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"The Ulster Unionist Party Was Primarily Responsible For The Development Of Sectarian Politics In Northern Ireland Between 1921 And 1972". Do You Agree?

2857 words - 11 pages

"The Ulster Unionist Party was primarily responsible for the development of sectarian politics in Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972". Do you agree?The Government of Ireland Act 1920 paved way for the partition of Ireland. Partition of Ireland would in view of the Westminster government prevent civil war between Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists. The Nationalists made it clear they sought independence from Britain having lobbied Westminster for many years. In addition, they had perpetuated much rioting and strikes against British rule. The Unionists on the other hand were overwhelmingly Protestant and as a minority in a united Ireland felt threatened. They had seen the threat of the nationalists grow in strength that had won support of the Liberal party in 1912. The significance of this is that the overwhelming majority of Nationalists were Catholic and since they made up much of the Irish population the Protestant controlled region of Ulster would be under threat. They feared their religious freedom would be under threat as well as their economic interests. Ulster was wealthier and more industrialised than the more backward agricultural south. A united Ireland could harm Protestant interests and therefore partition would be a means of appeasing both sides. After much disagreement and talks Ireland was finally partitioned into two states in 1921. A 26 free County State in Southern Ireland was created and granted dominion status within the Empire to appease Irish Nationalists. A six County Unionist stronghold state was created in the North with closer ties to Westminster. This would appease the Protestant Unionists who now had a 'safe haven' in Ireland. The new state of Northern Ireland contained a built in Protestant majority. However, 1 in 3 people in Ulster were Catholic and they generally felt their allegiance was with a united Ireland. Perhaps this allegiance was further strengthened when Sir James Craig the new PM described the State as 'having a Protestant Parliament for a protestant people'. Catholics were discriminated against in the new state in jobs, housing, welfare and political representation. The Ulster Unionist party began a term in office that would be uninterrupted for 50 years. During this period the divide between Catholics and Protestants intensified creating what came to be known as Sectarian politics. Denomination made all the matter in everything. The divide caused much violence and trouble and this all boiled up in 1972 when the UK parliament was forced to abolish the Stormont Assembly and enforce direct rule. This essay will assess whether the Ulster Unionist Party was primarily responsible for the development of sectarian politics in Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972.As mentioned, Protestant leaders were wary of Catholics. Discrimination was justified on the grounds that Catholics were disloyal to the State. The new Premier James Craig chose to consolidate unionist power rather than broaden the...

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