In the land of fox hunting, shamrocks, and pubs, a century old confrontational relationship is still being plaid out. Religion is often the grounds for conflict and such is the case in Northern Ireland. For hundreds of years Catholics and Protestants have battled over rights, government and land. The spark of this conflict can be traced back to the mid 1500s.
Ireland has always had a complicated past concerning rulers, government, invasion and war. Throughout these changes of conquerors the Irish had strived to uphold their Gaelic way of life, this including Catholicism. With this said, it is no surprise that in 1558 Ireland would be outraged by the passing of the Act of Supremacy, depicting protestant Queen Elizabeth as head of the Irish church and Ireland (Wallace, "Flight of the Earls"). The Act of Supremacy required all state and church members to swear allegiance to her (Wallace, "Flight of the Earls" ). With some resistance, most Gaelic lords submitted to the rule of the Queen. However, Queen Elizabeth found a major opponent in Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. Once loyal to England, O'Neill fought for Ireland once the English government started increasing its rule (Wallace, "Flight of the Earls"). Although he won many battles against the English, O'Neill eventually fled the country along with the Earl of Tryconnell (Wallace, "Flight of the Earls"). This event became known as the Flight of the Earls and ended English opposition for a short time. In the mean while, Protestant settlers from England and Scotland migrated to the confiscated counties of Ulster, in northern Ireland (Wallace, "Flight of the Earls"). These groups of settlers would form what is now known as Northern Ireland and created a protestant group in the mist of a Catholic country. This laid the foundations for today's problems.
The first example of violence between the Protestants and Catholics is illustrated in the brutal assault by Oliver Cromwell and his armies in 1649 (Wallace, "The Curse of Cromwell"). During the English civil war, the Irish saw an opportunity to secure their freedom as well. In response to these uprisings, Cromwell traveled the Irish countryside and demolished any opposition to England (Wallace, "The Curse of Cromwell" ). Thousands were killed (Wallace, "The Curse of Cromwell"). In the settlements of Ulster, protestants attacked the Catholics in response (Wallace, "The Curse of Cromwell"). All these actions increased the mistrust between the two nations and religions.
In the eighteenth century things were alittle more subdued. The Irish parliament, under control of England, was governing the country. Although this seemed like a new beginning for the Irish, the parliament had no real powers except regarding taxation (Wallace, "Henry Grattan's Parliament"). The act known as The Sixth of George I, granted England the right to pass laws on Ireland and required English approval for any law passed in Ireland (Wallace, "Henry Grattan's Parliament"). Catholics were not allowed to vote as many of the parliament members were wealthy Protestants (Wallace, "Henry Grattan's Parliament").
In 1801, King George III, signed the Act of Union and ended the existence of the Irish Parliament ("Northern Ireland"). Under this new act, Ireland and England were combined as one kingdom under the rule of Westminster ("Northern Ireland"). Conditions would remain this way until 1921 when Ireland was partitioned in the Government of Ireland Act ("Northern Ireland"). However, when Ireland was granted freedom, the colonies of Ulster in Northern Ireland, still mainly protestant, declined to join. In the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, Northern Ireland remained part of England while Southern Ireland went on to create its own nation ("Northern Ireland"). This division of the country set the stage for future conflict.
Remaining in Northern Ireland are a small group of Irish Catholics known as Nationalists, who want to see the two sections of Ireland...
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