The conflict about Northern Ireland The importance of the Good Friday Agreement Introduction: The Irish Island has for centuries been characterized by a conflict between the British and the Irish, and has political, economical and religious roots. After Ireland became independent in the early 19th century, the battles continued in Northern Ireland, who was left under British rules. Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland who had been discriminated for a long time by British Protestants started using weapons and violence exploded.
In the years between 1969 and 1998, more known as “the Troubles”, were over 3600 people killed in the conflict, among them nearly 2000 civilians. Since 1998 a peace agreement is signed between the parties called the Good Friday Agreement, but Northern Ireland is by some means still a segregated county with Catholics and Protestants living apart from each other (Pettersson T, and Simmons, D. 2010). The power struggle on the Irish Island has been a struggle between Catholics who wished to see a unified Ireland, and by Protestants who opposed for Northern Ireland to remain under British Rule.
The Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998 and can be seen as the turning point in the conflict about Northern Ireland. In 1921 the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed, and after centuries of British rule, 26 of 32 counties of Ireland gained independence. The 6 remaining counties formed Northern Ireland, which continued to be governed within the United Kingdom. A majority of the population in Northern Ireland were Protestants and did not want to be a part of Ireland (leonidassthlm 2009).
From the period 1921 to 1972 the developed government in Northern Ireland operated with autonomy from London, and power remained exclusively to the Unionist party which had support from the Protestant majority community that favoured to be a union with Britain. The Catholic minority in the country supported the Nationalist party, and they were not allowed to have a role in government, and were discriminated in many areas such as employment, voting rights and housing (dfa. ie 2 June 2012). In the 1960s, a civil rights movement was formed with both Catholics and Protestants; it discussed the unfair conditions for Catholics in
Northern Ireland. The movement protested against the unfair conditions, and was sometimes met with police brutality. Every summer Protestants celebrated a former king’s battle, in which he had won over his Catholic enemy (leonidassthlm 2009). In 1969 non-violent campaigners for civil rights protested against the celebration they thought represented discrimination of Catholics (leonidassthlm 2009). They were met with an inhibitory and hostile response from the authorities, pushing Northern Ireland in a sustained period of political crisis.
The years that followed was a turbulent and violent time in Northern Ireland, and many people lost their lives in the conflict, including many civilians (www. bbc. co. uk 2 June 2012). The Catholic Army IRA (Irish Republic Army) had been inactive up until the late 1960s, but after “the Troubles” started in 1969 they became more and more active in what they believed in. IRA fought for Catholic civil rights and a unified Ireland (leonidassthlm 2009). IRA was not the only group that fought for what they believed in.
Protestant loyal groups grew stronger with tens of thousands of members that fought for Northern Ireland to still belong to Britain. Violence escalated and it became harder for the British army, who was there to support the Protestant parties, to control the violence. Both sides used violence and weapons against each other to reach their goals. One Sunday in 1972 during a non-violent demonstration for human rights were 13 people killed by British soldiers. This Sunday was later called the “Bloody Sunday” (Pettersson, T and Simmons, D. 010). The support for IRA grew after the Bloody Sunday, and more British troops were placed in Northern Ireland to prevent the violence. However, it can be questioned how much the British troops really did to prevent the violence, because it is a matter of fact that they were British soldiers, and that Britain did not want to let go of Northern Ireland to make it a unified Ireland (www. landguiden. se 2 June 2012). Both sides were guilty of violence and massacres and one of the worst attacks after the Bloody Sunday was the Bloody Friday.
IRA blasted 20 car bombs in Belfast and 9 people died in the attack. About 500 people died in the year of 1972 caused by terror attacks. Civilians in Northern Ireland were getting tired of the violence that had escalated a long time ago, and wished for a change to come. They had seen family and friends getting killed in demonstrations and wanted an end to the violence that had been going on for centuries (leonidassthlm 2009). From 1974 to 1994 were numerous attempts made to try and solve the conflict in Northern Ireland.
