A SUMMARY OF THE CURRENT TROUBLES IN NORTHERN IRELAND
February 7, 2000
Greeting my Czech (and Slovak!) friends. This week's article will be an attempt to
summarise, in simplistic terms, the current situation in Northern Ireland, the famously
violent region in the United Kingdom.
The problems in Northern Ireland stem ultimately from difference in Religion. There
are two main camp, the Unionists and the Republicans. The Unionists are Protestant
Christians, whilst the Republicans are Catholic Christians. The Protestants and the
Catholics have been fighting each other in Ireland for several hundred years now.
Northern Ireland was created by the English as an attempt to stop the fighting. The
idea was that as the Protestants had a majority in the North and the Catholics had
a majority in the south, Ireland could be divided along between the two factions.
So, the new territory of Northern Ireland was officially Protestant and was part of
the United Kingdom, whilst southern Ireland was officially Catholic and was a
Unfortunately, this system didn't work as there were regions of Northern Ireland
that were Catholic. This is where the problems begin: The Protestants are loyal to
the English Queen and are quite happy to remain part of the UK (they are sometimes
referred to as "Loyalists"). The Catholics are not loyal to the English Queen and
would like to be re-united with Catholic southern Ireland.
Now, Ireland is similar to America in that it has always been the (perceived) right
of the people to own weapons for their own defence. Unfortunately, there has been a
history of these weapons being used by both Republicans (IRA) and Loyalists, each
side killing members of the opposite religion for political, religious or revenge
Last year, Republicans, Unionists and the British and Irish governments sat down
together to find a solution to the problem. The resulting document was called "The
Good Friday Agreement". Under this agreement, everybody gained something. The
British government was happy because the Irish government would give up its claim
to Northern Ireland. The Irish government was happy because the British government
promised to grant Northern Ireland freedom to join southern Ireland if the people
wanted it. The Republicans were happy because several committees were to be set up
to promote co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland. Finally, the Unionists
were happy because Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK.
As part of the agreement, Northern Ireland was to have its own regional government and
all terrorist organisations were to publicly decommission (make useless) their weapons.
The current problem stems from these last two points: The Unionists will not share
power with the Republicans in a regional government until the IRA has started to
decommission its weapons. The IRA has thus far has refused to decommission its weapons
because it has promised not to use them. Each side refuses to compromise because to
compromise is seen as surrender.
Fortunately, the killing have stopped to allow the politicians to argue, so the people
have a temporary peace. However, with no weapons decommissioned there is a danger that
lack of political progress could mean a return to violence.
by Duncan - Great Britain, enjoys writing to penpals from all over the world
© February 2000 English on the Internet www.aj.cz