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Why has it been so Difficult to Bring Peace to Northern Ireland?

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Introduction

Why has it been so Difficult to Bring Peace to Northern Ireland? The political situation in Northern Ireland has always caused concern. Numerous factors, strengthened by historical events have contributed to the complex arguments surrounding Northern Ireland. History has caused severe conflicts in religious views, which have lead to cultural differences between the people of Northern Ireland. Other factors behind the conflict include the struggle for political power, violence and extremism, the rise of leaders and individuals, and foreign intervention. This essay will examine the way these factors have built up over time, causing violence and conflict in Northern Ireland today. This essay will also examine why, given its history, the Irish question cannot seem to be solved. The Catholic rebellion of 1641 and the Cromwellian revenge 1649 were the first examples of the use of violence and the divisions between the Protestant and Catholic religions. They enforced the feeling amongst both sides that neither could be trusted. It set the agenda for the harsh treatment of Catholics throughout history for example the Penal Laws. Although the continuance of this kind of hatred has coloured the attitudes of its people, history itself cannot be blamed. The blame lies more with the way the two sides have used Ireland's history to enforce their arguments. ...read more.

Middle

In the General election of 1918, the Home Rule Party was defeated and Nationalists voted for the more extreme Sinn Fein. War followed. The Irish Volunteers became the IRA. The war of Independence saw the rise of Michael Collins leading IRA attacks on police working for the British. This period saw the rise of extreme Unionists. They attacked Catholics in Ulster. In an attempt to stop the war, the British partitioned Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Treaty ended the fighting. Ulster, which was predominately Protestant, stayed governed by Britain. Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State. Northern Ireland has not always been so troubled and between 1922 and 1968 some degree of peace was achieved. Partition however did not produce a trouble free Ireland. Sectarian hatred had led to division in education which in turn led to a lack of understanding of opposing cultures. Pupils learned a biased history. Churches encouraged support for political parties. Lack of understanding caused further hatred. Peace depended on whether compromises in political views and culture could be made. There were sporadic terrorist attempts made by the IRA but these received little support from the Nationalist community. During the 1960's Ian Paisley became a key individual opposing Prime Minister O'Neill's, attempts to unite Protestants and Catholics. ...read more.

Conclusion

Most Unionists were not convinced. David Trimble was elected as First minister. There was difficulty in implementing the Agreement. Trimble's Unionists refused to enter the new assembly. They argued that due to a failure to start decommissioning, Sinn Fein should be excluded from office. Sinn Fein argued that they had said they would try to influence the IRA and nothing more. Lack of communication had again led to a stalemate being reached. The IRA felt that if they started to decommission their weapons they would have nothing to fall back on. After many arguments, the IRA has finally begun decommissioning. In conclusion, although there are still many obstacles to peace, in comparison to events in history, the Good Friday Agreement was an important step forward. Of the factors behind the conflict, I believe the use of violence and extremism to be the most important as this has led to resentment and bitterness amongst the Irish people. Had the conflict simply been a political struggle, the solution may have been clearer. Violence has caused distrust and division in Northern Irish society today. Another important factor is religion. It may nowadays not be as important as political views but it has led to division in schools and housing, leading to cultural differences. Although religion has been used almost as a tool in creating a division in Ireland. As Stephen Michael, a Protestant preacher said: "Protestantism is a political identity now." Samantha Donoghue The Irish Question ...read more.

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