The Irish Troubles: A Quest For Peace
The Irish Troubles is the name given to the political, cultural, and civil conflict that enveloped the island of Ireland for decades. The conflict is deeply embedded in the history of Ireland and the cultural difference between the native Irish and the British. As Ireland fell under the rule of England, cultural clashes resulted in two completely different societies living amongst one another. The Protestant British and the Catholic Irish make up the clashing sides of the conflict. The British make up the Unionists and the Irish make up the Nationalist. Though the seeds for conflict were sown much earlier, violent protests and attacks from both sides broke out in the 1960s, perpetuating a cycle of violence that would not be resolved until around 1998. The Troubles depict the constant struggle between different cultural groups for reform and change as well as the necessary rise of political parties to search for peace. The political unrest in Northern Ireland between Nationalists and Unionists initially prompts peaceful protests, however violence quickly ensues, ultimately leading both sides to resort to political negotiations to affect a lasting peaceful solution.
The political and social unrest during the Troubles originated from a longstanding tension between the Irish and the British, dating back to the Norman Invasion of 1170. Ireland has long been a colony of England and thus has adapted many similarities as British culture enveloped the Irish clans. Henry II of England was the first to claim Ireland as a member of the British kingdom. However it was not until the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign around 1603 that military conquest over all of Ireland occurred. The Irish tribes fought back, however the strength of the British military proved to be too powerful. Soon Queen Elizabeth ushered in an age of settlement on the island. Using generous land donations, Elizabeth attracted colonists from England, Scotland, and Wales with her ultimate goal being to, “Transplant an English society to Ireland” (Darby). Towns and communities were established by the colonists, however native Irish were unable to join these communities. As a new language, culture, way of life, and religion were introduced to Ireland, the clash of culture between the English colonists and native Irish did not happen smoothly. Many uprisings and revolts ensued due to mistreatment culminating with the 1916 Easter Uprisings. Although ultimately suppressed, “The Easter Risings instilled a sense of sympathy for the IRA and the political wing Sinn Fein” that would continue for decades (Darby). Soon after the uprising in 1921, Ireland was partitioned into a southern Republic of Ireland and a six county administration in the North, commonly known as Northern Ireland.
Following the 1921 Partition, tensions in the North did not disappear as oppressive discrimination against the Irish Catholic minority developed in political and economic aspects of life. The boundary of Northern Ireland was created to establish a direct majority in favor of England, thus two distinct groups were formed: the Protestant Unionists and the Catholic Nationalists. In Northern Ireland the government instituted what was called the Stormont, and it had power to individually govern Northern Ireland without the control of the British. Due to the deeply embedded tension between Unionists and Nationalists, freedoms and abilities to govern were severely limited for Catholics. “In 1920 Catholics won control of 25 of 80 local councils, however Unionists’ discrimination in 1922 ensured that in the 1924 elections Catholics controlled only 2 out of 80 local councils” (Rowthorn). Moreover, many laws passed by Stormont were aimed at increasing security while also intimidating and discriminating against Catholics. Most prominent was the Special Powers Act of 1922 which allowed the police force the power of “unspecified internment, search and...
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