Why was there a change in the levels of tension between Unionists and Nationalists between 1968 and 1998?
There were several key factors which changed the levels of tension between Unionists and Nationalists between 1968 and 1998. Some historians may argue that the politic events in Northern Ireland during this time period caused the greatest change in tension, whilst others may argue that the relationship between London and Dublin caused the greatest change in tension. Others may argue that the role of the people in Northern Ireland was a bigger factor. However, I would argue that the violence in Northern Ireland resulted in the greatest change in tension. This is because the violence in Northern Ireland led to even more hatred between the two groups. This hatred resulted in even more violence which would have led to the Unionists and Nationalists having a greater fear of each other. This would have led to an increase in the levels of tension.
One of the key factors which led to a change in the levels of tension between Unionists and Nationalists was the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland. Following the Battle of the Bogside, the Nationalists felt as though that they could no longer trust the RUC. This was because it was alleged that the RUC helped the Unionists in the riot after the Apprentice Boys’ march. This resulted in further rioting for two days. These riots would have increased the levels of tension between the Unionists and Nationalists as there would have been fear of even more violence spreading through the Province. This tension led to the government having no choice, but to call in the British army to prevent further violence. At first, the Nationalists welcomed the British troops as they thought that the troops were going to defend the Nationalists from any more violence. In this way, there would have been less tension between the Unionists and Nationalists as the violence between the Unionists and Nationalists was seemingly about to decrease.
The arrival of the British troops led to more peace in Northern Ireland. However, this peace didn’t last for long. In December 1969, the Provisional IRA was formed. The provisional IRA received weapons and money from the USA. This resulted in the Provisional IRA becoming more and more threating and the violence between the army and the IRA increased. This would have increased the fear of normal people that the IRA would become strong again and that there would be even more violence. This would have led to an increase in the levels of tension.
The formation of the IRA also deteriorated the good relations between the British Army and the Nationalists. The increase in tension because of the formation of the Provisional IRA led to the government ordering three thousand troops to search for weapons in people’s houses. Many homes were wrecked and this would have led to the relationships deteriorating between the British army and the Nationalists. This would have led to more Nationalists supporting the IRA and so the IRA would have grown stronger. This would have led to an increase in the levels of tension.