Ireland

In 684 AD an English expeditionary force sent by Northumbrian King Ecgfrith invaded Ireland in the summer of that year.
The English forces managed to seize a number of captives and booty, but they apparently did not stay in Ireland for long. The next English involvement in Ireland would take place a little less than half a millennium later in 1169 AD when the Normans invaded the country.
Today Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom, while the rest of Ireland forms the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann).

As a dominion of the British Empire, citizens of the Irish Free State were regarded as British subjects in common with all other members of the Empire. Historically, as late as 1942, British jurisprudence was that Irish citizenship “did no more than confer … a national character as an Irish citizen within the wider British nationality”. Indeed, for some years, the British authorities refused to accept Irish passports.

Starting from the basis of common citizenship, the two states to this day provide reciprocal recognition to each others citizens. British and Irish citizens can avail of public services (for example, health care and social welfare) in each other’s jurisdictions on an equal basis and are entitled to the right of abode, with deportation only in the most exceptional of circumstances. They each have equal voting (and standing) rights in all elections held across the United Kingdom and Ireland (except for the election of the President of Ireland and referenda).

Northern Ireland occupies a unique location in the citizenship of the islands, with Northern Ireland people being recognised under the Good Friday Agreement as (in general terms) simultaneously British and/or Irish citizens according to their choice.

Both the United Kingdom and Ireland are members of the European Union. Thus, citizens of Ireland and the United Kingdom are automatically citizens of the European Union and enjoy the associated benefits.

From 1937 to 1998, the Irish constitution included a claim on Northern Ireland as a part of the national territory. However, the state also opposed and used its security forces against those armed groups – principally the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who tried to unite Ireland by force.
This occurred in the 1950s, throughout the 1970s and 1980s and has continued on a reduced scale. Irish governments meanwhile tried to broker an agreement to the conflict known as The Troubles within Northern Ireland from 1968 to the late 1990s.
The British government officially recognised the right of the Irish government to be a party to the Northern negotiations in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.
In 1998, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish constitution was altered by referendum to remove the territorial claim to Northern Ireland and instead extend the right of Irish citizenship to all the people of the island should they wish to have it.


 

Norman Ireland (1168–1536)

By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Power was exercised by the heads of a few regional dynasties vying against each other for supremacy over the whole island.

One of these men, King Diarmait Mac Murchada of Leinster was forcibly exiled by the new High King, Ruaidri mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair of the Western kingdom of Connacht. Fleeing to Aquitaine, Diarmait obtained permission from Henry II to recruit Norman knights to regain his kingdom.

The first Norman knight landed in Ireland in 1167, followed by the main forces of Normans, Welsh and Flemings. Several counties were restored to the control of Diarmait, who named his son-in-law, the Norman Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, heir to his kingdom.

This caused consternation to King Henry II of England, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to establish his authority.

With the authority of the papal bull Laudabiliter from Adrian IV, Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil.

Henry awarded his Irish territories to his younger son John with the title Dominus Hiberniae (“Lord of Ireland”). When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King John, the “Lordship of Ireland” fell directly under the English Crown.


 

Lordship of Ireland

Initially the Normans controlled the entire east coast, from Waterford up to eastern Ulster and penetrated far west in the country. The counties were ruled by many smaller kings. The first Lord of Ireland was King John, who visited Ireland in 1185 and 1210 and helped consolidate the Norman controlled areas, while at the same time ensuring that the many Irish kings swore fealty to him.

Throughout the thirteenth century the policy of the English Kings was to weaken the power of the Norman Lords in Ireland. For example King John encouraged Hugh de Lacy to destabilise and then overthrow the Lord of Ulster, before creating him to the Earl of Ulster. The Hiberno-Norman community suffered from a series of invasions that ceased the spread of their settlement and power. Politics and events in Gaelic Ireland served to draw the settlers deeper into the orbit of the Irish.


 

Gaelic resurgence & Norman decline

Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare

By 1261 the weakening of the Normans had become manifest when Fineen MacCarthy defeated a Norman army at the Battle of Callann.
The war continued between the different lords and earls for about 100 years and the wars caused a great deal of destruction, especially around Dublin.
In this chaotic situation, local Irish lords won back large amounts of land that their families had lost since the conquest and held them after the war was over.

