Is there sufficient evidence in sources D to J to explain why the Troubles broke out in Northern Ireland in 1969? Essay

By 1968 Protestants Unionists were controlling the government in Northern Ireland. They managed to stay in control due to the gerrymandering of the election boundaries. This meant that the Catholics were being treated unfairly- they were often left with the poorest housing and jobs. Catholics began to hold peaceful civil rights marches because they were unhappy about the slow pace of the reform which had been promised by the new Unionist government.

During these protests violence broke out between the Catholics and the Protestants and in 1969 the British government sent in troops to restore order. The next few years became known as the Troubles as a result of the constant violence and conflict of which Bloody Sunday, 30th January 1972 was a major and tragic event.

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Source D is written by a Catholic woman describing her schooldays. The source was produced in 1969, at the beginning of the Troubles where emotions and tensions were likely to be very high between the Nationalists and the Unionists. This particular source very much emphasises strong Irish pride and Catholicism and therefore is likely to have bias.

The writer talks about her Vice Principal, an educator who therefore could easily influence children with her opinions about the English/Protestants, teaching them also to have prejudices. The Vice Principal seems to be a Nationalist, ‘She disliked the English…She was very keen about Irish culture. She didn’t hate Protestants. But her view was that they weren’t Irish’. This appears to be a typical view of many Catholic Irish people at the time, who felt their country had been invaded by the Protestants and were taking control of everything.

The author of the source also talks about learning Irish history when she was at school and how different interpretations were given about it from Protestant books. This emphasises the long-term disagreements between the Protestants and the Catholics, which finally led to the Troubles.

Source D certainly gives evidence that Catholics and Protestants didn’t get along. It suggests that they Catholics felt that the Protestants weren’t really Irish. The source does have bias against the Protestants and British as it is written by a Roman Catholic who was brought up in a very ‘patriotic’ fashion and this could question the reliability and value of the source.

Source D gives some evidence to why the Troubles broke out in Ulster but it is insufficient as the source is short and therefore has a lack of detail, in addition to it’s bias. However, this bias does also help to explain why the Troubles broke out, the source shows the prejudices Catholics had against the Protestants which could be one reason that violence did break out.

Source E is a Protestant cartoon showing ‘Ireland’ bound in ropes by a Catholic priest. The source shows the Protestants point of view about the Catholics. It suggests that Catholicism is holding down the Irish people, and is essentially mocking Catholics too tied up in their religion. During the 19th century Ireland was controlled by the settlers but was under threat from home rule. This source suggests that the Protestants feared discrimination and persecution if the Catholics gained control.

Source E gives some evidence as to why the Protestants ambushed Catholic protests- they were afraid the Catholics would regain power. The date of the source- 19th century also hints at the long-term differences, in which further conflict eventually led to the Troubles. The source is mocking the Catholics and therefore does have bias which could question its reliability. However, the bias of the source helps to identify why there was any conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants in the first place. The fact that it is a cartoon also questions its value as a reliable source and because it has very little explanation, there is not enough detail to give sufficient evidence to why the Troubles broke out.

Source F is a map of Derry in 1966, when the Protestants Unionists ruled Northern Ireland. The government treated the Catholics unfairly, giving them the poorest housing and jobs, creating the Protestant armed police forced (B Specials) who were prejudiced against Catholics, and then gerrymandering the electoral boundaries to make sure they remained in control. In 1966 the majority of the population in Derry was Catholic and as the source shows, by moving the boundaries Catholic votes were split up (North Ward, Waterside Ward) resulting in the Protestants being the majority in each area. In 1966 eight Nationalists and twelve Unionists were elected, therefore keeping the Protestants in power.

F is an entirely factual source (unlike D and E) making it more reliable/valuable. It suggests that gerrymandering and the fact that the Protestants remained in power brought about the Troubles because the Catholics felt they were being treated unfairly.

Source G was created in 1641 showing that the religious divide between the Protestants and the Catholics had history. In the 17th century the Protestants took land from the Catholics and began rule of Ireland. This particular source (taken from a Protestant textbook) suggests that the Protestants were attacked and left to die by the Catholics. The source makes the Catholics look brutal, which in turn made the modern Protestants think that they were initially the ones treated badly.

Source G gave the Protestants a reason to want revenge against the Catholics, so they treated them unfairly when they gained power. This long-term divide shown by the source was the reason for the Troubles breaking out. Although the source gives some evidence of why the Protestants hated the Catholics, there is always a chance that it is biased as it is from a Protestant textbook. It is insufficient in explaining why the Troubles started because it lacks detail, for example it doesn’t say why the Protestants were stripped etc,

Source H is a photograph taken at a peaceful civil rights march in Derry on 5th October 1968 (at the beginning of the Troubles). The source shows the RUC (mainly Protestant) baton- charging a Catholic marcher. It hints at the violence of the RUC, suggesting they had prejudices against the Catholics who were showing no signs of violence in the first place. The march ended in two further days of serious rioting in Derry between the Catholics and the RUC.

This is a primary source taken at the time of the march, therefore can be seen as valuable and reliable. However, although this source shows a clear picture of what is happening at that moment of time, there is no explanation or follow-up of why the officers struck the marcher.

Source I is also a photograph, this time taken of a civil rights march at Burntollet in January 1969 (when the Troubles were well underway). Marches like this often ended in violence when the Protestants would attack marchers. The source shows the violence of the Loyalists because of their fear of home rule and Catholic control. However the source has no explanation for why Loyalists ambushed the Republicans at this particular march, therefore the source does not have sufficient evidence.

Finally, the last source (J) is from the film, ‘Bloody Sunday’ which was produced in 1972 (in the midst of the troubles, therefore should be quite accurate and relevant). The film explains why the Troubles began in much detail- it shows that civil rights marches (in Belfast and Derry) were held because the Catholics were being treated unfairly and also shows how they ended in violence when Protestants would attack them.

Although this films claims ‘it is based entirely of British Government documents, interviews, eyewitness reports and court transcripts’, there are other films made of the Troubles in Ireland which contradict. This film only looks at the conflict through the view of one Catholic family and therefore doesn’t show the entirety of why the Troubles started.

After thorough study of the sources it can be concluded that although they give some evidence to why the Troubles began in 1969, they are all insufficient in giving a full account. The majority of the sources are short and therefore lack detail and explanation into why the Troubles did start. Many of the sources (e.g. G) have some form of bias, which could question their reliability and value. However, together all of the sources do provide some basis for why the Troubles started, combining the history of the religious divide with the newer prejudices between the two groups.

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