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Irish FAQ: History [5/10]
Section - 2) How did the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland start?

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	The northern unionists effectively created a single-party state.
	Proportional representation was eliminated for local council
	elections in 1922 and for the Northern Ireland Parliament in
	Stormont in 1929.  One vote per person did not hold in local
	elections until 1969.  Gerrymandering was used to secure unionist
	seats in nationalist areas throughout the thirties.  Nationalists
	and catholics were viewed as potential traitors and alienated by
	the government policies, which favoured protestants and unionists.
	In turn the nationalists never fully accepted the legitimacy
	of the new constitutional arrangements.  Some republicans in
	the North continued a violent campaign against the London and
	Belfast governments.

	By the 1960s, northern republicans had mostly given up violence
	and turned either to politics or to retirement.  But a new civil
	rights movement arose in the North, to protest and correct the
	discrimination against Catholics.  The Prime Minister of
	Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill (a moderate Unionist)
	pushed through reforms in electoral law and public housing.  He
	met with increasing opposition from hard-line Unionists including
	William Craig and Brian Faulkner, important members of his
	cabinet.  After a general election (in which he retained a
	narrow majority) he was forced out of office in April 1969,
	following a bombing which was blamed on the IRA but later turned
	out to be the work of loyalists.

	Civil rights turned into civil disorder.  The Belfast government
	could not cope when fighting broke out in the streets of Belfast.
	At times, the riots verged on pogroms, such as when loyalists
	invaded the nationalist Falls Road.  Thousands of families
	were forced to leave their homes.  The London government sent
	British troops into Northern Ireland to keep the factions apart
	in August 1969.

	1970 was a turning point in Northern Ireland.  The British Army,
	having been welcomed initially by Catholics turned that welcome
	into suspicion and hatred by conducting mass house searches in
	nationalist areas.  The IRA split in two, the Officials and
	the Provisionals (who were better organised and more willing
	to use violence).  Ian Paisley was elected to Westminster on a
	fundamentalist ticket, opposing the "soft" approach by official
	Unionists like O'Neill. The Socialist Democratic and Labour Party
	(SDLP) was formed out of the civil rights movement.

	In 1971, Brian Faulkner became Prime Minister after his
	predecessor, Chichester-Clark, resigned.  Faulkner made the
	colossal blunder of staging Operation Internment in an attempt to
	quell the IRA.	The Army sealed off whole areas during the night
	raided homes, taking hundreds men for detention without trial.
	Many of the internees were subjected to brutal treatment.
	The injustice was compounded by incompetence: many if not most
	of the internees were innocent, and many senior IRA men escaped
	the net.  The IRA drew valuable sympathy and support from

	The last Sunday in January 1972 was Bloody Sunday.  British
	paratroopers shot dead thirteen unarmed men, six of them under
	eighteen.  A fourteenth died later of injuries sustained on the
	same day.  Thirteen others, including a widow, were wounded.
	All of them had been participating in an illegal but largely
	peaceful march against internment.  The a public inquiry
	that followed, conducted by by the British Chief Justice,
	Lord Widgery, was a whitewash, clearing the soldiers of blame
	and lending credence to their claims that the men they shot
	were armed.

	Bloody Sunday is a potent propaganda weapon used by the IRA and
	Sinn Féin.  It was not the first atrocity, nor did it claim the
	most lives (more than fifty civilians were killed by IRA bombs
	in 1972 alone).  On that day and in the cover up that followed,
	the state used the same methods as terrorist organisations like
	the IRA.

	Stormont, as the Northern Irish government and parliament were
	known, was suspended (later to be abolished) and direct rule from
	London was introduced by the British Prime Minister, Ted Heath.

	Attempts during the seventies to devolve government back to
	Northern Ireland with power sharing failed because of Unionist
	and Nationalist opposition.  However, direct rule from London
	meant that the Northern Ireland Secretary could push through
	the types of reforms that cost men like O'Neill and Faulkner
	their careers.

	The level of violence has been much than it was in the early
	1970s and Northern Ireland is actually a safer place
	than the news sometimes made it seem.  The civil rights that people
	marched for in the streets in the 60s are protected by bodies
	such as the Housing Executive and Fair Employment Commission.
	But Northern Ireland still has not achieved "normal" political
	and social stability.  The RUC still has a credibility problem
	in nationalist eyes.

	In 1997 a peace process got started, based in part on compromises
	on marching routes by the Orange Order and a renewed IRA
	ceasefire.  For the firt time in many years there is some hope
	that political reforms may make Northern Ireland a better
	place to live in for all its inhabitants.  Most importantly,
	there is hope that the terrorists may find they no longer have
	support for shootings, bombings and other activities.

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Top Document: Irish FAQ: History [5/10]
Previous Document: 1) Why is Ireland divided?
Next Document: 3) What books are there on Irish history?

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