There were various important events before 1969, many of these affects have had nod on effects on the Ireland of today.
One of these events was the war involving Oliver Cromwell. By 1649 Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the parliamentary forces had won the Civil War in England against Charles I. Oliver Cromwell was hated by Catholic Irish mainly for his barbaric murders and burning of villages. In 1956 a book published a saying by Winston Churchill
“For the past 300 years the native Irish have used their keenest expression of hatred : The curse of Cromwell on you.”
Because Cromwell was a protestant, Catholics hated him and them even more and still do.
The Battle of the Boyne is another event. William of Orange, was crowned William III during what was called the ‘Glorious Revolution’, the exiled former king of England, Catholic James II, landed in Ireland with 21,000 of his supporters. William almost immediately had to go to Ireland to fight James. William went to Ireland with 35,000 soldiers. This was the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. William beat James and returned to England, James exiled to France and was never seen again. After the Battle of the Boyne, William passed a series of laws called the Penal Laws; which made Catholics even more badly treated.
The Potato Famine was another event. The potato crop was attacked by a mysterious fungus. The wind and rain spread the fungus from place to place. It reduce the potatoes to a foul-smelling fungus, this was called Potato Blight. The crop was harvested in October, some places in Ireland had no crop. It was estimated that half the potato crop in Ireland was ruined. A million people died in the potato famine of either starvation of hunger related diseases.
The British Government refused to give food to the poor Irish, they would only sell it, few Irish tenants ever had money. Irish tenants were unable to pay their rent to their landlords, so they were evicted. Many were forced to leave Ireland and went to America or England. Nearly 4 million people left Ireland between 1845 and 1900. The Catholics thought that the British Government had deliberately allowed the famine and emigration to continue. The republican Michael Davitt formed the land league in 1879 and this league used violence to make landlords give fair rents and give loans to their tenants to buy land.
In the late 18th Century some Ulster Presbyterians had been among the first Irish Nationalists. While a small number of protestants continued to support nationalism, during the 19th Century most Protestants became supporters of the link with Britain. They became known as Unionists because they wanted to maintain the Parliamentary Union with Britain.
There were very few political changes in Ireland in 1890 and 1905. the conservatives were in power most of the time. The Gaelic league and the Gaelic Athletic Association formed. They encouraged pride in the Irish language and Gaelic culture. Many Nationalists supported the Irish Parliamentary Party on Home Rule. A journalist called Arthur Griffin set up Sinn Fein, a small political party in 1905. Sinn Fein wanted Ireland to be less dependant on Britain, they did not have a lot of supporters. Between 1910 and 1914 there was an argument about Home Rule. The Lords were no longer able to block Home Rule indefinitely. A Home Rule bill was passed by the House of Commons in 1912. People signed the covenant in Ulster on 28th September 1912 to protest against Home Rule. They set up a private army called the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
Because of protests and fighting, David Lloyd George decided to divide Ireland in two – to partition it. Keeping Ulster united with Britain, but creating a new Free State in the West of Ireland. Neither the Unionists nor the Nationalists wanted to see Ireland divided, but there was good reason for both to want this offer. Unionists were convinced that to refuse might mean becoming part of a Catholic -Nationalist Ireland. For the Nationalists, the choice was harder. They regarded Ulster as one of the princes of Ireland, and for many of them, Ireland would be incomplete without it. On the other hand, this was their chance to get most of the country. If they refused and carried on with the war, they did not know if the IRA could be sure of victory and if Ulster would be added to the rest of the Irish state. The war was costly on both sides: 600 men on the British side had been killed, with over 1,000 wounded; the IRA had lost 752 dead and 866 wounded. Michael Collins and most of the IRA leaders decided to accept the Partition Treaty in 1921, with Collins becoming the first president of the Irish Free State. They gained Home Rule, they accepted the British King but were able to make their own laws for the 26 countries of the Free State, but they had to accept an Ireland with no Ulster, though they would not accept that this would be permanent.
In June 1921, the Northern Ireland Parliament opened and it was clear that the Unionist MP’s would be unwilling to sever their links with the United Kingdom. Measures were taken to ensure Unionist control and therefore, Protestant control in Ulster. The police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) were allowed to recruit extra forces to maintain security, and these men were known as the B-specials. A few were ex-UVF and treated Catholic civilians harshly. Over the years they became hated by the Catholics.