The Black Death arrived in Ireland in 1348. Because most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more dispersed rural settlements.
After it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again. The English-controlled territory shrunk back to a fortified area around Dublin (the Pale), and had little real authority outside (beyond the Pale).

By the end of the 15th century, central English authority in Ireland had all but disappeared. England’s attentions were diverted by the Wars of the Roses.
The Lordship of Ireland lay in the hands of the powerful Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare, who dominated the country by means of military force and alliances with lords and clans around Ireland.

Around the country, local Gaelic and Gaelicised lords expanded their powers at the expense of the English government in Dublin but the power of the Dublin government was seriously curtailed by the introduction of Poynings’ Law in 1494.
According to this act the Irish parliament was essentially put under the control of the Westminster parliament.


 

Early modern Ireland (1536–1691)  – Conquest & Rebellion

Henry VIII

From 1536, Henry VIII decided to conquer Ireland and bring it under crown control. The Fitzgerald dynasty of Kildare, who had become the effective rulers of Ireland in the 15th century, had become very unreliable allies of the Tudor monarchs. They had invited Burgundian troops into Dublin to crown the Yorkist pretender, Lambert Simnel as King of England in 1487.
Again in 1536, Silken Thomas Fitzgerald went into open rebellion against the crown. Having put down this rebellion, Henry VIII resolved to bring Ireland under English government control so the island would not become a base for future rebellions or foreign invasions of England.

In 1541, Henry upgraded Ireland from a lordship to a full Kingdom. Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland at a meeting of the Irish Parliament that year. This was the first meeting of the Irish Parliament to be attended by the Gaelic Irish chieftains as well as the Hiberno-Norman aristocracy. With the institutions of government in place, the next step was to extend the control of the English Kingdom of Ireland over all of its claimed territory. This took nearly a century, with various English administrations in the process either negotiating or fighting with the independent Irish and Old English lords. The Spanish Armada in Ireland suffered heavy losses during an extraordinary season of storms in the autumn of 1588. Among the survivors was Captain Francisco de Cuellar, who gave a remarkable account of his experiences on the run in Ireland.

The re-conquest was completed during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, after several extremely brutal conflicts. After this point, the English authorities in Dublin established real control over Ireland for the first time, bringing a centralised government to the entire island, and successfully disarmed the native lordships. However, the English were not successful in converting the Catholic Irish to the Protestant religion and the brutal methods used by crown authority (including resorting to martial law) to bring the country under English control heightened resentment of English rule.

From the mid-16th and into the early 17th century, crown governments carried out a policy of land confiscation and colonisation known as Plantations. Scottish and English Protestants were sent as colonists to the provinces of Munster, Ulster and the counties of Laois and Offaly. These Protestant settlers replaced the Irish Catholic landowners who were removed from their lands.
These settlers would form the ruling class of future British appointed administrations in Ireland. A series of Penal Laws were introduced to encourage conversion to the established (Anglican) Church of Ireland. The principal victims of these laws were Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians.


 

Wars & Penal Laws

William of Orange

The 17th century was perhaps the bloodiest in Ireland’s history. Two periods of war (1641–53 and 1689–91) caused huge loss of life. The ultimate dispossession of most of the Irish Catholic landowning class was engineered, recusants were subordinated under the Penal Laws.
In the mid-17th century, Ireland was convulsed by eleven years of warfare, beginning with the Rebellion of 1641, when Irish Catholics rebelled against the domination of English and Protestant settlers. The Catholic gentry briefly ruled the country as Confederate Ireland (1642–1649) against the background of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms until Oliver Cromwell reconquered Ireland in 1649–1653 on behalf of the English Commonwealth.
Cromwell’s conquest was the most brutal phase of the war, by its close, up to a third of Ireland’s pre-war population was dead or in exile.
As retribution for the rebellion of 1641, the better quality remaining lands owned by Irish Catholics were confiscated and given to British settlers commenced. Several hundred remaining native landowners were transplanted to Connacht.

Ireland became the main battleground after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the Catholic James II left London and the English Parliament replaced him with William of Orange.
The wealthier Irish Catholics backed James to try to reverse the Penal Laws and land confiscations, whereas Protestants supported William and Mary in this ‘Glorious Revolution’ to preserve their property in the country. James and William fought for the Kingdom of Ireland in the Williamite War, most famously at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where James’ outnumbered forces were defeated.


