Since the beginnings of time, there have been many arguments, battles and controversies in Ireland, but few people realise just how the current disagreements came about. Just like the conflict in Jerusalem, it appears that very few people know about the origins of these conflicts, and I hope to shed some light on the Irish troubles by going over some key events in its history.
Every year there seems to be trouble in Northern Ireland when thousands of Protestants take part in marches celebrating their success in July 1690 at the Battle of Boyne. The Protestants usually march (or try to) through mostly Catholic areas, which they say is rubbing salt into the wounds, and usually there is some form of stand-off or violence on these marches.
Whilst before this conflict there was tension between the catholic and protestant communities, the Battle of Boyne has gone on to escalate this several times over. If anything, it was the catalyst for the start of the Irish problems. Whereas before the Battle, it seemed that tensions went no further than playground jibes and disagreements. After the battle, it evolved into full-blown war.
As a direct consequence of the Battle of Boyne, Partition was bought in, splitting Ireland into two chunks for the first time. This brought about irrevocable problems, and led to the first traces of major violence other than the Battle.
Now I’m going to shift a couple of hundred years down the line to the 1960’s when the Civil rights movement came over from America, with the realisation that Protestants got better treatment with governmental services over Catholics. Martin Luther King was making a difference in America, and so the Irish tried to make their lives fairer and better by attempting to get the authorities to allow better services for everyone.
When this all turned violent it made headlines around the world, and brought notoriety to the whole civil rights movement in Ireland. It also set the peace process back a few years. Before the whole civil rights movement the peace process was moving slowly but at a very steady pace, but the civil rights violence stopped this. It also led to the reawakening of the IRA, and another period of increased terrorism.
The civil rights movement caused bloody Sunday, making it yet another catalyst in the many conflicts of Ireland. The effects of Bloody Sunday are still being felt today, with investigations still ongoing. Some of the senior army personnel in Iraq in the recent conflict were still under investigation about their role in the events of Bloody Sunday, in which some were involved.
The Civil Rights movement is the one event that has prevented there being peace in Ireland for now, with the memories of Bloody Sunday still current for many people. When the British Army was sent in to Ireland in 1969 they were very welcome at first but eventually they left very unpopular with many conspiracy theories about them circulating. This left both Protestants and Catholics bitter at the British after what they had done in Ireland, and so the peace process couldn’t move forward very easily.
For the next 25 years or so Ireland was unable to sort out its problems very well, with decisions being taken in Westminster instead of from Ireland itself. Successions of Northern Ireland secretaries were unable to sort out the problems, and left the government. It took until 1997 when, with the new Labour Government Mo Mowlam was brought in to be Northern Irish Secretary, and succeeded in becoming one of the most popular politicians at the time. She brought peace closer, and after spending time talking to Loyalists and Unionists, she succeeded in bring some new peace talks to the fore.
In early 1998 she made one of the biggest gambles of her career, paying a visit to the infamous Maze Prison where some of Irelands most dangerous terrorists were locked up. She persuaded the terrorists to give peace another try, and in early April of 1998 she succeeded, with Tony Blair, to get the Good Friday Agreement signed.
This was one of the biggest steps in the recent history of Ireland, with this agreement came real optimism that peace could finally be achieved going into the new millennium. By 1999 Northern Ireland had its own assembly, and direct rule from Westminster was no more. Mo Mowlam resigned from the government in 2001, after some thought that she was biased towards one side. Alas, by 14th October 2002 the Assembly broke up after Unionists and Nationalists failed to agree about the decommissioning of weapons. Self-rule has yet to be re-imposed and so the peace process is back to where it began before 1997.
Whilst the Good Friday agreement got everybody’s hopes up for peace, it has achieved little and will probably play a minor part in the future of Ireland. It will have its place in history, but it hasn’t had the same effect that the Battle Of Boyne had in shaping the future of Ireland.
I think that had the Battle not had taken place, then the conflicts would have been sorted out a lot sooner, and we probably wouldn’t even be writing this piece. This one event probably had the most catastrophic effect in Irelands history, which is still being felt today, whereas most of the other events in its history are either accepted (like partition or the Easter rising) or have only been around in the last half-century (Civil Rights, Bloody Sunday and the Good Friday agreement)