Ulster would always send a majority of Protestant MP’s to Westminster, and there would always be a majority of Unionist MP’s in the Northern Ireland. However, control was also established in local councils, even when Protestants were in a majority. Votes were restricted to householders and property owners (ruling out many of the Catholic poor). An example is that Protestant business men could have 6 votes whereas Catholics couldn’t. Boundaries were re-drawn to secure the maximum possible number of Unionist councillors. This was ‘gerrymandering’.
The results of gerrymandering meant that Unionist councils favoured Protestants over employment and the allocation of council housing. Over the years, it became clear to the Catholics in Northern Ireland that they would not be able to have better living conditions. In the early 1960’s the results of gerrymandering were attempted to be put right. In 1963, the homeless Citizens League was formed, and this developed into the campaign for Social Justice. Also in 1963, the new Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill promised that there would be reforms to help the Catholics. These reforms were slow to begin and, amidst massive unrest in Europe and the U.S.A, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed.
A movement based on securing equality of Civil Rights emerged in Northern Ireland. Many young people were involved in the Civil Rights activities and they were a product of the improved educational opportunities, which were available to the citizens of the United Kingdom years after the second World War.
Attempts by O’Neill to improve relations between the two communities was seen by some Protestants as threatening their supremacy. There was a revival of the Orange Order in the 1960’s, and the UVF was secretly re-established. Catholic buildings were attacked and several Catholics were murdered in 1966.
The first Civil Rights march took place in August 1968, and the rally was peaceful with the marchers singing ‘We Shall Overcome’, the song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights campaign. But there was trouble in the march in Derry on the 5th October that year.
‘The Troubles Had Started.’
Poor housing, unemployment, demand, for the vote and Civil Rights in general were the issues which caused problems in 1968. The conflict over a demand for Civil Rights has seen the deaths of over 4,000 people.
After the violence of the October 1968 Civil Rights march in Derry, two new groups emerged. The Derry Citizens Action Committee, led by John Hume, and People’s Democracy one of whose leaders was Bernadette Devlin. People’s Democracy were mainly students from Queens University, Belfast and they organised a march from Belfast to Derry to take place in early January 1969. There were riots in Derry before the marchers had even left Belfast, because the Reverend Ian Paisley had provoked the Protestants by whipping up feelings against the marchers. Protestants were urged to confront the marchers when they reached Burntollet on the outskirts of Derry.
At Burntollet, the police and B-specials took little action to protect the marchers, and some of them even joined in the attacking of the marchers in Derry, when they eventually reached the city. The British Government later established the Cameron Commission to investigate this violence.
The Catholics in Derry’s bogside area built barricades to protect themselves in early 1969. They felt that they could expect no protection from the police at all. The situation deteriorated in the following months, with a few terrorist explosions, which damaged various electricity and water supplies into Belfast. The explosions were blamed on the IRA but, were really the work of the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, who were trying to demean the Catholics. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill resigned in April 1969 after the General Election. The Unionists felt that he was giving into the Civil Rights groups.
The Protestant Orange marches sparked off further trouble in the July of 1969, but it was the march of the Apprentice Boys during August in Derry which brought wholesale violence to the streets of Derry.
The march passed by the Catholic Bogside and the police became involved in the riots. The rioting and violence increased and after two days the new Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Chichester-Clark, asked the Government in Westminster to send troops into restore order. The riots were covered on television and the event was called the Battle of the Bogside.
The troubles in Derry started riots in Belfast, where there was use of guns and huge destruction of property. Fear that was created in the towns resulted in massive population movements between the August of 1969 and February 1973. It was the estimated that some 60,000 people were forced to leave their homes. At the time it was the greatest and largest enforced movement of people in Europe since 1945.
The IRA’s reputation in the summer of 1969 was badly damaged because it had not been able to protect the Catholics. Many slogans began to appear on the walls in Belfast:
“IRA – I Ran Away”
There were some people in the IRA who felt that the policy of uniting Ireland had to be followed, and if violence had to be used to achieve their aim, then they would use violence. Despite this, some members of the IRA wanted to unite Ireland by peaceful means. Therefore a split in the IRA happened, those who wished to use violence called themselves the Provisional IRA. When it was first established there was about 30 Provisionals in Belfast, but they soon spread and became the main force behind Irish Nationalism.