All attempts were made from London, and even though many people were tired of the violence and the conflict; was it still hard to gain support for a solution that would mean sharing of power between Catholics and Protestants. But there was some progress in the attempt of solving the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The British Parliament made a deal with the independent Ireland in 1985, the deal meant that Ireland would be asked in questions that had anything to do with Northern Ireland. The deal had positive effects and a close cooperation between Ireland and England arose.
Ireland accepted Northern Ireland as being part of Britain as long as a majority of the people wanted it (Pelling, J. 18th May 2008). After many years of violence a peace process were finally starting to take place. In 1994, IRA and its Protestant enemies called for a cease-fire. After numerous failed attempts to start the talks of a peace agreement, IRA broke the cease-fire after 17 months when they blasted a car bomb in London that killed two people and hurt 39. It took 18 months after this attack until a new cease-fire was agreed (Pettersson, T and Simmons, D. 010). At last, after years of hope, crushed expectations and new terror attacks, a peace agreement was finally signed. The Good Friday Agreement was signed on 10 April 1998 and was aimed to form the lasting settlement following the cease-fire in Northern Ireland (bbc. co. uk 2004). The Agreement is seen as a turning point in the conflict about Northern Ireland and when the agreement was presented to the public, a majority of people allowed to vote supported the proposition (Pettersson, T and Simmons, D. 2010).
The breakthrough the agreement represented was that, for the very first time in Northern Ireland’s history, it brought all the main political parties represented in Northern Ireland- those groups linked to paramilitary as well as those who were committed to constitutional means into the same negotiation forum and obtained a new set of arrangements for democratic governance. The purpose of the agreement was to end the violent conflict and to find a political compromise that would accord for “parity of esteem” to both the nationalist and unionist political views in Northern Ireland (Fahey, T. 007). At the heart of the Good Friday Agreement lies the statement that it was made for the people of Ireland alone: “By agreement between the two parts respectively, and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North & South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved & exercised subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland” (Fraser, T,G. 1999 p. 83).
The Good Friday Agreement has provided the divided society in Northern Ireland to settle its differences, and a model of governance based on the “parity of esteem” has replaced the old system with majority rules. Unionists and nationalists have both agreed on proportional inclusion of each group in the government, and this is the first time such an agreement have been accepted by both parties. The voting system now works to ensure that either unionists or nationalists can vote against each other’s group interests. (www. bbc. co. uk 2 June 2012).
The Agreement respects both parties’ goals to join the Irish Republic or to remain being a part of the United Kingdom. The agreement is divided into three strands: strand one is dealing with institutional arrangements in Northern Ireland, strand two deals with the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland and strand three deals with the relationships between the United Kingdom, Ireland and Northern Ireland. As mentioned before, the agreement focus mainly on the people of Ireland, and equality and rights lies at the centre of the Good Friday Agreement.
The agreement protects human rights in Northern Ireland, as well as equality, mutual respect and partnership. The human rights commission and the equality commission are the two institutions in Northern Ireland responsible for ensuring that political, social, civil and cultural rights of every civilian are respected (www. bbc. co. uk 2 June 2012). The Good Friday agreement is such an important part in the history of Northern Ireland, and it is very interesting to see that it took so many years for it to be formed, and also that when it was settled the majority of the population voted yes to the proposition of the agreement.
This proves that the majority of the population were at this time exhausted by the violent conflicts, and both Catholics and Protestants actually wanted it to end. Many years of bloody violence have left a deeply segregated society in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday agreement appreciates the importance of talking about the victims of the conflict that suffered and still are suffering from it. The agreement is committed to nurture a culture of tolerance to the discriminated community through promotion of mixed housing, integrated education and the support of integrated employment in companies (bbc. o. uk 2 June 2012). Northern Ireland was ruled from London until the peace agreement was signed, and by 1998 the peace process had come so far that it was possible to create a Northern Ireland government with both nationalists and unionist groups that would have equal rights in the community. The first years after the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement were shaky for the new government and the British sometimes went in and took over the governmental work.
