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Why were British troops sent to Northern Ireland in 1969?

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Introduction

Why were British troops sent to Northern Ireland in 1969? In 1922, Ireland was partitioned. This meant that the country was split into two. Northern Ireland stayed part of Britain, but had its own parliament at Stormont, as well as local councils for each region. The rest of Ireland became the Republic of Ireland and became a totally separate country, independent from the rest of Britain. The partition occurred due to trouble in Ireland caused by tension between Britain and Ireland and it was a war between them, which lead to the partition. At the time of the partition the proportion of Protestants to Catholics in Northern Ireland was approximately 1/3 Catholic and 2/3 Protestant. In the main Catholics were known as Nationalists, as they wanted an independent, united Ireland which was totally separate from the U.K. In the main Protestants were known as Unionists. This meant that they wanted Ulster (Northern Ireland) to stay separate from the rest of Ireland and were proud to be British. After the partition was made in 1922, a lot of Catholics felt that they were being discriminated against in many different aspects. One of these was the allocation of the employment in Northern Ireland. We have evidence to suggest that this is true. This evidence has come from leading unionists themselves. Protestants owned most industries in Ulster; this meant that Protestants controlled a lot of the employment. ...read more.

Middle

It seemed that Catholic families would not be welcomed into Protestant areas. A family named the Sands moved into an estate built to increase integration, but found themselves facing hostile Protestants who drove them back to the safety of a Catholic housing estate. The local governments also discriminated against Catholics when it came to local government elections. In past tine proportional representation was used t6o give Catholic minority some say in the local government of Northern Ireland. Under this system the number of politicians elected depended upon the number of votes cast for each party, instead of the number of votes cast for each candidate. This system led to Nationalists gaining 25 out of 80 councils in the 1920 council elections. The threat of Catholic control lead to the Unionists abolishing proportional representation voting in 1922. A new system was set up and a commission was set up to draw boundaries for voting districts in local elections. The new system was known as the Gerrymander. The new system was designed to favour the Protestant minority. They did this by having more Protestant boundary commissioners, which drew boundaries, which favoured Protestants. They did this so that while the Catholics were the majority of the population they only got 8 councillors. The Protestants were the minority of the population but they got 12 councillors. Protestant control of government made it easier to discriminate against Catholics. Catholics would have found the new system unfair as many rich Protestants were given extra votes whereas many Catholics were disqualified from voting because they were either, sub-tenants, lodgers or living at with parents over the age of 21. ...read more.

Conclusion

The repeal of the Special powers act. The disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary. The NICRA had now made their aims clear. In January 1969 the 'People's Democracy' led a civil rights march from Belfast to Londonderry. The group consisted of Students from Queen's university in Belfast. The march intended to go through strongly Protestant areas. This was condemned by the NICRA. The march was ambushed at Burntollet Bridge. Violence broke out between marchers and Protestants. Bernadette Devlin, a student marching, said 'From the lanes burst hordes of screaming people wielding planks of wood, bottles, iron crow bars, cudgels studded with nails and they waded into the march beating the hell out of everybody'. This violent march was the first of many events that year which led to troops being sent into Northern Ireland. On the 28th April Terrance O'Neill resigned as Prime Minister, this was a blow to plans he had made for voting reform. The orange marches, which failed to be banned, caused several riots in several parts of Northern Ireland on the 12th and 13th August. On the 12th august the battle of the Bogside broke out, causing terrible sectarian violence. After the Prime minister of the Irish Republic publicly criticised the Northern Ireland Government the British Army was sent onto the streets of Northern Ireland on August 14th. Although it was ultimately the riots that took place in Northern Ireland that caused the need for British troops to be sent in, it must be remembered that these were caused by conflict, which had been going on for many years. Therefore the causes were both short and long term. ...read more.

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