• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What were the short and long term effects of the hunger-strikes in Northern Ireland?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What were the short and long term effects of the hunger-strikes in Northern Ireland? The hunger-strikes of 1980 and 1981 had highly significant consequences for Northern Ireland nationally and internationally. While at first they polarised the community, they eventually led to the beginnings of peace in Northern Ireland. Soon after Direct Rule was introduced in Northern Ireland in March 1972 Westminster created a new department, the Northern Ireland Office, which had responsibility for Ireland while "a cross-community successor to the Stormont system was devised"1. William Whitelaw was appointed its head, under the title of Northern Ireland Secretary. Whitelaw aimed to "improve his relations with nationalists and republicans"2. He began to make conciliatory moves in June 1972 by releasing some internees and conceding to the demands of hunger strikers by granting 'special category status' to prisoners associated with paramilitary groups. McKittrick and McVea write that this decision had "significant long term consequences"3. 'Special category status' meant that republican and loyalist internees served their time under the direction of their paramilitary OC rather than warders. They were able to control their own compounds, wear their own clothes, receive weekly visits, parcels and letters and were not forced to do prison work. ...read more.

Middle

Sands starved to death in May 1981, followed by three fellow hunger strikers later that month, two more in July and four in August. The strike was called off on 3 October 1981 following "intense mediation by senior Catholic churchmen"21 and prisoners' families after a total of 10 men had starved themselves to death. The most significant death was Sands'. By his death on 5 May he "instantly" became "one of republicanism's most revered martyrs"22. In Ireland his death "generated a huge wave of emotion and anger among republicans and nationalists"23 and his funeral was attended by approximately 100 000 people. The months following the death of Sands' were "particularly grim and destabilising"24. The death toll rose from 86 killed in 1980 to 117 killed in 1981 as sectarian street disturbances amplified. "Radicalised recruits flocked to the IRA and Sinn Fein"25, paving the way for further violence. Gerry Adams wrote later, "Physically, emotionally and spiritually, the hunger strike was intensely draining; yet we derived immense new energy, commitment and direction from the extraordinary period during which our ten comrades slowly and painfully sacrificed their lives"26. The community had become highly polarised as the old community divisions had "a new rawness"27. ...read more.

Conclusion

Most importantly the agreement demonstrated "a commitment to reform in Northern Ireland and an acknowledgement that reform necessitated an input from the south"44. The agreement received an angry reaction from unionists angry at what they saw as a British sell-out, resulting in a violent but ineffective campaign by loyalists and "stimulated recruiting into the UVF and UDA"45. McKittrick and McVea describe the consequences of the hunger-strikes as a political "watershed"; the BBC/PBS production Endgame believes they "opened up the road to endgame in Northern Ireland"46; Caroline Kennedy-Pipe writes that they were a "defining moment" that led to a "political breakthrough"47 and T. G. Fraser agrees explaining that they "opened up new prospects" for Northern Ireland48. The hunger-strikes were hugely significant. Despite being opposed by the IRA leadership outside prison, they immediately dramatically shifted perceptions of the republicans in Northern Ireland. By adopting the tactics of passive resistance they created an international climate of public sympathy that forced attention on the underlying causes of the conflict. This also led to the rise of the Sinn Fein as a political force and thus increased pressure on Britain to address the fundamental causes of the troubles and negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Northern Ireland 1965-85 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Northern Ireland 1965-85 essays

  1. Northern Ireland - The Good Friday Agreement was created in April 1998, and then ...

    Plus in Northern Ireland, in 1922, the Special Powers Act was introduced. This basically legalized arrest on suspicion, search without warrant and replacement of trial by jury with special courts. However, this was very bad for Catholics as the RUC (the police force)

  2. What are the main differences between Republicans / Nationalists and Unionists / Loyalists?

    However, until it is resolved once and for all, the scars caused by Bloody Sunday cannot heal. Question 3: Previous Attempts to Bring Peace to Northern Ireland Have Failed. What Problems Will Need To Be Overcome if The Current Peace Talks Are To Succeed?

  1. The 1981 Hunger Strike

    The whole thing was stage managed, one person a week died and following the death there were high tensions between the people and police; there were riots from people who had clear views and attitude changes each time there was another death and each time there was a death huge masses of people attended the funerals.

  2. The Anglo-Irish agreement, 1985, this was agreed between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish ...

    and particularly for the next generation, of healing divisions in Ireland and of ending a conflict which has been so manifestly to the detriment of all. Both recognise that the ending of divisions can come about only through the agreement and co-operation of the people, North and South, representing both traditions in Ireland.

  1. Northern Ireland

    These differences are whether they resort to violence or do it peacefully. This leads to a greater chance of violence occurring at an Orange Order marches because some people will only think acts of violence will get their view across and this can lead to other acts of violence whether retaliating or just following the example set.

  2. Explain the role and nature of Paramilitary groups in the Troubles of Northern Ireland ...

    the RUC's, and this tension escalated in 1971 with Bloody Sunday, a protest over internment without trial that led to the murder of 13 nationalists. As a result of paramilitary activity, 'civil right in Northern Ireland had been seriously eroded, and freedom in the name of safety had been sacrificed to some extent in both Great Britain and Ireland.'

  1. Co-operation and Conflict - Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.

    As time approached to the World War 1 the Nationalists planned to force the British Government to set up a Parliament in Ireland. Fenians had again taken part in the fight for independency and this time surprisingly won the battle for a republic Ireland.

  2. Ireland coursework-Part AIreland has had a lot of trouble over the years for many ...

    As well as introducing internment the unionist government had also banned all marches, making this one illegal. The marches were intending to go to the guildhall through the Catholic Bogside area. However the army wanted to deal with the march in a low key way so put up 26 barriers to contain the marches within the Bogside area.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work