Conflict In Northern Ireland

Conflict In Northern Ireland


For an outsider looking in to the conflict in Northern Ireland, it is difficult to explain without that person knowing the history of Ireland. In this article, I will try and explain the conflict situation in Northern Ireland.

This conflict goes back for many years. In the early years of Irish history, the island of Ireland was a single island. This island is located to the west of Great Britain. Right up to and including the 11th century, Ireland was ruled by a set of Kings. These Kings constantly paddled for power and supremacy. One particular king, the king of Leinster fell upon hard times and asked King Henry II of England for assistance.

King Henry was at war with France and so he asked Lord Strongbow to go to the king of Leinster's assistance. Strongbow arrived in Ireland and this was the first venture into the island of Ireland. King Henry was worried about the strength of Strongbow. He too then visited Ireland and France with his army. The English then went to war with the Kings of Ireland. King Henry then divided the lands of Ireland among those who fought with him.

Conflict In Northern Ireland - Battle Of The Boyne

In 1690, there was a famous Battle of the Boyne. This battle was between James II who was a catholic and was to become the King of England and his son-in-law Prince William of Orange who was a Protestant. Prince William had been asked by those in England to prevent James becoming king because they did not want a catholic King. Prince William won the battle of the Boyne and maintained the Protestant religion.

Conflict In Northern Ireland - Act of Union

Many years later in 1801 an act of union was passed that joined Ireland to England. Ireland did keep its own parliament but all the laws were passed by an English Parliament. It remained like this for many years until the Easter rising of 1916.

During this rising the Republic of Ireland was formed. However six of the 32 counties in Ireland did not want to be part of this Republic. In 1921, the six counties were created in a state that would be called Northern Ireland. This new country would remain linked to Great Britain and would form what is now known as the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland Conflict Explained

The conflict in Northern Ireland today is because there are two different cultures and two different religions.

The overwhelming majority of Protestants are Unionists. That means they want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The majority of Catholics are Nationalists who want to be part of the Republic of Ireland. It is this direct conflict in terms of religion, culture and politics that has caused the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Now clearly there are many more complex issues than this. However for the person looking in at Northern Ireland from the outside this is a good basic approach to take to the Northern Ireland conflict.


The Beginning of the Northern Ireland Conflict

In 1968 Catholics were discriminated against with reference to housing and work opportunity. In the world at that time there were many civil rights marches. The Catholic population joined in these civil rights marches to gain equal status.

This was how the Northern Ireland conflict began in what became known as "The Troubles." The government in Northern Ireland at that time used the police to try and quell the protests. This resulted in much disobedience and rioting.

Political Situation in 1969

Until this time Northern Ireland had been governed by a Unionist government and believed that this would continue for a long time to come. They had no wish to become in anyway involved in any talks of a United Ireland. This government had been in place since the formation of the Northern Ireland state in 1921 and had been used to doing things their way.

Due to the explosion of civil rights the British Government were forced into telling the Unionist government that they would have to give certain concessions to the Catholic people in terms of housing allocation, equality of job opportunity and in voting.

Rather than give way to some concessions the Unionist government at that time came under great pressure from certain right wing Protestants, such as Ian Paisley and James Craig. They demanded that the government of the day should focus on banning the Civil Right's parades by force and not to make any concessions.

Eventually that was the decision that was made and Northern Ireland went into a period of murders and rioting.

British Army Introduced to Northern Ireland

Catholics and Protestants began to fight with each other and started burning each other's homes. Because of this, the British government brought in the British Army to try and maintain some type of law and order.

Initially the British Army were welcomed by the Catholic population. However this was short lived as the government of Northern Ireland began to use the army to stop all rioting. They introduced internment in 1971 and the Catholic population instantly turn against the British Army presence.

(Internment is where anyone can be arrested by the state for any reason and imprisoned without a trial)

Formation of the Provisional IRA

Mainly young Catholics living in Catholic areas rejuvenated an old Irish Republican Army. For many years there was continued and violent conflict. The Protestant people, who were afraid of a united Ireland, became very defensive.

The Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association came into being.
With paramilitaries on both sides of the religious divide and the British Army in the middle, the scene became set for many decades of conflict.

Good Friday Agreement

After some 30 years and 3000 deaths the people of Northern Ireland even eventually agreed to a peace process. There is now a government at Stormont in the city of Belfast. This government is known as the Northern Ireland Assembly.

There is still some conflict remaining but it is greatly reduced compared to the 30 years of violence. I hope this short article has helped you understand the basic principles of the conflict in Northern Ireland.