 

Protestant Ascendancy (1691–1801)

Battle of Aughrim by John Mulvanny, 1881

Jacobite resistance in Ireland was finally ended after the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691. The Penal Laws that had been relaxed somewhat after the Restoration were reinforced more thoroughly after this war, as the infant Anglo-Irish Ascendency novo élite wanted to ensure that the Irish Roman Catholics would not be in a position to repeat their rebellions.
Subsequent Irish antagonism towards England was aggravated by the economic situation of Ireland in the 18th century. Some absentee landlords managed some of their estates inefficiently, and food tended to be produced for export rather than for domestic consumption.

Two very cold winters towards the end of the Little Ice Age led directly to a famine between 1740 and 1741, which killed about 400,000 people and caused over 150,000 of the Irish to emigrate. In addition, Irish exports were reduced by the Navigation Acts from the 1660s, which placed tariffs on Irish products entering England, but exempted English goods from tariffs on entering Ireland.
Despite this most of the 18th century was relatively peaceful in comparison with the preceding two hundred years, and the population doubled to over four million.

By the late 18th century, many of the Anglo-Irish ruling class had come to see Ireland as their native country. A Parliamentary faction led by Henry Grattan agitated for a more favourable trading relationship with Great Britain and for greater legislative independence for the Parliament of Ireland. However, reform in Ireland stalled over the more radical proposals toward enfranchising Irish Catholics.

This was partially enabled in 1793, but Catholics could not yet enter parliament or become government officials. Some were attracted to the more militant example of the French Revolution of 1789.
Presbyterians and Dissenters too faced persecution on a lesser scale, and in 1791 a group of dissident Protestant individuals, where all but two were Presbyterians, held the first meeting of what would become the Society of the United Irishmen. Originally they sought to reform the Irish Parliament which was controlled by those belonging to the state church; seek Catholic Emancipation; and help remove religion from politics. When their ideals seemed unattainable they became more determined to use force to overthrow British rule and found a non-sectarian republic.
Their activity culminated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was bloodily suppressed. Largely in response to this rebellion, Irish self-government was abolished altogether by the Act of Union in 1801.


 

Union with Great Britain (1801–1912)

Royal_Coat_of_ArmsIn 1800, following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the British and the Irish parliaments enacted the Acts of Union. The merger created a new political entity called United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with effect from January 1, 1801.
Part of the agreement forming the basis of union was that the Test Act would be repealed to remove any remaining discrimination against Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists and other dissenter religions in the newly United Kingdom. However, King George III invoking the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 controversially and adamantly blocked attempts by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Pitt resigned in protest, but his successor Henry Addington and his new cabinet failed to legislate any repeal or change to the Test Act.

In 1823, an enterprising Catholic lawyer, Daniel O’Connell, known in Ireland as ‘The Liberator’ began an ultimately successful Irish campaign to achieve emancipation, and be seated in the parliament. This culminated in O’Connell’s successful election in the Clare by-election, which revived the parliamentary efforts at reform.
The Catholic Relief Act 1829 was eventually approved by the U.K. parliament under the leadership of Prime Minister, the Dublin born Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. This indefatigable Anglo-Irish statesman, a former Chief Secretary for Ireland, and hero of the Napoleonic Wars successfully guided the legislation through both houses of parliament. He then persuaded the King, George IV, to concede in signing the bill into law in 1829 under threat of resignation.
The continuing obligation of Roman Catholics to fund the established Church of Ireland, however, led to the sporadic skirmishes of the Tithe War of 1831–38.

The church was disestablished by the Gladstone government in 1867. The continuing enactment of parliamentary reform during the ensuing administrations further extended the initially limited franchise. Daniel O’Connell M.P. later led the Repeal Association in an unsuccessful campaign to undo the Act of Union 1800.
The second of Ireland’s “Great Famines”, An Gorta Mór struck the country severely in the period 1845–1849, with potato blight, exacerbated by the political and laissez-faire economic factors of the time leading to mass starvation and emigration. The impact of emigration in Ireland was severe; the population dropped from over 8 million before the Famine to 4.4 million in 1911.

Gaelic or Irish, once the spoken language of the entire island, declined in use sharply in the nineteenth century as a result of the Famine and the creation of the National School education system, as well as hostility to the language from leading Irish politicians of the time; it was largely replaced by English.

