The Irish Question – The Orange Marches Essay

1) The Battle of the Boyne was fought on the banks of the Boyne River in Ireland on July 1st 1690, between the troops of the exiled James II, former king of England, and the forces of the Netherlands ruler William of Orange, who had been called William 3rd, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, in 1689. To prevent James from regaining the throne, William led an army of about 35,000 men to Ireland, where James was with 21,000 of his supporters. In the subsequent engagement on the Boyne, James suffered a complete defeat, losing 1,500 men, while William only lost 500. James then went to exile in France.

The protestant order of Orangemen established in Ireland in 1795 was named after William of Orange whose victory on the Boyne they celebrate annually by the Orange marches. The marches send the signal out to all Catholics saying that they were not good enough to beat the Protestants. This can spark up riots, which have caused huge feelings of anger, discontent and intense hatred and resentment. This has led to racism on both sides. Catholics usually end up having no jobs and no say in the way their country is run. They usually aren’t allowed a job just because they are Catholic. A Protestant will usually get a job just because they are Protestant, even if they are less qualified. This is the same for Protestants if the boss is Catholic.

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Ireland was separated in 1920. Six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster, northernmost of the four Irish provinces, were given the opportunity to separate politically from the rest of Ireland and remain part of the United Kingdom. Under the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, the six counties became a separate political division of the United Kingdom, known as the province of Northern Ireland, with its own constitution, parliament, and administration for local affairs. The Irish Free State (later Eire, and now the Republic of Ireland) did not accept the separation as permanent, and the reunification of Ireland remained an element of the constitution until the referendum of May 1998.

The Protestant majority in Northern Ireland has consistently refused to consider a reunion. The boundary between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was fixed in 1925. Most people in Northern Ireland saw partition from the Roman Catholic south and union with the United Kingdom as the safeguard of their Protestant religion and dominant political, economic, and social position. For many Irish Catholics, the creation of Northern Ireland was simply the latest of a very long line of British injustices inflicted upon the people of Ireland.

The Catholics react to what they consider as British injustices by the use of their own marches and bombs because they feel that they have been wronged and they need to fight back somehow. This has led to continued fighting on both sides in a sort of tit for tat.

2) Gerry Adams was born the eldest of ten children in 1948 in nationalist West Belfast. After attending grammar school, he became a barman, and was involved in the defence of Catholic areas during the communal violence of 1969-1970. The British security forces believed him to be a senior member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the 1970s, though he has denied this. He was interned in 1971 and released in July 1972 to take part in talks with the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, in London. The talks resulted in a brief ceasefire.

Adams was arrested again in 1973 on suspicion of being a senior member of the IRA. After trying to escape from the Maze Prison before his trial, he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for his offence and released in 1976. In February 1978, he was once again charged with membership of the IRA, but was later released due to not enough evidence.

From the late 1970s Adams became a leading member within the IRA’s associated political party Sinn Fein for a redraft of its policies and commitment to the armed struggle. In 1979, he stated that Sinn Fein needed to use means other than violence to achieve its aims. This set in train Sinn Fein’s political development during the early 1980s, when the party began to take an active part in local and general elections. Adams was a key person in the political programme that accompanied and followed the 1981 hunger strikes by IRA prisoners in British prisons.

In 1983, he defeated Gerry Fitt, the long-standing constitutional nationalist Member of Parliament for West Belfast, and was elected President of the Provisional Sinn Fein. A year later, he was a victim of a loyalist attack, and was shot several times in the back of a car as it drove through central Belfast. In 1986, he published his book Politics of Irish Freedom, which presented his own political views to an external audience while offering Sinn Fein an internal discussion document. During the late 1980s, he also became mildly critical of IRA killings of civilians, which he argued were dangerous to the Republican cause. He was defeated in the 1992 election, losing his West Belfast seat.

