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Ireland in the 20th century


The coming of 'the Troubles'

Ireland, 1921‒1967

Neither the 1920 Government of Ireland Act nor the 1921 Treaty [treaty: A formal agreement between two or more countries. solved the 'Irish Problem'.

In the south, civil war broke out in June 1922 when members of the IRA [IRA: Irish Republican Army who wanted a united and independent Ireland. took up arms against the army of the Irish Free State. They were opposed to the Treaty because it did not give Ireland complete independence. The anti-Treaty republicans accepted defeat in April 1923.

In the north Protestants and Catholics fought each other in a vicious sectarian [sectarian: Belonging to a religious or political group and being intolerant of those with different opinions. war, which had begun in April 1920. It raged on until the end of 1922.

Northern Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom, but unlike other regions it had its own parliament. Unionists [unionist: A supporter of the union of Great Britain and Ireland., representing the Protestant majority, were always in power. Catholics were certain that Unionists abused their power:

  • The police were mainly Protestant and were armed. All 'B' Special Constables were Protestant.

  • Local government voting boundaries were altered ('gerrymandered [gerrymander: Adjusting the boundaries of a constituency to favour one party in particular.') to reduce the number of Catholics being elected to councils.

  • There was discrimination against Catholics when they were looking for jobs and for council houses to rent.

The slide to violence

In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed to campaign for equal voting rights, and an end to gerrymandering and discrimination. Many Unionists wrongly saw NICRA as the IRA [IRA: Irish Republican Army who wanted a united and independent Ireland. under a different banner.

There were other civil rights organisations, including the People's Democracy (PD). Some members of the PD led a march from Belfast to Londonderry in January 1969. It was attacked by Protestants a few miles outside of Derry at Burntollet. Police wrecked Catholic homes in the Bogside in Derry.

Catholic anger was intense. In just a few months Northern Ireland was in turmoil.

In August 1969 British troops were sent in on active service to restore order. 'The Troubles [troubles: The time of unrest and violence in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998.' had begun.

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