Northern Ireland1 referat

Northern Ireland


The North, sometimes called Ulster, with its capital Belfast, is part of the U.K. It is ruled by the British Parliament in London and has the Queen as head of state. The South, which is called the Republic of Ireland, is an independent country with its own government and parliament in Dublin. The head of state is the President.

Recent violence in Northern Ireland is all about one simple question:

Should the North stay part of the U.K. or should it join the South as part of a united and independent country?

People of the North cannot agree about the answer. The Unionists or Loyalists, who are mostly Protestants, want to stay within the U.K. The Nationalists or Republicans, who are mostly Catholics, want the North to join the South and become part of the Irish Republic. Both sides have their private armies. The IRA is seen as the main terrorist group in Ireland by the British army. The exact attitudes of the governments of the U.K. and the Irish Republic vary. The roots of the conflict, however, date far back into history.

The first settlers arrived during the Stone Age. From the first century BC onwards, Gaelic people invaded Ireland. They gradually took control over the country (language, laws). The country was divided into a series of small kingdoms, grouped into four provinces: Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht.

The Gaelic invasion made a lasting impression on Ireland. A version of the language is still used. It is now called 'Irish' and taught in most Catholic schools. Christianity was brought to Ireland by St. Patrick. In the 5th century the Gaels became Christians and religion has been a powerful influence on Irish life ever since. Today Irish nationalists are very proud of their Gaelic past because they feel it clearly sets them apart from the British.

The 'golden age' came to a sudden end with two new invasions. From around 800 AD groups of Vikings began to arrive in Ireland. They were followed in 1167 by the Normans in their conquest of Britain. These newcomers made very few changes. Ireland remained divided into a number of small kingdoms but its people shared the same language (Gaelic) and the same religion (Catholic).

In the l6th century English rulers began to take a closer interest in Ireland. They feared Ireland could become a . threat to their own power. Edward the 6th and Elisabeth the 1st encouraged English settlers to live in Ireland. They also began introducing Protestant bishops, bibles and prayer books. But most Irish people refused to accept the English religion or the English rule. The provinces of Ulster and Munster rose in rebellion. Elisabeth sent her armies to defeat the rebels. In the l7th century English rulers decided that military force was not the best way to gain control in Ireland. So the English kings would 'plant' colonies of loyal Protestants and give land to them.

From 1610 onwards, thousand of Protestants came over to Ulster and settled on land taken from local Irish Catholics. In 1641 they took part in a great rebellion against the new settlers. Large numbers of Protestants were killed and the rebellion continued until the arrival of the English leader, Oliver Cromwell, in 1649. He was determined to teach the Irish a lesson. He did this by slaughtering the Catholic inhabitants of two towns. The rebellion has never been forgotten.

Three centuries of oppression and misery followed. Among the most difficult phases for the Irish were periods of starvation -'The Great Hunger' 1845 to 1849 where the potato crop was destroyed by a disease. During that period one third of Ireland's population starved or emigrated to the USA, Canada and Britain. In order to understand the situation in Ireland it is important to know that the conflict today is the result of nearly 800 years of hatred.

In 1996 political life in Ireland was dominated by efforts to sustain the faltering peace process in Northern Ireland. This progress made during the previous years was abruptly terminated in February 1997 by the ending of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) cease-fire and by the detonation of a bomb in London's Docklands. In a struggle to reinstate the process, Irish Prime Minister Burton and the British Prime Minister Major tried to set dates for all-party talks. The majority Unionist parties which favoured the continued unification of Northern Ireland and Great Britain objected to the talks, however, and interminable meetings failed to break a deadlock. Further violence followed.

In October 1997 an IRA bomb attack on the British army-base in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, restored the full cycle of violence. This left the Irish government with their overall peace strategy in ruins. There was all-party consent in the Republic that Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, would be excluded from talks while IRA violence continued. In spite of a working agreement on talks between the Ulster Unionists and Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party (which sought reunification with Ireland) all political parties in the Republic remained convinced that talks without Sinn Fein would make only limited progress and that the only route forward depended on a permanent IRA cease-fire.