Violence continued between both communities. On Sunday, January 30th 1972, 13 civilians were killed, a 14th died from his injuries in hospital. 17 were injured after paratroopers of the British Army opened fire on an illegal demonstration against Internment – Internment was introduced to Northern Ireland in August 1971, this was the imprisonment of suspected terrorists without trial, and was regarded by many as an Infringement of Civil Rights. The paratroopers were instructed to mount an ‘Arrest Operation’ against the protestors and they set up barricades in the Nationalist Bogside area of Londonderry (Derry). This was Bloody Sunday. The British Army has always maintained that it was fired upon first, whereas marchers said the Army ‘opened fire without reason’.
The deaths of so many civilians caused further trouble in the weeks after January 30th. Many Catholic men joined the IRA for revenge in the part of a loved ones they’d lost. To the outside world it appeared that law and order was breaking down. The Unionist Party in Northern Ireland split into smaller and more extreme groups. The Prime Minister Brian Faulkner no longer had the support of his MP’s and there was little he could do. The Westminster Government stepped in, Prime Minister Ted Heath suspended Stormont (Northern Irish Parliament) and Direct Rule began on the 24th March 1972. Many have said that Direct Rule came three years too late. If there had been an intervention then maybe the ‘troubles’ may not have happened.
Direct Rule did not seem to improve the situation. In July 1972, there were 21,000 troops in the Provinces and violence on both sides of the religions continued. Many reforms were carried out, but they were too late – the B-specials dissolved, gerrymandered boundaries were changed and a new security force was set up – the Ulster Defence Regiment.
The 1970’s and 1980’s were characterised by violence and few attempts at peace. The Sunningable Agreement held out a prospect of some solution, but it failed in the face of a general strike called by the Ulster Worker’s Council. Women’s peace movement gained huge amounts of support and momentum in 1976. A procession of Protestant and Catholic women marched together through both Republican and Loyalist parts of Belfast.
Founders Betty Williams and Mairead Carrigan, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, but the movement did not bring peace.
The IRA changed it’s tactic’s during the 1970’s in bringing the conflict to the British mainland, Bombings occurred in London and Birmingham. In 1979, their most daring action was the killing of Lord Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth II’s Uncle, but still the British Government vowed never to give into terrorism.
Finally there was a cease-fire. As usual there was groups who were not happy with the news. The IRA had not included the word ‘permanent’ in their statement.
The second major hurdle to negotiated was the issue of ‘decommissioning’ which is the disarming of the IRA and Loyalist arsenals. The IRA was unwilling to give up it’s weapons, it said in similar situations in the rest of the world, arms were only given up when an agreement is reached. They thought that if they gave up the weapons then the message would be clear – the IRA had surrendered. Eventually the cease-fire ended because an agreement could not be reached.
In march 1995, Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, set out three conditions for decommissioning, and if these were met, Sinn Fein could be invited into all party talks.
* The IRA had to be willing in principle to disarm progressively
* It had to agree on how in practise decommissioning would be carried out.
* It had to decommission it’s weaponry at the beginning at the talks as an obvious gesture of good faith.
The third point became known as ‘Washington Three’ and could not be met by the IRA. Nevertheless, the peace process moved on smoothly in November 1995, President Bill Clinton visited Northern Ireland.
Intelligence records suggest that the IRA was unhappy with the slow progress towards all-party talks, and that some members were prepared to resort to violence again.
To avoid a crisis John Major and John Brutah, the new Prime Minister of the Irish Republic agreed on a ‘twin track’ approach to decommissioning. An International body was set up by former U.S Senator George Mitchell accompanied by Harri Holkeri, former Finnish Prime Minister and General John de Chastelian, Canadian Chief of Defence Staff. A report named the Mitchell Report was published on January 22nd 1996.
