Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland

The problems between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland started a long time ago and more political than religious.
For centuries the English had tried to gain control of Ireland. Until the sixteenth centrury,England controlled only a small area of Ireland around Dublin. English rulers, including King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell gradually conquered the whole of Ireland. Ireland became a British colony in 1607.

The last area to resis the English was the north of Ireland, Ulster, but in the end the Irish were defeated. The English punished the Catholic people of Ulster for their resistance by giving their lands to Protestants from Scotland and England.

In 1921, an independent Irish state was set up, now the Republic of Ireland. Six counties in the north of Ireland were dominated and controlled by Protestants. They refused to join the new Irish state. These six counties stayed part of the UK and are now called Northern Ireland.


From 1921 to 1972, Northenr Ireland had its own parliament in Belfast, the capital. The Protestants were in the majority and controlled the economy. In the late 1960s, there were large, peaceful demonstrations by Catholics who wanted better political representation, jobs and housing. Protestant reaction to the demonstrations was strong and often violent. In 1969, Brithish soldiers were sent to Northern Ireland to help keep the peace.

In 1972, thirteen Catholics were killed by British soldiers during a Civil Rights march. This incident, know as Bloody Sunday, led to even greater problems between Catholics and Protestants. This period of violence is know as the Troubles. During the Troubles more than 3000 people have died and 30,000 have been injured. Terrorist violence is causes by the Irish Republican Army, or IRA on Ulster Volunteer Force, or UVF on the Protestant side.

Recently, the British and Irish governments started peace talks with Catholic and...
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