Outside mainstream nationalism, a series of violent rebellions by Irish republicans took place in 1803, under Robert Emmet; in 1848 a rebellion by the Young Irelanders, most prominent among them, Thomas Francis Meagher; and in 1867, another insurrection by the Irish Republican Brotherhood. All failed, though physical force nationalism remained an undercurrent in the nineteenth century.

Charles Stewart Parnell – President of the Irish National Land League

The late 19th century also witnessed major land reform, spearheaded by the Land League under Michael Davitt demanding what became known as the 3 Fs; Fair rent, free sale, fixity of tenure. From 1870 and as a result of the Land War agitations and subsequent Plan of Campaign of the 1880s, various U.K. governments introduced a series of Irish Land Acts. – William O’Brien played a leading role in the 1902 Land Conference to pave the way for the most advanced social legislation in Ireland since the Union, the Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903. This Act set the conditions for the breakup of large estates and gradually devolved to rural landholders and tenants ownership of the lands. It effectively ended the era of the absentee landlord, finally resolving the Irish Land Question

In the 1870s the issue of Irish self-government again became a major focus of debate under Charles Stewart Parnell, founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Prime minister William Ewart Gladstone made two unsuccessful attempts to pass Home Rule in 1886 and 1893. Parnell’s leadership ended when he was implicated in a controversial divorce scandal. It was revealed that he had been living in family relationship with Katherine O’Shea, the long separated wife of a fellow Irish MP, with whom he was the father of three children.

After the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 which broke the power of the landlord dominated “Grand Juries”, passing for the first time democratic control of local affairs into the hands of the people through elected Local County Councils, the debate over full Home Rule led to tensions between Irish nationalists and Irish unionists (those who favoured maintenance of the union). Most of the island was predominantly nationalist, Catholic and agrarian. The northeast, however, was predominantly unionist, Protestant and industrialised.
Unionists feared a loss of political power and economic wealth in a predominantly rural, nationalist, Catholic home-rule state. Nationalists believed that they would remain economically and politically second class citizens without self-government. Out of this division, two opposing sectarian movements evolved, the Protestant Orange Order and the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians.


 

Home Rule, Easter Rising and War of Independence (1912–1922)

Easter Uprising 1916Home Rule became certain when in 1910 the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) under John Redmond held the balance of power in the Commons and the third Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1912. Unionist resistance was immediate with the formation of the Ulster Volunteers. In turn the Irish Volunteers were established to oppose them and enforce the introduction of self-government.

In September 1914, just as the First World War broke out, the UK Parliament finally passed the Third Home Rule Act to establish self-government for Ireland, but was suspended for the duration of the war. In order to ensure the implementation of Home Rule after the war, nationalist leaders and the IPP under Redmond supported with Ireland’s participation the British and Allied war effort under the Triple Entente against the expansion of Central Powers.
The core of the Irish Volunteers were against this decision, though the majority left to form the National Volunteers who enlisted in Irish regiments of the New British Army, the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions, their Northern counterparts in the 36th (Ulster) Division. Before the war ended, Britain made two concerted efforts to implement Home Rule, one in May 1916 and again with the Irish Convention during 1917–1918, but the Irish sides (Nationalist, Unionist) were unable to agree terms for the temporary or permanent exclusion of Ulster from its provisions.

The period from 1916–1921 was marked by political violence and upheaval, ending in the partition of Ireland and independence for 26 of its 32 counties. A failed militant attempt was made to gain separate independence for Ireland with the 1916 Easter Rising, an insurrection in Dublin.

Easter Uprising, 1916

Though support for the insurgents was small, the violence used in its suppression led to a swing in support of the rebels. In addition, the unprecedented threat of Irishmen being conscripted to the British Army in 1918 (for service on the Western Front as a result of the German Spring Offensive) accelerated this change. In the December 1918 elections Sinn Féin, the party of the rebels, won a majority of three-quarters of all seats in Ireland, twenty-seven MPs of which assembled in Dublin on 21 January 1919, to form a thirty-two county Irish Republic parliament, the first Dáil Éireann unilaterally declaring sovereignty over the entire island.

