They vigorously defended themselves against the discrimination through which the Catholics were curtailed in their political participation.
In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) came into being, which campaigned for fundamental reforms and the implementation of social equality with mass demonstrations and civil disobedience. The government responded with repressive measures.
In view of this development, radical groups on both nationalist and pro-British sides came to the fore. The Catholic nationalist party Sinn Féin and the IRA uncompromisingly stuck to the goal of uniting Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. Extremist Protestant forces fought the social and political integration of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. The attack by militant unionist groups on Catholic residential areas in London derry (now Derry) and Belfast in August 1969 led to bloody clashes. The British government then moved troops to Northern Ireland to stop the escalation of violence. However, the British military itself became increasingly drawn into the clashes.
The Bloody Sunday
Despite the government’s ban, a large protest march started on Sunday, January 30, 1972 in Derry to demonstrate against the internment policy. Soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators and shot fourteen people. Three days later, 30,000 people gathered in Dublin in response to Bloody Sunday. During this demonstration, the British embassy was set on fire.
The direct rule – Northern Ireland under British control
Faced with mounting violence, Prime Minister TED HEATH’s British government took control of Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Parliament has been suspended for one year, the Northern Irish Police come under the British Home Office and the FAULKNER government announced its resignation.
In June 1973 a new Northern Irish People’s Assembly was elected. Protestants and Catholics – according to their share of the population – should be given a share of political power through power-sharing. At the beginning of 1974, the Northern Irish government took office with FAULKNER at its head. The parties to the conflict – with the exception of the Ulster Union Council – had previously agreed on the policy of power-sharing in the Sunningdale Agreement. But this time too it failed, so that according to the direct rule, London was once again governed.
Northern Irish peace activist BETTY WILLIAMS founded the Community of Peace People movement in 1976, which organized demonstrations for peace in various locations across the UK. In the same year, BETTY WILLIAMS and MAIREAD CORRIGAN received the Nobel Peace Prize for their commitment.
Escalation of violence
The IRA extended the acts of terrorism to England. Approval for it grew among the Northern Irish population. The so-called troops out campaign called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. Bomb attacks, which also killed civilians, rocked the region from the mid-1970’s. The radical Sinn Féin found more and more support among the Northern Irish Catholics and was able to record more electoral successes. Sinn Féin’s electoral successes alarmed the governments in London and Dublin. The series of attacks did not end either. In October 1984 a bomb exploded at the British Conservative Party conference in Brighton.
Peace Efforts and the Good Friday Agreement
After massive attacks in the early 1990’s, the Prime Ministers of Ireland and Great Britain, ALBERT REYNOLDS and JOHN MAJOR, invited Sinn Féin to take part in peace talks in December 1993, provided that the IRA committed itself to renounce violence. She complied with the condition.
The ceasefire had increased the chances of a peaceful solution to the Northern Ireland conflict. In addition, the American President BILL CLINTON, who visited Northern Ireland in November 1995, intervened in the peace process. Although the declared renunciation of force by the militant organizations was not observed, the talks between representatives of the Unionists and the Catholic nationalists, moderated by the British and Irish governments, continued unabated. They eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed on Good Friday 1998. This agreement secured the participation of the political groups of the hostile population groups to the Government of Northern Ireland (a new version of power sharing). Participation in the government, however, depended on compliance with the renunciation of force and the delivery of weapons. Each household in Northern Ireland received a copy of the agreement, which was confirmed by the May 1998 referendum. The two architects of the peace agreement, DAVID TRIMBLE and JOHN HUME, received the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.Although the agreement found support from the people of Northern Ireland and a new Northern Irish parliament was elected, the conflict between the militant groups continued to smolder. The IRA opposed their disarmament, while the radical unionists would not participate in government until the IRA began handing over their weapons.
Current trends in the Northern Ireland conflict
On July 28, 2005, the IRA declared the armed struggle over. However, only two small radical splinter groups, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, are still ready to use violence and hold on to the state of war to this day. 25 people were injured in riots in Dublin related to the Northern Ireland conflict on the last weekend in February 2006, followed by an apology from the Sinn Féin boss. There are repeated incidents that are directly or indirectly related to paramilitary organizations. The tensions between the two ethnic groups often end in acts of violence, and not just in the parades. In early 2007, the IRA officially disarmed itself.Afterwards, on January 28, 2007, at a special party conference in Dublin, the Sinn Féin recognized the Northern Irish police in a historic vote by 2000 delegates. In doing so, she removed an important obstacle on the way to restoring a Northern Irish regional government. As a result, the British Protestant Democratic Unionist Party agreed on March 26, 2007 (St. Andrews Agreement) on a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Féin. On May 3, 2007, the leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) finally renounced the use of force, but without disarming itself.
In June 2007 the British government formed a bipartisan group called the Consultative Group on the Past to develop proposals for societal reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Its final report, when it was published in January 2009, sparked a public debate in the UK by proposing that all relatives of a person who died from politically motivated violence be paid a recognition allowance, regardless of whether they were civilian victims or paramilitary victims.