Causes for peace initiatives that haven't succeeded
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Question 3 There have been many peace initiatives that haven't succeeded due to the long term causes i.e. the centuries of conflict in Ireland. Therefore I am only going to look at the most recent reasons as to why the attempts for peace have all failed. The peace initiatives first came about after the period known as 'The Troubles' came prominent. These were sparked off by marches made by Catholics, which clashed with Protestants and escalated in violence. Things became so bad that in 1969 the British government made the decision to deploy its Army to act as a 'peace keeping force'. Eventually the situation became so dire that in 1972 Westminster imposed 'direct rule' upon Northern Ireland. Since then politicians have been constantly vying for peace with four main peace initiatives proposed, the 1973 power sharing Sunningdale Agreement, 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1993 Downing Street Declaration and most recently the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However, all of the aims of these 'Agreements' were not accomplished, all due to many factors. One of the causes which sparked off the need for peace intiatives, marches and protests, came back to haunt the initiatives later on. Unionists refused some of the terms of the Sunningdale Power Sharing Executive as it gave Catholics an equal say in the running of Northern Ireland. They felt threatened, as they didn't want to risk the north re-joining with the south because of Nationalist supremacy.
The IRA also was known to receive funding from other countries including the USA, however this is unlikely to be the case today. The main reasons for partition were that the Ulster was mainly protestant so would stay with Britain. However this has become a problem during the peace initiatives. Their supremacy has led to more employment benefits for Protestants and thus wealth. The idea of 'gerrymandering' to stay in political power in constituencies has also been a cause for controversy. This was seen in the Sunningdale Power Sharing Executive and the Anglo-Irish Agreement, when the Protestants held strikes and marches which basically brought an end to the agreement. Political corruption was seen during the Downing Street Declaration when John Major favoured the Protestants in the agreement so he could get more votes for the election. Finally, a term of the Good Friday Agreement was that there were to be equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics in the RUC, however this wasn't achieved properly and is still unresolved. So Protestant majority has helped see the prevention of three or possibly four peace initiatives. Typically the media has a hand in the Northern Ireland problem as it has the power to show certain groups in good light or give them a bad reputation. The IRA seem to have been given the latter and have always been criticised far more than Unionist paramilitaries.
Furthermore, it is clear there are still sectarian tensions highlighted by the Holy Cross Primary School incident, when there was a 5 month blockade with Protestants taunting Catholic children on their way to school, in the city of Belfast. While this stunned the world, it was major setback in an Ulster that looked on the up. The story has refused to go away as two years on a mother, after receiving death threats, wishes to sue the former chief of the RUC for discrimination. This also demonstrates the reshuffle of the RUC wasn't successful. It seems the Good Friday Agreement is currently torn between success and failure. In conclusion, all of these factors inter-relate creating a web of causation. For example the division in the community mean people make marches which in turn spark off violence and the divide in the communities lead to division in politics. From my point of view there seems to have been not enough major change or decisions made by the Northern Ireland government, however, finally thanks to the Good Friday Agreement some steps forward are beginning to happen, like the decommissioning of arms by the IRA. On the other hands incidents such as Holy Cross still show secretarian violence and highlight the need for more education of the two communities and an attempt to break down the wall between these groups. Politics can make major changes but until the two groups can live and work aside or even together, peace will be a far cry. Joe Firth Northern Ireland Coursework
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