The History Of The Ira Essay

4922 words - 20 pages

Northern Ireland has been plagued by bloody and virtually ceaseless violence for the better part of the last hundred years. The conflict in Northern Ireland is a combination of religious strife between Catholics and Protestants, nationalism versus colonialism and a search for a true Irish identity that has been elusive since the colonization of Ireland in 1603. Republicans in Ireland seek a unified Ireland, one that is free from the imperialistic hands of the British crown. In hopes of achieving this goal, the Irish Republican Army has waged a violent and bloody campaign against both Protestant unionists in the North and the English themselves. From 1920 until 1998 the IRA methods of terror instilled fear in the people of Northern Ireland while the division within its population grew deeper. The Belfast Agreement of 1998 represents the most promising opportunity for a peaceful political resolution and an end to IRA violence in Northern Ireland because the recent approach towards peace contrasts the approaches taken in previously failed attempts.

The process of politics in Northern Ireland bears the scars of long years of violence. The republicans, unionists and the British have all suffered high casualty rates from political and religiously motivated aggression. During the eighty or so years of violence there have been only two respectable attempts to establish a platform of peace that would satisfy each of the three key actors in this conflict. Each of these moves for peace crumbled because they were constructed on a weak and susceptible foundation. As Irish history demonstrates, reaching a peaceful solution will require a foundation that satisfies the needs of all those involved. "Politics in Northern Ireland has never been a process. There, politics has been a zero-sum game with all the spoils going to the victors, with a huge dose of fatalism and frustration residing with the vanquished" (Arthur & Jeffery, 1996, 110). This zero-sum game of political violence is what brought about the two peace efforts prior to 1998, but it is necessary to explore the events that lead up to the need for peace, and answer the question of why they collapsed.

In 1916 Patrick Pearse ignited the flame of the republican movement. On April 24, 1916, Pearse and his supporters rallied in Dublin and declared Ireland an independent and sovereign state, free from British rule. His vision of a free Irish Republic unleashed a wave of nationalism that escalated when the leaders of what would be known as the Easter Rising were arrested and executed. The Sinn Fein (the political wing of the republican movement) based their political agenda around achieving this goal and adopted the idea of Ireland as a sovereign and independent republic. In 1918 the Sinn Fein boycotted the seats they had won in the Irish wing of the Westminster parliament, expressing that they did not believe in a foreign parliament guiding Irish interests. Instead, they formed...

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