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Moscow 1998

 

07.05.98

The Irish Question

 

Moscow

State Pedagogical University

 

Snigir Aleksei

 

The Plan:

 

1. The position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom

 

2. British policy towards Northern Ireland

 

3. Theories of political violence in the Northern Ireland conflict

 

 

I The Position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom

 

The inhabitants of Ireland are mainly Celtic by origin, and the majority

never accepted the Reformation. In 1801 a new law added Ireland to the

United Kingdom. By this time much of the land belonged to Protestant

English landlords, and the Act of Union followed the period in which

rebellions peasants were brutally suppressed. But in the six Northern

Counties the Protestants were not a dominant minority: they were the

majority of the population. Most of them were descendants of Scottish

and English settlers who had moved into Ireland several generations

before. They considered themselves to be Irish but remained as a

distinct community, and there was not much intermarriage. There had

been conflicts and battles between the two communities, still remembered

along with their heroes and martyrs.

 

In 1912, when the liberals were in power, with the support of the main

group of Irish MPs (for Ireland had seats in the UK parliament). The

House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill, but the House of Lords delayed

it. It was bitterly opposed by the Protestant majority of the people in

the six northern counties and by the M Ps they had elected. They did

not want to be included in a self-governing Ireland dominated by

Catholics.

 

Eventually, the island was partitioned. In 1922 the greater part became

an independent state, and (in 1949) a republic outside the Commonwealth.

Its laws, on divorce and other matters, reflect the influence of the

Catholic Church. The six northern counties remained within the United

Kingdom, with seats in Prime Minister and government responsible for

internal affairs. In the politics of Northern Ireland the main factor

has always been the hostility between Protestants and Catholics

 

Until 1972 the Northern Irish Parliament (called Stormont) always had a

Protestant majority. By 1960s Catholics produced serious riots. The

police were mainly Protestants. They used their guns. Several people

were killed. The UK Labour government of the time had sympathy with the

Catholics grievances. The Protestant parties regularly supported the

Conservatives, while some MPs elected for Catholic parties took little

or no part in the work of the Parliament.

 

In 1969 the UK Labour Government sent troops to Northern Ireland, with

others to help impartially to keep order. But to most Catholics UK

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