• 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?

    This does not seem to cause a problem any longer. The issue of policing however, is a different matter. Catholics in Northern Ireland have protested about their abuse from the RUC very passionately for years. The Good Friday Agreement states that in order to stop this from happening in the future, the RUC will be reformed.

  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 ...

    They therefore make a solemn commitment to promote co-operation at all levels on the basis of the fundamental principles, undertakings, and obligations under international agreements, to which they have jointly committed themselves, and the guarantees which each Government has given and now reaffirms, including Northern Ireland's statutory constitutional guarantee.

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

    The UDA emerged in September 1971 as an umbrella organisation encompassing a number of small protestant vigilante groups, formed to protect their own areas against IRA violence. Whilst it was responsible for numerous sectarian killings before 1979, it is a legal organization, and rather the Ulster Freedom Fighters are considered to be it's military wing.

  2. Northern Ireland

    of the United Kingdom because Britain has lots of money and in case of a war they have allies in Northern Ireland to fight with and Ireland won't be used as a base for enemies.

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

    and Australia. This is the story of how that immense tragedy came to pass. During the deprivation, there was secretly a production of two organisations with one goal. The Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood wanted once again all the connections with Britain to be abolished and an indecency form the British rule.

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

    their weapons and agree to move forwards politically rather than through terrorism, this is what Gerry Adams is supposedly asking for, so he can start the political process rolling. These troubles today started a long time ago and I will be looking at the history behind them.

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