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Can There Be Peace in Northern Ireland?

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Introduction

Northern Ireland Coursework CAN THERE BE PEACE? In today's Northern Ireland there is an ongoing peace process. On Good Friday 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was concluded. Unfortunately, the different political and military groups have different views and aims in the peace process. The main political groups are the OUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein, and the DUP. The OUP, Official Unionist Party, is led by David Trimble who got the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the SDLP, Social Democratic Labour Party. The OUP want peace and believe that Northern Ireland should remain as part of Great Britain. Sinn Fein, led by Gerry Adams, and the SDLP believe in a united Ireland. The DUP, Democratic Unionist Party, led by Ian Paisley, believe, like the OUP, that Northern Ireland should remain as part of Great Britain. The main military groups are the IRA, British Army, UVF, UFF, and the RUC. The IRA is a military organisation that started in 1919 and got the partition of Ireland. Later, in the sixties, the IRA led a non-violent campaign to get civil rights in Northern Ireland but in 1971 the IRA split into two groups, the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA. The Official IRA continued the non-violent campaign to get a united Ireland. The Provisional IRA are a terrorist organisation that believe that the only way to get a united Ireland is through a violent campaign. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA and believes in the same aim as the IRA but is run separately. The IRA (original and Provisional) is held to be responsible for over 2000 deaths. The British Army is present in major cities such as Belfast and Derry and has carried out regular searches of people and houses and maintained some amount of peace. These regular searches have annoyed mainly Catholics as they feel that they are targeted much more often than Protestants. ...read more.

Middle

Their aim was to force the British Government to make Ireland independent. Many policemen were threatened by the IRA that they should resign from the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary, formed after the partition). Many did. The 'Black and Tans' and Auxiliary military forces were sent in by the British Government to keep order. These forces were ex-soldiers and ex-officers and they were ruthless. Many Protestant Unionists were supportive of the British in their war against the Irish Nationalists and attacked Catholics in mobs. The Protestants felt bitter and angry towards the Nationalists because of their attacks against the police and the Catholics felt the same way about the Unionist mob attacks against Catholics. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 aimed to settle this war by a temporary partition of the six North Eastern counties of Ulster that had a majority of English and Scottish Protestants from the twenty-six other counties in the South. The Unionists weren't entirely happy with this but they went along with it whereas the Nationalists still wanted a United Independent Ireland. By 1921 the War for Independence left many dead or wounded. This amounted to 1800 British dead or wounded and 1618 IRA men dead or wounded. The British offered a peace treaty and Michael Collins, then head of the IRA, signed it saying "I am signing my death warrant". He was right. He was later ambushed by Anti-Treaty Republicans and shot dead. In 1923 the Anti-Treaty Republicans led by de Valera were defeated and the Civil War ended. De Valera's party won the General Election in 1932 and changed the Irish Free State to Eire. The new constitution gave special importance to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1948 de Valera's plans for a Republic of Ireland were realised. Protestant Unionists still couldn't stand Catholics and certainly didn't want to become part of a Catholic United Ireland. By the 1950s Catholics still lived in much worse conditions than Protestants in Northern Ireland. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this scenario, if the Protestants' aim is to be politically represented by a Protestant political group, they are heading for defeat. They can't win either way. If there is a United Ireland, Protestants will be outnumbered by Catholics and if Northern Ireland stays as it is in its present state Protestants will be outnumbered by Catholics. I think that peace is possible but I believe that it may take a generation or two for it to be complete. All the above illustrate the complexity of the Irish Question. The conflict went beyond religious differences long ago. There are many scars that will not heal for a considerable number of years. There has been so much violence and history has shown that violence generally breeds more violence. Yet there is hope. The Irish population as a whole doesn't want any more bloodshed. This was publicly demonstrated by the widespread rejoicing that followed the Good Friday Agreement. As the peace process stands, the next step would be for the IRA to either decommission weapons and the complete withdrawal of the British Army from Northern Ireland. A lot therefore rests upon the political parties involved. I believe that a major factor towards eventual peace is through the education of the younger generation. It is important to understand that whilst children are brought up in a climate of hatred and revenge, the feud is likely to go on. Tolerance and respect for one another must be nurtured at an early age but also forgiveness and the recognition of suffering on both sides. Personally I think that this is only possible if both Protestant and Catholic children are educated together. However it is reported that currently, less than 1% of schools in Ireland are mixed. Here again it is the responsibility of whoever is in power to work at developing mixed education. As a final thought, despite the complexity of the conflict I do not believe that there has been so much hurt and so much violence that Protestants and Catholics will never live in peace. ...read more.

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