had moved away from socialist principals. In 1979 John Hume, then deputy leader of the party, took 25% of the vote in the European election to win one of the three Northern Ireland seats. In 1979 Gerry Fitt resigned from the party saying that it was renouncing its socialist principles and was becoming more ‘green Nationalist’. John Hume replaced Fitt as party leader. In 1982 the party was against the plan for ‘rolling devolution’.
In the 1983 Westminster election the party refused to enter an electoral pact with Sinn Fein and fought all 17 seats. However the party won only one seat when John Hume took the Foyle constituency. The party took part in the New Ireland Forum and many of its ideas were incorporated in the report of the forum. Seamus Mallon won the 1986 Westminster by-election in Newry and Mourne and Eddie McGrady won the south Down seat in the 1987 Westminster election. During 1988 John Hume had a series of talks with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Fein, in an attempt to persuade SF that the IRA should call an end to its campaign of violence.
Further talks between Hume and Adams in 1993 produced strains within the SDLP. The party supported the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. Although the party was critical of the election to the Northern Ireland Forum in May 1996 it did take part and joined the multi-party talks. The SDLP left the Northern Ireland Forum on 13th July 1996 in protest at the handling of the events surrounding the ‘stand-off’ at Drumcree. The SDLP is currently involved in the multi-party talks at Stormont. The SDLPs attitude towards the peace process is that they are in favour of it.
Evidence of this is that SDLP leader John Hume was willing to talk with Gerry Adams in 1988; also the party supported the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. The SDLP were part of a multi-party talks which began on 10th June 1996 and even when two of the Unionist parties, the DUP and the UKUP, left the talks the SDLP still continued to participate. Something else that proves that the SDLP were willing for peace is that, the new assembly of Northern Ireland, which was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement elected Mr Seamus Mallon who was the deputy leader of the SDLP as the deputy first minister.
Previous to this in 1986 Mallon was elected as MP for Newry and Armagh after Unionists resigned over Anglo-Irish Agreement. Also the SDLP played key role in the Peace Process because in 1988 they held talks with Sinn Fein over a number of months in attempt to convince SF that the continued campaign of violence is futile, this shows us that the SDLP were very much in support of peace in Northern Ireland, and they tried to persuade SF to be in favour of it to. Also in 1993 John Hume started talks with Adams.
On 10th December 1998 John Hume and Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This just shows how much the SDLP are in support of the peace process and how important it is for them to achieve peace for everyone. Events in the past show that the SDLP haven’t always been in favour of peace. In the Good Friday Agreement ceremony of 11th April 1998, the SDLP said that the SDLP concluded many years ago that they couldn’t lay the basis for agreement against a background of violence and disorder, and they go on to explain that is why they entered the talks to bring peace to their streets.
So maybe they have always wanted peace but they wanted to ‘agree a comprehensive settlement’ which allowed both their traditions to work together. Currently in the Northern Ireland conflict Protestants are disputing with Catholics who walk through Protestant land to get their children to school at Holy Cross Primary School, in Ardoyne, north Belfast. The Protestants threw and shouted things at innocent children who just wanted to get to school. I believe that violence has recently erupted again and the pupils at Holy Cross Primary School had to be taken out by bus.
Trouble appears to have started after a wreath in memory of a murdered taxi driver was pulled down; five police officers were hurt and a police vehicle destroyed in the clashes. But the IRA is still in the peace process, they have disarmed and in return the British destroyed an observation tower, which was built to observe Northern Ireland. But there still is the problem of the ‘Real IRA’ who Gerry Adams has called on to abandon their armed struggle and begin decommissioning, but the ‘Real IRA’ have refused.
Overall I think that most political groups are accepting the peace process, and are doing all they can to make it work, for example John Hume of the SDLP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for all his efforts in talking to other group and persuading them to join the Peace Process. Another important figure in the Peace Process is Gerry Adams, who has had several talks with the IRA in the past and persuaded them to decommission their weapons. The IRA have been a major part of the conflict in Northern Ireland, they have stood up for what they believe in and tried to get it using violent methods.
I think the IRA are wise in decommissioning their arms because it stops violence of at least one group, even though the Real IRA are still very active. Also they know they can’t get the British out of Ireland with violence so they have entered talks and called a ceasefire. But there is still the problem of the Real IRA who believe that the cause of a united Ireland and British withdrawal can only be brought about through violence argue that decommissioning is the ultimate act of betrayal of traditional republicanism.
I think that the Real IRA are very unreasonable because they haven’t produced any political alternative to the peace process, apart from the thesis that armed resistance will some how one day succeed, plus there’s a possibility that the North – South council of ministers could lead to a United Ireland, so they are very irrational because if they did decommission their weapons they could get what they want in the end.