Finally, in April 1998, on Good Friday a Northern Ireland peace agreement was reached. Copies of the proposed plan were mailed to every household in Northern Ireland, and on May 22nd voters in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic voted in a referendum on the agreement package. A number of parties are squarely behind the agreement. But there is vociferous opposition, especially among Unionists. Paisley (leader of the Democratic Unionist Party), who has made a long and colourful career out of saying NO, is leading the attack. And Trimble (head of the Ulster Unionist Party), too, must reckon with a serious split within his U.U.P., the largest and most important of the Unionist parties. The agreement has some powerful backing: the governments in London and Dublin, which were busily reassuring doubters on all sides. Despite Sinn Fein's hesitancy about firmly backing it, the agreement has solid support among Catholics.

The document provides significant gains for Nationalists:

- guaranteeing their political representation in the new Northern Ireland Assembly and increased cross-boarder links with the Irish Republic.

- The Irish language will get an official standing. ~

- A committee will be set up to reform the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Irish police force, hated by the Catholic community.


On Friday the 22nd in 1228 polling stations 71 percent of the voters said YES to an agreement that will transform the politics of Northern Ireland and redefine the historically contentious relations between London, Dublin and Belfast. It was an ending of 30 years bloodshed with nearly 3000 deaths and 80 years of constitutional instability. It took nearly two years of peace talks to yield the formidably complex document that won the voters approval in last week's referendum: the so - called GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT. This result will change the face of unionism forever and open the way to a sharing of government between Unionists and Nationalists.

The result may also give the IRA the confidence it needs to declare its war is over and start decommissioning weapons, the precondition of building Unionist trust in Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Endorsement of the agreement in the Republic, including the abandonment of the historic territorial claim on the North, came in an avalanche ignoring both geographical and class barriers. There was no significant difference between the vote in border constituencies and other areas often considered to be Republican and urban areas.

The Good Friday agreement sets out carefully ordered steps to bring new political institutions and a new political consensus to Northern Ireland. But analysts say the agreement may stumble over how it resolves issues left over from decades of guerrilla warfare.

That means that power will no longer be gained by bullets and bombs. What there is now is peace! This vote said that people wanted to try a new kind of politics. The war that has dominated Northern Ireland for three decades is over.

Around the world, leaders have sent their congratulations to Ireland and said they hoped for a lasting peace. President Clinton said the Irish people had voted for a brighter future and he would now encourage investment in the region. The Palestinian Authority said it hoped the vote would set the stage for peace in the Middle East. The French President, Jacques Chirac, said the vote was a victory of reason over folly.


- A new political body of 108 members elected by proportional representation will administer Northern Ireland.

- A North - South Ministerial Council must be set up within a year.

- A new body drawn from the assembly and from the Irish Parliament will deal with common issues such as roads and agriculture. Dublin will hold a referendum to amend these two articles to the Irish constitution claiming that the North is an integral part of the Republic.

- A new charter for human rights to protect the Nationalist minority, plus restructuring of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

- A commission will be appointed to review the sentences of those convicted of terrorist-related charges during the Troubles and speed their release.

- A program to get weapons held by Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups turned in and destroyed will be implemented.

1: faltering - zögernd

2: to break the deadlock - aus der Sackgasse herauskommen 3: backing - Unterstützung

4: to endorse - billigen

5: to decommission - stillegen 6: folly - Verrücktheit

Sinn Fein: extreme Irish Nationalist party, founded in 1905, aiming at political independence and revival of Irish culture and language; the Gaelic name means 'ourselves alone.'

R.U.C. = Royal Ulster Constabulary; the Ulster police, mostly made up of Protestants

U.V.F. = Ulster Volunteer Force; the main Loyalist (Protestant) terrorist group

Orange March: The annual procession of the 'Orangemen' takes place in Londonderry on 12th of July. They march to music, proudly holding their flags and banners high. Each man is dressed in a black suit with an orange sash across his front and an enormous rosette pinned to his lapel: and they all wear bowler hats. It is well known that this march is meant as a provocation of the Catholics and that it usually triggers off another wave of violence and killing in Northern Ireland. It is a parade against giving the Catholic minority more democratic rights and against a united Ireland. It is for Northern Ireland to remain part of the U.K. and for supporting the Protestant majority.

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