English on the Internet - English Magazine


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 separate country.

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 reasons.

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