The importance of the Good Friday Agreement
The Irish Island has for centuries been characterized by a conflict between the British and the Irish, and has political, economical and religious roots. After Ireland became independent in the early 19th century, the battles continued in Northern Ireland, who was left under British rules. Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland who had been discriminated for a long time by British Protestants started using weapons and violence exploded. In the years between 1969 and 1998, more known as “the Troubles”, were over 3600 people killed in the conflict, among them nearly 2000 civilians. Since 1998 a peace agreement is signed between the parties called the Good Friday Agreement, but Northern Ireland is by some means still a segregated county with Catholics and Protestants living apart from each other (Pettersson T, and Simmons, D. 2010).
The power struggle on the Irish Island has been a struggle between Catholics who wished to see a unified Ireland, and by Protestants who opposed for Northern Ireland to remain under British Rule. The Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998 and can be seen as the turning point in the conflict about Northern Ireland. In 1921 the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed, and after centuries of British rule, 26 of 32 counties of Ireland gained independence. The 6 remaining counties formed Northern Ireland, which continued to be governed within the United Kingdom. A majority of the population in Northern Ireland were Protestants and did not want to be a part of Ireland (leonidassthlm 2009). From the period 1921 to 1972 the developed government in Northern Ireland operated with autonomy from London, and power remained exclusively to the Unionist party which had support from the Protestant majority community that favoured to be a union with Britain. The Catholic minority in the country supported the Nationalist party, and they were not allowed to have a role in government, and were discriminated in many areas such as employment, voting rights and housing (dfa.ie 2 June 2012). In the 1960s, a civil rights movement was formed with both Catholics and Protestants; it discussed the unfair conditions for Catholics in Northern Ireland. The movement protested against the unfair conditions, and was sometimes met with police brutality. Every summer Protestants celebrated a former king’s battle, in which he had won over his Catholic enemy (leonidassthlm 2009). In 1969 non-violent campaigners for civil rights protested against the celebration they thought represented discrimination of Catholics (leonidassthlm 2009). They were met with an inhibitory and hostile response from the authorities, pushing Northern Ireland in a sustained period of political crisis. The years that followed was a turbulent and violent time in Northern Ireland, and many people lost their lives in the conflict, including many civilians (www.bbc.co.uk 2 June 2012).
The Catholic Army IRA (Irish Republic Army) had been inactive up until the late 1960s, but after “the Troubles” started in 1969 they became more and more active in what they believed in. IRA fought for Catholic civil rights and a unified Ireland (leonidassthlm 2009). IRA was not the only group that fought for what they believed in. Protestant loyal groups grew stronger with tens of thousands of members that fought for Northern Ireland to still belong to Britain. Violence escalated and it became harder for the British army, who was there to support the Protestant parties, to control the violence. Both sides used violence and weapons against each other to reach their goals. One Sunday in 1972 during a non-violent demonstration for human rights were 13 people killed by British soldiers. This Sunday was later called the “Bloody Sunday” (Pettersson, T and Simmons, D. 2010). The support for IRA grew after the Bloody Sunday, and more British troops were placed in Northern Ireland to prevent...