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© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Northern Ireland is a region in the United Kingdom (UK). Disagreement over whether it should stay part of the UK or join the Republic of Ireland has historically fuelled considerable violence.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. When Henry VIII became king of England in 1509, the island of Ireland was united. Henry worried that enemies would use it as a launching ground for an attack on England. So he tried to subdue the Irish people and, in 1541, persuaded members of the Irish parliament to recognize him as their king.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Subsequent English monarchs also worried about threats from Ireland, so they encouraged loyal English and Scottish families to settle there on a massive scale. Most of the settlers were devout Protestants.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. In 1641, Irish resentment against English influence bubbled over into rebellion. In the fighting, Ireland’s pro-England army was wiped out, and thousands of Protestant settlers were slaughtered.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Oliver Cromwell, England’s strict Protestant leader, led a large army into Ireland to end the revolt. After his soldiers had massacred thousands of Irish Catholics, Cromwell offered the survivors an unappealing choice: give up your land or be killed.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. By the late 1600s, English and Scottish Protestants owned almost all the land in Ireland, while most Irish Catholics lived in abject poverty and had to submit to a series of anti-Catholic laws known as the Penal Code.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Though Ireland had had to answer to England since the rein of Henry VIII, it had remained nominally independent. That changed in 1801, when the Act of Union made Ireland part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Irish resentment toward Great Britain intensified during the late 1840s, when a million people died after disease ravaged Ireland’s potato crop. The Irish believed that the magnitude of the suffering was directly linked to British policies that prevented them from owning land.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. After World War I, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary group dedicated to reuniting Ireland, emerged. One of its most influential commanders, Michael Collins, helped strike a deal with the British government granting most of Ireland independence.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. But many Irish rejected the deal, in particular the provision that allowed several mainly Protestant counties in the north to remain British. Disagreement over whether or not to accept the plan led to a brutal civil war, in which thousands of Irish people on both sides (including Michael Collins) were killed.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Over some objections, Ireland was divided, or partitioned, in 1923. The Catholic south became the Republic of Ireland, and the majority-Protestant north became Northern Ireland, a region in the United Kingdom.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Over the years, tensions between Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic communities rose sharply, as Catholics suffered systematic discrimination.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Inspired by the civil rights movement in the United States, Catholics took to the streets in the 1960s and 70s to demand fairer treatment. In particular, they sought to end internment, a controversial law allowing British authorities to hold terrorist suspects without charging them.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Several protests turned violent, as Catholics fought with their Protestant neighbors and with Northern Ireland’s largely Protestant police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Britain sent troops to Northern Ireland to stabilize the situation, but they quickly outwore their welcome among Catholics. Particularly after Bloody Sunday (January 30, 1972), when British soldiers killed 13 unarmed Catholic protesters, Catholics tended to want the British army out.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Consequently, support for the IRA, an organization dedicated to expelling British troops from Northern Ireland, grew dramatically. The IRA exploded numerous bombs in Northern Ireland and in England.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. During the years that followed, a period known as the “Troubles,” hundreds of people died at the hands of the the IRA. Many others were killed by pro-British, Protestant paramilitary groups, notably the Ulster Volunteer Force.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. The British government ended the controversial internment policy in 1975 but, shortly after, angered IRA prisoners by revoking their special status and treating them as ordinary criminals.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. The change in status sparked protests from the IRA and its supporters. In 1980 and 1981, several IRA prisoners, including Bobby Sands, won worldwide sympathy by staging hunger strikes.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. After the hunger strikes, in which Sands and nine other prisoners died, the political climate changed. Talks between John Hume (left), leader of a moderate pro-reunification party, and Gerry Adams (right), leader of the the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Féin, helped bring about an IRA cease-fire in 1994.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. In 1998, the British and Irish governments and most of Northern Ireland’s political parties, including Sinn Fein, came together to produce the Good Friday Agreement.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. The agreement gave Northern Ireland its own parliament and granted the people control over their own fate. If a majority wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join Ireland, then the British government would not stand in their way or allow Protestants wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom, or unionists, a veto.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. But implementation of the agreement stalled, largely because the IRA refused to decommission, or put out of action, its weapons.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. The IRA reversed course in 2001 after men with IRA ties were arrested in Colombia on terrorism charges and al-Qa‘ida terrorists attacked the United States on September 11. An IRA statement announced that the organization’s weapons would be decommissioned in an attempt to save the peace process.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. But decommissioning still didn’t go fast enough for the unionists, and Ian Paisley’s hard-line Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)—the only major political party that had opposed the Good Friday Agreement—rose in popularity.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. When Northern Ireland’s parliament was shut down in 2002 amidst allegations of IRA spying, it was clear that the moderate parties on both sides, but particularly David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party, had lost most of their support.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Sure enough, when new elections were held in 2003, the big winners were the DUP and Sinn Féin. But the DUP refused to share power with Sinn Féin until the IRA had fully decommissioned. Northern Ireland’s parliament remained closed.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. It was now clear that the IRA’s intransigence on the decommissioning issue was undermining the aspirations of its political wing, Sinn Féin. So in 2005, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams called on the IRA to renounce violence unambiguously and permanently.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. The IRA answered Adams’s call a few weeks later, declaring their military campaign over and ordering all units to decommission their weapons.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. An independent monitoring body soon certified that the IRA had made good its pledge. But DUP leader Ian Paisley still called the decommissioning a “cover up” and continued to boycott Northern Ireland’s parliament.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. On April 6, 2006, British prime minister Tony Blair and Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave the DUP and Northern Ireland’s other parties an ultimatum: find a way to share power, or accept permanent rule by the British government and increased cooperation between Britain and Ireland.
© 2007 ProQuest-CSA LLC. All rights reserved. © 2007 Getty Images, Inc. Then, three weeks after new elections confirmed the DUP and Sinn Féin as Northern Ireland’s biggest parties, something truly historic happened. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams resolved on March 26, 2007, to share power, preparing the way for all Northern Ireland’s parties to get down to the difficult business of governing.
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