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Prior to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, all attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland had failed. If the Good Friday Agreement is to succeed, what problems will have to be overcome?

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Introduction

Coursework Assignment 3 - Prior to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, all attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland had failed. If the Good Friday Agreement is to succeed, what problems will have to be overcome? In Northern Ireland, there has been a large conflict in opinion over should be in control of the country for many years. Some people believe that Ireland should be united as one and should have no control or influence from Britain. These, Catholics in the majority, are known as 'Republicans' or 'Nationalists'. Others, Protestants, known as 'loyalists' or 'unionists' believe that Northern Ireland should be separate, at least politically, from the Republic and be part of Britain, possibly ruled from London like it is now in the wake of the suspension of the Good Friday Agreement, or that Northern Ireland should be part of Britain but have its own Government. Religion, Patriotism and political belief have caused a great amount of conflict between the groups. In each group, many parties, sub-parties and splinter groups have been formed, each one having slightly different views based around the same idea and using different methods than others. An example of conflicting groups on the same 'side' would be the range of Nationalist groups that exist. The SDLP (Social Democratic Labour Party), arguably the most peaceful Nationalist organisation, believes in using non-violent, negotiating methods to achieve it aims. The IRA, or Irish Republican Army, on the other hand, is a Catholic paramilitary well known for using violent, intolerant methods to achieve its targets. Obviously, the SDLP does not tolerate the IRA's methods in any way, even though they share very similar views and want to achieve almost the same thing. The same comparison could be made between Protestant organisations like the Ulster Unionists and the Ulster Defence Force. The two main groups in Northern Ireland have not been able to agree or compromise over many things in the past. ...read more.

Middle

The two groups do not trust each other, and believe that their opposites spy on them, as has been seen in the recent suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Catholics' trust and attitude towards Britain and the Protestants has far decreased in previous years. Excluding the British troops' behaviour in the Easter Uprising, some other events have made the Catholics mistrust Britain. In January 1972, 27 Irish civilians were shot in Nationalist Londonderry after a moderately peaceful rights march. At 4.07 PM on the 30th January a paratrooper asked permission to arrest some rioters who had stayed behind to confront the soldiers who had blockaded their route. Just three minutes later, the soldiers opened fire on the crowd, killing 14 innocent men, six of the just seventeen years old. While the soldiers maintain even now that the victims were armed and first fired upon them, there is no published proof to this day that the victims were carrying weapons. The Catholics of Ireland claim that 14 were 'executed'. A secret memo was discovered, dated three weeks before the incident, from a senior British Commander, telling the soldiers "CS Gas and rubber bullets do not deter rioters". He recommended instead that "the minimum force needed to restore law and order is to shoot selected ringleaders". This made many very doubtful of whether it was an accident that the Catholic protesters were shot dead. Many Catholic Paramilitary prisoners, in 1980, decided to fight for special privileges. They thought because they were not prisoners who had actually committed crimes, and were 'prisoners of war', that they were being unfairly treated, as a real criminal. They believed that they should get to wear their own clothes instead of the prison uniforms, and that they should receive a greater number of visits from loved ones and friends. To achieve their aims, they decided to hunger strike. 10 people died from starvation, including Bobby Sands, who ended up with 100 000 mourners at his funeral. ...read more.

Conclusion

So even if the agreement did come to a halt, the ideas should definitely not be scrapped because it has been seen that some of them, when put into action, do actually work. The government will also have learnt that other aspects of the agreement do not work. Even if the agreement is not scrapped and does continue, I believe the government should do their best to please every group involved as has been done in the Good Friday Agreement. The Government should try to persuade the Unionists to be more trusting of the Nationalists and the Nationalists to be more trusting towards the Unionists. The Unionists should be encouraged not to resign from the assembly every time a result cannot be reached, and the IRA and loyalist extremists should be promised better rights as prisoners the less violence is deployed, however, the cause of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland is of not easily detectable as the paramilitaries often use Guerrilla warfare and do not often own up to the violence. The decommissioning of weapons should be subject to a review and a compromise. Weapons should be monitored and given up step-by-step. The IRA should be scrutinised if discovered to fake disbandments, while the Unionists should be encouraged to communicate, even if they do not agree with an opponent's view, and should be more trusting of the IRA, as it is possible that one reason the IRA is bitter is because it feels it is discriminated against and is not trusted. Ideas like review of policing should be followed up whether the agreement is or not, because an end to discrimination could be a huge step towards peace in Northern Ireland. The ideas used in The Good Friday Agreement have not ceased, and should be followed up in the re-launch of the agreement or carried on to a new agreement, however, if a new agreement is formed, the ideas should be amended instead of being directly translated and repeated, as it would just result in a suspension like the one at present. 12/11/2002 Sean Starbuck | History | Coursework assignment 3 ...read more.

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