Falls Road Curfew

The Falls Road Curfew of 1970 severed any future of Catholics having good relationships with the British army. The army sealed off an area of the Lower Falls district while they ransacked the houses, looking for weapons, but leaving much destruction in their wake. This causes about 20,000 people unable to leave their homes in the time, and four deaths by the army, all innocent civilians.

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British Soldier search Houses during the Curfew

This curfew increased tension between the Catholics and Britain since it left many people frightened of the power of the British army. It also increased their desire to rid Ireland of British influence, rooted out of fear of what else the British army would do.

Employment in Northern Ireland

Discrimination of Catholics by Protestants also occurred in the workplace. One example of this discrimination in the workplace is through the hiring processes. During an interview in the hiring process, many times they asked what school the person went to. If the school had saint in the name, they knew you were Catholic. As a result, the majority of the time they were passed over for being Catholic and going to a Catholic school. Protestants received priority over Catholics when searching for jobs. Many Catholics were placed in poor working conditions. Some of these harsh working conditions included long work hours, and unequal pay. Most of the time, Catholics were not employed in positions of higher power within the workplace, and did not receive promotions.

In the 1960s, an economic recession occurred in Great Britain. This resulted in an increased rivalry for jobs between the Catholics and the Protestants. The loyalists argued that because Northern Ireland had profited from their connections, such as trade with Great Britain, then the jobs should be reserved for those who were loyal to Great Britain. During this recession unemployment was high, and there were many people looking for jobs. Protestants were fearful that the Catholics were taking their jobs away from them, so firms would not hire them because they’d rather give the job a “good” Protestant. Due to many Catholics not having work, many of them were very poor which made them anxious of their lives in this society where the government system set in place blatantly discriminated against them.

Due to jobs given to mostly Protestants, especially government jobs, the Royal Ulster Auxiliary was 90% Protestant which did not help with discrimination of Catholics. In 1922 the Special Powers Act enacted which made it possible for police to arrest people without a warrant, send them to prison without a trial, and unlimited search powers. When tensions ran high this act law made Catholics fearful of what could happen to them. When the civil rights movement started and peaceful marches were breaking out into violence, policeman did very little to help the Catholics from the violence. In many cases they watched and did nothing. Bernadette Devlin watched a policeman look on as four Protestants and beat a protester in the incident of Burntollet Bridge. The Catholics knew that they had no government system in place to help them.

Housing in Northern Ireland

A housing crisis was prevalent during this time, due to housing shortage and an unequal distribution of houses. The government started building new houses and giving them to civilians in need. Local councils were in charge of distributing these houses, but because these councils were Protestant controlled, the councils would only give these new houses to other Protestant people. This occurrence was especially bad in Derry, even though Derry was majority Catholic. One example of this is when a whole Catholic family was need of a house, but it instead was given to a single Protestant woman. This was a prevent issue when the civil rights movement began. Some actions taken by the protesters were squatting in houses that were given to Protestants, so the new people would not be able to move in.

A reason why this occurred was due to the government system set in place, the only people who could vote were people who owned land, thus this was another reason why Catholics were discriminated in during the housing crisis. If the councils gave houses to Catholics, more Catholics would be able to vote and maybe become the majority in such places as Derry.

Housing given to Protestants over Catholics was not a mistake, Protestants were very afraid of Catholics and were cautious of what they would do if they would be able to have a say in the government. This housing situation then in turn made the Catholics fearful of their situation in the society. They were living in terrible conditions and the government  system set in place was doing nothing to help them. This made them anxious of their future in Northern Ireland. Catholics were also anxious about how they would never have a vote in the government that controlled their lives because they would not be allowed to own property.

Schooling in Northern Ireland

Even before The Troubles “officially” began, there was a deep segregation in the schooling of children. When the Republic of Ireland formed, both churches refused to give up their own holds on their school systems, resulting in separate Catholic and Protestant schools. This can be attributed as a cause of The Troubles. Since 90% of the children in Northern Ireland grew up without ever talking or associating with people of the opposite religion, this could increase the hatred and uncertainty between the two groups of people. This is echoes of tradition established as far back as the late 1600s, when laws restricted Catholics from being educated in Ireland. This created a tradition of churches controlling schools which led to separation.

Segregation of schools causes children from a young age to be fearful of people from the other religion. By not allowing them to interact with the other group of people, in this case Ireland, the mystery and wonder that comes along with this typically will translate into negative views of the that group. Normally this causes anxiety because we fear the unknown. When looking at school desegregation round the world, there is proof that once the schools began desegregating, this anxiety lessened and lessened because in the minds of school kids, they are simply other children to play with. If we never allow this to happen, they will always think that the other group is bad.

Northern Ireland Today: A Photo and Video Gallery

The Troubles, although technically came to end with the Good Friday agreement, still haunt Northern Ireland today. There are physical barriers as well as mental as the people caught up on the conflict figure out how to deal with the past pain.

Peace Walls:

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Physical structures built to keep Protestants and Catholics separate from each other still stand today

School Segregation

Schools are still deeply segregated between Christians and Protestants

Religious Tension

Protestants and Catholics still live in fear of each other

Released Paramilitaries 

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The Good Friday Agreement released all people arrested for involvement with the Troubles. Today, they don’t know how to interact in their daily lives due to so many years behind bars. Finding jobs has also proved difficult, since many businesses do no hire anyone involved with the conflict.