However, John Major alienated Sinn Fein by announcing that Election would be held for a forum that would sit to accompany all party talks. The results would obviously favour the Loyalists and reflect their majority. The IRA was surprised, and on the 9th February 1996, Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands was bombed. Two people were killed, 100 were injured and damage of ï¿½85 million was caused. The IRA said that they had no knowledge of the bomb and that there was ‘considerable danger that the authority of people like Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams had been undermined.’ The cease-fire lasted 17 months.
During the years there were several more events to effect Irish History.
Talks went on between Sinn Fein, Unionist representatives and the Government throughout 1998 but a deadline had been set for Easter. Talks intensified as the deadline approached but the situation intensified after another secretarian murder, it shocked both sides with it’s senseless violence.
An agreement was reached it was a political triumph for Tony Blair and Mo Mowlan as well as for the Northern Ireland representatives. David Trimble still had to persuade his majority Unionist party to accept the agreement and the future of the peace would rest on this. This was the Good Friday Agreement.
Triumphant feeling at a new peace agreement turned to horror as the biggest mass murder in British History happened at Omagh.
In the summer of 1998 a terrorist group calling themselves ‘The Real IRA’ who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement planted and set off a bomb in a busy high street of Omagh, 29 people were killed and many were injured.
The bomb brought widespread condemnation from both sides. The Real IRA declared they would call a cease-fire shortly afterwards. This has helped so far.
After Omagh, parties were determined to make peace work.
In 1999 representatives of all parties in Northern Ireland except Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist party took their seats in the new cabinet. Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness was given the Secretary for Education Job.
Finally the IRA, after months of negotiation declared it would send a representative to an impartial body to discuss the decommissioning of it’s arms.
The only people to oppose the deal, were the Unionist’s such as Ian Paisley and Nationalist’s such as ‘The Real IRA’.
For the first time since 1921, the people, politicians and peacemakers of Northern Ireland were all working together.
The problems of the IRA decommissioning dogged the Assembly, though Nationalists and Unionists worked together, the IRA’s failure to give up weapons, seriously undermined the Assembly and it’s future.
The IRA’s refusal to give up arms eventually led to the Unionist MP’s leaving the Assembly. David Trimble was unable to keep Unionists from leaving – their attitude was how could they sit and share power with people who had not given up their weapons.
In February 2000 the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended and Northern Ireland was ruled directly from London.
On March 16th 2000, a car was found filled with 500lbs of explosives in it. Driving it was a member of the Real IRA, who had been released after the Good Friday Agreement. As well in March 2000, the IRA announced plans to ‘put their arms beyond use’.
In July of 2001, school children from the Holy Cross Infant Girls School in a Catholic area of Londonderry were stoned, attacked and intimidated as their parents take a short cut across a Protestant estate. The police and army were sent in to protect them, but more violence took place and eventually the young children were forced to take another route to school. This event sums up how far the two sides, Nationalist and Unionist have grown apart. It shows the problems of finding a lasting peace between two communities.
In August 2002, David Trimble was under severe pressure to deliver significant IRA decommissioning as no further weapons had been given up.
David Trimble’s resignation was overshadowed by an IRA spy. Who was found working at Stormont. Unionist representatives called for Sinn Fein to be thrown out the Government, as the spy was a member of Sinn Fein.
Over the years, the IRA have bombed many places. An event close to Runcorn was in Warrington on the 2nd March 1995, two young boys were killed; Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, there is a fountain in their memory.
Ireland today is still very much divided, and the IRA still have not given up their weapons. The IRA is now more like an organised Crime Association. They smuggle things into Ireland i.e. drugs etc, 2 million pounds worth of cigarettes, pirate dvd’s and cd’s, no name brand vodka, each year they gain a total of ï¿½200 million from money laundering. Also this year a ï¿½26 million bank robbery occurred and the IRA said that they had nothing to do with it. Recently a man named Robert McCarthy was murdered by the IRA, they claim to know nothing about it or who did it, but have offered to shoot the men who shot Robert McCarthy.
I think that the events before 1969 have had an effect, because the dislike for each community has been passed down from generation to generation and wars have been fought over religions, people have been burned at the stake for which religion they followed. Despite this, the events during and after 1969 did not help matters. It will take centuries for the hatred to grow out of the country and people, maybe even longer.