From 1986, Adams was involved in talks with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) constitutional nationalist leader John Hume. Together they were substantially responsible for creating the conditions for the declaration of an IRA ceasefire in August 1994. In October 1994, President Bill Clinton lifted an official ban on government contacts with Sinn Fein, and met with Adams in March 1995. However, the IRA’s restart of violence in February 1996 (a move Adams refused to condemn) seriously damaged his credibility as leader of the Sinn Fein. In March 1996, he tried to join talks in Stormont Castle, Northern Ireland’s parliament building, on elections to a forum to select teams for all-party negotiations in Northern Ireland, but was turned away; he promised Sinn Fein participation in the elections but not the forum itself.

Following Sinn Fein’s success in the May 1996 elections, he declared the party ready to accept previously agreed proposals on arms decommissioning, but was refused participation in all-party talks until the IRA resumed its ceasefire. In June, he made another public attempt to enter Stormont, to join the all-party talks, but was refused entry. He drafted fresh proposals for an IRA ceasefire with SDLP leader John Hume, but attacked John Major’s November 1996 restatement of ceasefire terms in response as sabotage. In the United Kingdom general election on May 1, 1997, he regained his West Belfast seat. After an IRA ceasefire in July 1997, Sinn Fein was invited by the British government to join the Ulster talks.

In April 1998, as part of a Sinn Fein delegation, Adams participated in historic peace negotiations with representatives of other Ulster parties and the British and Irish governments. Agreement was reached on radical new arrangements for an Ulster assembly, a council of ministers linking Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and limited cross-border bodies to facilitate joint decision-making. A British-Irish council linking devolved assemblies in the United Kingdom and the London and Dublin governments was also proposed. It was agreed that all terrorist prisoners linked to the IRA and mainstream loyalist groups would be released within two years. The so-called Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by referendums in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on May 22.

The secretive nature of Sinn Fein politics, and its exact relationship with its military wing, the Provisional IRA, make any accurate assessment of Adams impossible. However, he has clearly been an important influence in moving Sinn Fein and the IRA away from their purely militarist policies of the 1970s towards more politically oriented activity in the 1980s and 1990s.

3) There is continuity in the attitudes of both Catholics and Protestants towards the marches in the way that violence still erupts from the continuation of the marches going on. This is usually from the case of them going through opposition religion areas e.g. After an Orange Parade went through a Roman Catholic area in Garvaghy Road, Co. Armagh, in July 1997, a policewoman was shot. On the same day a bomb attack on the police in West Belfast after a loyalist March left people injured not only physically but also mentally. There were protesters and petrol bombs on Garvaghy road. A picture taken for the newspapers shows a child with a bib that bears the caption ‘Born to walk the Garvaghy Road. No Surrender.’ This shows continuity in the beliefs of people. People felt that they had to get their own back on the people who had done this.

This has left continuity in mental attitudes and in violence. These attitudes are slowly changing though. A picture shows a Muriel on a wall, which bears the word ‘reroute’. It is giving the message to reroute marches. This shows that people want to stop violence. Also, the Orangemen decided to call off or reroute the marches to avoid confrontation and violence. This shows that even the ardent followers of the causes want peace. Attitudes like this show a change in the attitudes of people who live in Northern Ireland.

4) To overcome the problems in Northern Ireland and to have lasting peace in the province both the parties have to be satisfied. The problem is discontent and fear. The people feel a need to protect themselves from the other party and so keep weapons. They also feel a need to strike back whenever they are attacked. This causes repeated gang fights and terror attacks on both sides continuously. People have to learn that they have to stop violence and most of all change their views if there is ever to be lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

To reach peace several things have to be achieved first. The decommission of weapons from both the sides in the conflict have to be carried out first. This will stop the feeling of threat from both sides and will allow them to get on better with each other. Racial discrimination has to stop. Being racist will only cause more violence, as people will find the need to strike back in defence. People will have to change their views, as it is mainly this that has caused all the racism and hate in Northern Ireland, which has led to violence. People have to fully and truly forgive each other, as it is only this that will stop grievances with each other.

The marches have to stop as they just add fuel to an already burning fire. Children will have to be taught what is right and wrong. They learn to hate the other party from their parents, which in turn continues the hate campaign in Northern Ireland. Lastly, they have to learn to live with each other in peace and harmony. Until these things are carried out in full with complete dedication and discipline, Northern Ireland will never see peace.

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