Suicide Rates

Suicide rates in Northern Ireland are the highest in the United Kingdom and double the rates of those in London. This is due to the violence that many people witnessed and were involved with during the Troubles and lack of resources and help to deal with the issues.

The people of Northern Ireland have to face many challenges as a result of the Troubles. Although the North Ireland Peace Process is largely considered a success, there are still many negative parts that have gone along with it.

Small Attempt to Change

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Peace Talks

In order to resolve the conflict, there were many different ideas and approaches made in an attempt to find peace, with the ones with the largest impact outlined below.  Each had its own flaw that led to increase violence, but set down framework for future peace agreement. The Belfast Agreement, or Good Friday Agreement, is largely considered the most successful, because it involved the most decrease in violence

Sunningdale Agreement (1972-1975)

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Unionist Poster

The Sunningdale Conference was the first official attempt at peace during the time of The Troubles. This involved a meeting between the current Prime Minister of Britain, Edward Heath, the premier of Ireland, Liam Cosgrove and representatives from three parties: the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party. The agreement involved and established an assembly of Ireland that included a power-sharing Executive and a legislative cross-border Council of Ireland. The Council would consist of a unicameral legislature with members from both the north and south. This agreement was more an agreement to establish a groundwork for a further agreement, and there was not complete agreement between Ireland and London. Largely supported by the SDLP because it set the platform for a future united Ireland, unionists viewed it as the end of the Union between Ireland and Britain. The UUC party called for a two week strike in May 1974 in opposition to the agreement and before long it was set to be prorogued and officially dissolved in 1975.

Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985)

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Thatcher and Fitzgerald sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement into law

The next attempt at peace involved an agreement between Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This agreement was decided without large influence from outside political parties, causing much upheaval after it was signed into law. The agreement, signed on November 15, 1985 establish an Intergovernmental council that would deal with political and security matters. The agreement allowed for later change, but stated that the status of Northern Ireland would not change as a result of the agreement, angering Unionists. They declared that it did nothing to address and change the current problems and was the weakest statement by the British Government. They also were not involved in the process, so as a result the UUP and DUP parties organized mass strikes and rallies against the agreement. The IRA did not officially recognize it as law, so although it was never officially dissolved, it did nothing to solve the issues at hand. It did create increased cooperation between the British and Irish governments

Brooke/Mayhew Inter-Party Talks (1991-1992)

 ‘Contrary to the insinuations of unionists and some academics that John Hume pursued an IRA ceasefire at the deliberate expense of any possible outcome from Brooke-Mayhew, the reality was that he was trying to get to a convergence of both processes.’ Above, taoiseach Albert Reynolds shakes hands with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume outside Government Buildings on September 6th 1994 after a discussion of ways to advance the peace process following the IRA’s ceasefire announcement of August 31st. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Taosieach Reynolds shakes hands with Adams and Hume

One of the first examples of inter-party talks, and when what would later become known as the “Irish Peace Process” began, was the Brooke-Mayhew talks of 1991-1992. These were meetings between the four parties: the UUP, DUP, SDLP and the Alliance party as well Secretary of State Tom King and his successor Peter Brooke. This first set of talks involved the idea of three strands, or three sets of relationships. These would be first, relations within Northern Ireland, second relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and third, the relation between the United Kingdom and the Republic. All three of these relationships must be established before anything is set into law. When Mayhew became the next Secretary of State in 1992 and Strand 1 negotiations began, there was large consent that the it should be run by people within Northern Ireland only. Negotiations involving strand 2 and 3 proved difficult and nothing was officially achieved. However, The three stand approach would later be used when crafting the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Downing Street Declaration (1993)

‘The Downing Street declaration was the foundation stone on which the peace process was built.’ Above, British prime minister, John Major, with taoiseach Albert Reynolds, following the agreement of the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. Photograph: Peter Thursfield / THE IRISH TIMES

John Major and Albert Reynolds

The meetings between SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams resulted in a joint declaration after a joint meeting on April 23, 1993. They largely claimed that Irish people had a right to self determination and that an internal settlement is not a solution, the agreement must satisfy all people. These talks angered Unionists, declaring that the talks were extremely nationalist. After these talks, a PIRA bomb exploded on Shankill Road, killing ten people and injuring fifty-seven. This violence shifted the attention from these talks to the issue with British and Irish relations, which resulted in the release of the Downing Street Declaration, which declared that the Britain had no selfish or political interest in Ireland, but instead was committed to finding a peaceful solution. This eventually led to cease-fires declared by both the IRA and the CLMC.

Belfast Agreement (1998)

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Tony Blair and Ahern sign the Belfast Agreement into law

The Good Friday Agreement, or Belfast Agreement was the historic agreement that has been contributed to ending the historic period known as The Troubles, decided on April 10, 1998. The Agreement was largely able to reached when Tony Blair’s Labor party gained momentum. The agreement followed the three strand system that was introduced by Mayhew and drew heavily on the Sunningdale Agreement, the difference being the recognition of different identities and self determination, as well as power-sharing. The Agreement recognized that the majority desired to stay unified with Ireland, although there were people who wished to not stay. It then set up Legislative and Executive bodies that dealt with the strands. The Agreement was passed by Irish voters after two referendums on May 22, 1998 and was put into effect December 10, 1999. This agreement outlines the devolved model that rings true today. 

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