Why Were British Troops Sent Into Northern Ireland in 1969?

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The 15th of August was a black day in Irish history, troubles that had been brewing for centuries suddenly erupted. British PM, Wilson, had only one option, he had to send troops to regain control of the warring factions. However, the build up to the 1969 riots were not so clear cut. Increasing bad feelings had been festering between Catholic and Protestants since the Protestant reformation in 1534.

The earliest example of this was the Protestant plantations, sent over to Ireland to affirm a stable base that would warn the English of any potential threats. Europe was mostly Catholic and the English afeared them attacking through Catholic Ireland, which would leave them practically defenceless. This sparked off the conflict between the rival groups as the Protestants came over and stole land from the Catholics - mainly from northern territories such as Ulster.

This continued for many years, but the next major events in Irish history were the River Bann and Drogheda & Wexford massacres. The River Bann, 1641, saw the Catholics murder 2000-3000 Protestants plantationers in anger and later at Drogheda & Wexford, 1649, when Cromwell ordered his troops to slaughter surrendering villagers. These are viewed with opposing opinion by the two factions in a process known as street history. The word massacre to a Protestant springs up memories of the River Bann murders and the Catholic cruelty without a thought to Drogheda & Wexford. Likewise, the same notion to a Catholic summons up images of Cromwell’s men slaughtering surrendering peasants. This raises hostility as they attempt to blame each other for their troubles.

When James II (Catholic) was displaced from the English throne in 1689 he sought to recapture it with the help of Louis XIV (Catholic) of France. Their combined army ploughed through Ireland and looked set for victory. However, he was facing a formidable foe, in William of Orange (Protestant). Orange’s troops crushed James’ forces at the battle of...
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