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Northern Ireland 

Here is some general information on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  Hundreds of books have been written about this period of Northern Irish and Irish history, so please understand the following are only snippets to aid the traveller in understanding, in general terms, why Northern Ireland is like it is. 

When Did the Troubles Start?

In 2009, the BBC aired a series on the Troubles in recognition of the 40 year anniversary of the Troubles.  However, before we go into what happened in 1969, the visitor to Northern Ireland must understand that there was still division and animosity in Northern Ireland as a result of the partition in 1921 and how the resulting Border Commissioon dealt with areas in the Border Counties. 

Definitions

Before we move forward, some definitions should be broadly drawn:

Nationalists/Republicans - typically people who follow the Roman Catholic religion and who want a united Ireland (ie. 32 county Ireland) with a Parliament in Dublin; they refer to their nationality as Irish.

Unionists/Loyalists - typically people who follow the Protestant religious faith and who want to remain a part of the United Kingdom; in essence they do not mind the division of the island of Ireland and refer to themselves as British. 

The North - a phrase used by Nationalists to describe Northern Ireland; this angers many Unionists who want Nationalists to use the technical and legal term to describe Northern Ireland.

After Partition

There are many views on what happened after Partition to allow the rift between the two sides to continue.  What tends to be discussed by Nationalists are that Unionists effectively created a single-party state with Nationalists being treated as traitors and alienated by government policy which favoured Protestants and Unionists.  Unionists do not accept the above, however.  In Northern Ireland there are two sides to everything! 

1960s

In the 1960s, a Civil Rights Movement was started in the North which was based loosely on the Black Civil Rights Movement in the southern States of America.  This movement wanted the perceived inequality faced by Nationalists in Northern Ireland rectified.  These marches continued through the 1960s.

August 1969

This is the accepted start of the Troubles.  Riotting broke out in Londonderry between Nationalists and the supporters of an Apprentice Boys parade.  This riotting lasted for two days and resulted in Nationalists fighting the police and loyalists.  The riots spread throughout Northern Ireland with the result that the army had to be called onto the streets of Northern Ireland.  In some areas the army did not leave until nearly 40 years later.   

1969 - Current

The Troubles saw 3,254 people killed in a span of 30 years due to recurring acts of intense violence between Nationalists and Unionists.  Unionists will claim that the army was there to uphold law and order whereas Nationalists claim htat the Army and Police were involved in the actual violence themselves or at least colluded with Unionist paramilitaries. 

The Troubles were brought to an end by a pro-longed peace process which included ceasefires by the main paramilitary organisations on both sides, decommissioning of their weapons, reform of the police and the removal of the Army from the streets of Northern Ireland.  The Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998 by British and Irish signatories, recognised the rights of the Irish people on the island to determine their own fate and that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom until a majority in Northern Irleand votes otherwise.

The End of the Troubles?

Northern Ireland is not yet at peace with each other.  The politicians on both sides can, at times, barely stand in the same room as each other.  There are still tensions on both sides and they do occassionally erupt. 

Not all paramilitary groups have decommissioned.  Dissident Republicans murdered a policeman and two soldiers in March, 2009 and the threat they pose to law and order in Northern Ireland remain high.  Small scale rioting does tend to occur after key football matches and disputed parades.  However, for the visitor considering touring Northern Ireland, this should not stop their visit.  What the visitor should be aware of are what flares up this violence and not be anywhere near those flashpoints and instead be tucked up in bed at a nice B&B, guesthouse or hotel in the countryside. 

 


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