Unwilling to negotiate any understanding with Britain short of complete independence, the Irish Republican Army, the army of the newly declared Irish Republic, waged a guerilla war (the Irish War of Independence) from 1919 to 1921. In the course of the fighting and amid much acrimony, the Fourth Government of Ireland Act 1920 implemented Home Rule while separating the island into what the British government’s Act termed “Northern Ireland” and “Southern Ireland”. In July 1921, the Irish and British governments agreed a truce that halted the war.

In December 1921, representatives of both governments signed an Anglo-Irish Treaty. The Irish delegation was led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.
This abolished the Irish Republic and created the Irish Free State, a self-governing Dominion of the Commonwealth of Nations in the manner of Canada and Australia.
Under the Treaty, Northern Ireland could opt out of the Free State and stay within the United Kingdom: it promptly did so. In 1922, both parliaments ratified the Treaty, formalising independence for the twenty-six county Irish Free State (which went on to re-name itself Ireland in 1937 and declare itself a republic in 1949); while the six county Northern Ireland, gaining Home Rule for itself, remained part of the United Kingdom.
For most of the next 75 years, each territory was strongly aligned to either Catholic or Protestant ideologies, although this was more marked in the six counties of Northern Ireland.


 

Irish Free State & Republic

Signing of the treaty to establish the Irish Free State, 1921

The treaty to sever the Union divided the republican movement into anti-Treaty (who wanted to fight on until an Irish Republic was achieved) and pro-Treaty supporters (who accepted the Free State as a first step towards full independence and unity). Between 1922 and 1923 both sides fought the bloody Irish Civil War.
The new Irish Free State government defeated the anti-Treaty remnant of the Irish Republican Army, imposing multiple executions. This division among nationalists still colours Irish politics today, specifically between the two leading Irish political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.The new Irish Free State (1922–37) existed against the backdrop of the growth of dictatorships in mainland Europe and a major world economic downturn in 1929. In contrast with many contemporary European states it remained a democracy.

Testament to this came when the losing faction in the Irish civil war, Éamon de Valera’s Fianna Fáil, was able to take power peacefully by winning the 1932 general election. Nevertheless, up until the mid 1930s, considerable parts of Irish society saw the Free State through the prism of the civil war, as a repressive, British imposed state. It was only the peaceful change of government in 1932 that signalled the final acceptance of the Free State on their part. In contrast to many other states in the period, the Free State remained financially solvent as a result of low government expenditure, despite the Economic War with Britain. However, unemployment and emigration were high. The population declined to a low of 2.7 million recorded in the 1961 census.

The Roman Catholic Church had a powerful influence over the Irish state for much of its history. The clergy’s influence meant that the Irish state had very conservative social policies, forbidding, for example, divorce, contraception, abortion, pornography as well as encouraging the censoring and banning of many books and films. In addition the Church largely controlled the State’s hospitals, schools and remained the largest provider of many other social services.

With the partition of Ireland in 1922, 92.6% of the Free State’s population were Catholic while 7.4% were Protestant. By the 1960s, the Protestant population had fallen by half.
Although emigration was high among all the population, due to a lack of economic opportunity, the rate of Protestant emigration was disproportionate in this period.
Many Protestants left the country in the early 1920s, either because they felt unwelcome in a predominantly Catholic and nationalist state, because they were afraid due to the burning of Protestant homes (particularly of the old landed class) by republicans during the civil war, because they regarded themselves as British and did not wish to live in an independent Irish state, or because of the economic disruption caused by the recent violence. The Catholic Church had also issued a decree, known as Ne Temere, whereby the children of marriages between Catholics and Protestants had to be brought up as Catholics.
From 1945, the emigration rate of Protestants fell and they became less likely to emigrate than Catholics – indicating their integration into the life of the Irish State.

From Free State to Irish Republic 1949

In 1937, a new Constitution of Ireland re-established the state as Ireland (or Éire in Irish). The state remained neutral throughout World War II and this saved it from much of the horrors of the war, although tens of thousands volunteered to serve in the British forces.
Ireland was also hit badly by rationing of food, and coal in particular (peat production became a priority during this time). Though nominally neutral, recent studies have suggested a far greater level of involvement by the South with the Allies than was realised, with D Day’s date set on the basis of secret weather information on Atlantic storms supplied by Ireland.
In 1949 the state was formally declared a republic and it left the British Commonwealth.