But the peace process were going the right way and in 2005 it had a breakthrough when IRA choose to give up their weapons and volunteers were instructed to form political and democratic agendas with only peaceful means. (www. dn. se October 14th 2002). In 2007 were the power of government divided between Protestants and Catholics, but although the power is shared between the two is Northern Ireland still segregated in some parts (Pelling, J. 18th May 2008).
Sharing of power have been important for the peace agreement to last, but there are a number of people that disagree with this solution and violence have occurred even after the peace agreement was signed. However, Northern Ireland is a good example where people have become so tired of conflicts that they step by step is building the ground for a lasting peace. Conclusion: It is truly amazing that a conflict that lasted for so long and was so deeply rooted in people’s hearts and minds, came to a solution because of the Good Friday Agreement.
As discussed before in the essay, everything was not easy after the implementation of the agreement and some issues were still there. But the facts remain that the Good Friday Agreement provided Northern Ireland with something it had never experienced before: equality rights for everyone independent on religion, mutual respect and human rights. For me that have grown up in a community with different religions and nationalities it is hard to understand how it must have been for (mainly) Catholics before the agreement.
Before the Good Friday Agreement Catholics were discriminated in many areas and today there is no change of being stopped by the police, army or someone else because of someone’s religion. I believe that the main aim of the peace agreement was to divide the power equally between Catholics and Protestants as well as eliminate discrimination. This essay have focused on the importance of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in particular, but I believe it is a good example that a conflict that are centuries old, can end on good terms for all the parties involved.
I am thinking of younger conflicts around the word that can look at the Good Friday Agreement for inspiration and hope of a better future. References books: Fahey, T. (2007) Conflict and Consensus: A Study of Values and Attitudes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers. Fraser, T, G. (1999) Ireland in Conflict 1922-1998. Chapter 9, p. 83. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. Internet Sources: BBC. (2012) The Good Friday Agreement [online] BBC. Available from: http://www. bbc. co. uk/northernireland/schools/agreement/. [Accessed 2 June 2012]
Department of foreign affairs and trade. (2011) March 25. The Good Friday Agreement [online]. Ireland: Department of foreign affairs and trade. Available from: http://www. dfa. ie/home/index. aspx? id=335. [Accessed 2 June 2012] Landguiden (2011) Northern Ireland [online]. Stockholm: Landguiden. Available from: http://www. landguiden. se/Konflikter/Nordirland Pelling, J. (2008) May 18. Nordirland fortfarande delat (Northern Ireland is still divided). [online]. Available from: http://www. svd. se/nyheter/utrikes/nordirland-fortfarande-delat_1263273. svd [Accessed 2 June 2012]
Pettersson, T and Simmons, D. (2010) August 17. Northern Ireland [online]. Uppsala: Sakerhetspolitik. Available from: http://www. sakerhetspolitik. se/Konflikter/Nordirland/Fordjupning/. [Accessed 1 June 2012] TT-Reuters (2002) October 14. Storbritannien tog over styret av Nordirland (Great Britain takes over governmental work in Northern Ireland). [online]. Available from: http://www. dn. se/nyheter/varlden/storbritannien-tog-over-styret-av-nordirland [Accessed 2 June 2012] Reference videos: BBC (2012). Importance of the Good Friday Agreement [Online video]. Available from: < http://www. bbc. co. k/learningzone/clips/importance-of-the-good-friday-agreement-1998/11507. html> [accessed 3 June 2012] Youtube/Leonidassthlm (2009). Varldens Konflikter: Nordirland del 1 [Online video]. Available from: <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=DQMKYPMBzEA> [accessed 2 June 2012] Youtube/Leonidassthlm (2009). Varldens Konflikter: Nordirland del 2 [Online video]. Available from: <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=YVBI-otJmMM> [accessed 2 June 2012] Youtube/Leonidassthlm (2009). Varldens Konflikter: Nordirland del 3 [Online video]. Available from: <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=soL9d4Gh3J4> [accessed 2 June 2012]