In the 1960s, Ireland underwent a major economic change under reforming Taoiseach (prime minister) Seán Lemass and Secretary of the Department of Finance T.K. Whitaker, who produced a series of economic plans. Free second-level education was introduced by Donogh O’Malley as Minister for Education in 1968. From the early 1960s, Ireland sought admission to the European Economic Community but, because 90% of exports were to the United Kingdom market, it did not do so until the UK did, in 1973.

Global economic problems in the 1970s, augmented by a set of misjudged economic policies followed by governments, including that of Taoiseach Jack Lynch, caused the Irish economy to stagnate. The Troubles in Northern Ireland discouraged foreign investment. Devaluation was enabled when the Irish Pound, or Punt, was established in as a truly separate currency in 1979, breaking the link with the UK’s sterling.
However, economic reforms in the late 1980s, helped by investment from the European Community, led to the emergence of one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, with mass immigration (particularly of people from Asia and Eastern Europe) as a feature of the late 1990s. This period came to be known as the Celtic Tiger and was focused on as a model for economic development in the former Eastern Bloc states, which entered the European Union in the early 2000s. Property values had risen by a factor of between four and ten between 1993 and 2006, in part fuelling the boom.

Irish society also adopted relatively liberal social policies during this period. Divorce was legalised, homosexuality decriminalised, while abortion in limited cases was allowed by the Irish Supreme Court in the X Case legal judgement. Major scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, both sexual and financial, coincided with a widespread decline in religious practice, with weekly attendance at Roman Catholic Mass halving in twenty years. A series of tribunals set up from the 1990s have investigated alleged malpractices by politicians, the Catholic clergy, judges, hospitals and the Gardaí (police).


 

Protestant Northern Ireland 1922 – 1972

Ulster Banner

The 1920 Government of Ireland Bill enabled the reformation of the Northern Ireland counties which consisted of six Northeastern counties of Derry (Londonderry), Tyrone, Fermanagh, Antrim, Down and Armagh. From 1921 to 1972, Northern Ireland was governed by a Unionist government, based at Stormont in east Belfast. Unionist leader and first Prime Minister, James Craig, declared that it would be “a Protestant State for a Protestant People”. Craig’s main goal was to form and preserve Protestant authority in the new state which was above all an effort to secure a unionist majority. In 1926, the majority of the population in the province were Presbyterian and Anglican therefore solidifying Craig’s Protestant political power. The Ulster Unionist Party thereafter formed every government until 1972.

Discrimination against the minority nationalist community in jobs and housing, and their total exclusion from political power due to the majoritarian electoral system, led to the emergence of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the late 1960s, inspired by Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement in the United States of America.

The military forces of the Northern Protestants and Northern Catholics (IRA) turned to brutal acts of violence to establish power. As time went on it became clear that these two rival states would bring about a civil war. After the Second World War, keeping the cohesion within Stormont seemed impossible; increased economic pressures, solidified Catholic unity, and British involvement ultimately led to Stormont’s collapse. As the civil rights movement in the United States gained worldwide acknowledgement, Catholics rallied together to achieve a similar socio-political recognition. This resulted in the formation of various organisations such as the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in 1967 and the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ)in 1964.

Non-violent protest became an increasingly important factor in mobilizing Catholic sympathies and opinion and thus more effective in generating support than actively violent groups such as the IRA. However, these non-violent protests posed a problem to Northern Ireland’s prime minister Terrance O’Neil (1963) because it hampered his efforts in persuading Catholics in Northern Ireland that they too, like their Protestant counterparts, belong within the United Kingdom. Despite O’Neil’s reforming efforts there was growing discontent amongst both Catholics and Unionists.

In October 1968, a peaceful civil rights march held in Derry turned violent as police brutally beat protesters. The outbreak was televised by international media, and as a result the march was highly publicised which further confirmed the socio-political turmoil in Ireland. A violent counter-reaction from conservative unionists led to civil disorder, notably the Battle of the Bogside and the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969. To restore order, British troops were deployed to the streets of Northern Ireland at this time.

Bloody Sunday, 1972

The violent outbreaks in the late 60’s encouraged and helped strengthen military groups such as the IRA. The IRA believed themselves to be the protectors of the working class Catholics who were vulnerable to police and civilian brutality. During the late sixties and early seventies recruitment into the IRA organization dramatically increased as street and civilian violence worsened.
The interjection from the British troops proved to be insufficient to quell the violence and thus solidified the IRA’s growing military importance. On January 30, 1972 the worst tensions came to a head with the events of Bloody Sunday.

Paratroops opened fire on anti-internment protesters in Derry which killed 13 unarmed civilians. Bloody Friday, Bloody Sunday, and other violent acts in the early 1970s came to be known as the Troubles. The Stormont parliament was prorogued in 1972 and abolished in 1973. Paramilitary private armies such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, resulted from a split within the IRA, the Official IRA and Irish National Liberation Army fought against the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Ulster Volunteer Force.
Moreover, the British army and the (largely Protestant) Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) also took part in the chaos that resulted in the deaths of well over three thousand men, women and children, civilians and military. Most of the violence took place in Northern Ireland, though some also spread to England and across the Irish border.

Direct rule from Westminster 1972–1999

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

For the next 27½ years, with the exception of five months in 1974, Northern Ireland was under “direct rule” with a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the British Cabinet responsible for the departments of the Northern Ireland government. Direct Rule was designed to be a temporary solution until Northern Ireland was capable of governing itself once again.

Principal acts were passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the same way as for much of the rest of the UK, but many smaller measures were dealt with by Order in Council with minimal parliamentary scrutiny. Attempts were made to establish a power-sharing executive, representing both the nationalist and unionist communities, by the Northern Ireland Constitution Act of 1973 and the Sunningdale Agreement in December 1973.

Both acts however did little for creating cohesion between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Constitution Act of 1973 formalized the UK government’s affirmation of reunification of Ireland by consent only; therefore ultimately delegating the authoritative power of the border question from Stormont to the people of Northern Ireland (and the Republic of Ireland).

Conversely, the Sunningdale Agreement included a “provision of a Council of Ireland which held the right to execute executive and harmonizing functions”. Most significantly, the Sunningdale Agreement brought together political leaders from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK to deliberate for the first time since 1925.
The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention and Jim Prior’s 1982 assembly were also temporarily implemented however all failed to either reach consensus or operate in the longer term.

During the 1970s British policy concentrated on defeating the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) by military means including the policy of Ulsterisation (requiring the RUC and British Army reserve Ulster Defence Regiment to be at the forefront of combating the IRA).
Although IRA violence decreased it was obvious that no military victory was on hand in either the short or medium terms. Even Catholics that generally rejected the IRA were unwilling to offer support to a state that seemed to remain mired in sectarian discrimination, and the Unionists plainly were not interested in Catholic participation in running the state in any case. I
n the 1980s the IRA attempted to secure a decisive military victory based on massive arms shipments from Libya.

When this failed senior republican figures began to look to broaden the struggle from purely military means. In time this began a move towards military cessation. In 1986 the British and Irish governments signed the Anglo Irish Agreement signalling a formal partnership in seeking a political solution.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) recognized the Irish government’s right to be consulted and heard as well as guaranteed equality of treatment and recognition of the Irish and British identities of the two communities.
The agreement also stated that the two governments must implement a cross-border cooperation. Socially and economically Northern Ireland suffered the worst levels of unemployment in the UK and although high levels of public spending ensured a slow modernisation of public services and moves towards equality, progress was slow in the 1970s and 1980s, only in the 1990s when progress towards peace became tangible, did the economic situation brighten.
By then, too, the demographics of Northern Ireland had undergone significant change, and more than 40% of the population was Catholic.

Ian Paisley & Martin McGuinness, May 8, 2007

Devolution and direct rule 1999–present
More recently, the Belfast Agreement (“Good Friday Agreement”) of 10 April 1998 brought – on 2 December 1999 – a degree of power sharing to Northern Ireland, giving both unionists and nationalists control of limited areas of government.
However, both the power-sharing Executive and the elected Assembly were suspended between January and May 2000, and from October 2002 until April 2007, following breakdowns in trust between the political parties involving outstanding issues, including “decommissioning” of paramilitary weapons, policing reform and the removal of British army bases.

In new elections in 2003, the moderate Ulster Unionist and (nationalist) Social Democrat and Labour parties lost their dominant positions to the more hard-line Democratic Unionist and (nationalist) Sinn Féin parties.

On 28 July 2005, the Provisional IRA announced the end of its armed campaign and on 25 September 2005 international weapons inspectors supervised the full disarmament of the PIRA. Eventually, devolution was restored in April 2007.

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