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Ulster Troubles (Part 7 of 24)





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Uploaded on Oct 31, 2006

The Troubles consisted of about 30 years of repeated acts of intense violence between elements of Northern Ireland's Nationalist community (principally Roman Catholic) and Unionist community (principally Protestant). The conflict was caused by the disputed status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, and the alleged domination of the minority nationalist community, and discrimination against, by the unionist majority. The violence was characterised by the armed campaigns of paramilitary groups. Most notable of these was the Provisional IRA campaign 1969--1997 which was aimed at the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and the creation of a new all-Ireland Irish Republic. In response to this campaign and the perceived erosion of the British character and unionist domination of Northern Ireland, loyalist paramilitaries such as the UVF and UDA launched their own campaigns against the nationalist population. The state security forces - the British Army and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) - were also involved in the violence. The British government point of view is that its forces were neutral in the conflict and trying to uphold law and order in the North. Irish republicans, however, regarded the state forces as "combatants" in the conflict and point to evidence of repeated collusion between the state forces and the loyalists as proof of this.

Alongside the violence, there was a political deadlock between the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including those who condemned violence, over the future status of Northern Ireland and the form of government there should be within Northern Ireland.

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations, the corresponding withdrawal of most troops from the streets and the reform of the police, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the Good Friday Agreement). This reiterated the long-held position that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise. It also established a devolved power-sharing government within Northern Ireland (currently suspended), where the government must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties.

Though the number of active participants in the Troubles was relatively small, and the paramilitary organisations that claimed to represent the communities were sometimes unrepresentative of the general population, the Troubles touched the lives of most people in Northern Ireland on a daily basis, while occasionally spreading to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. In addition at several times between 1969 and 1998, for example in 1972, after the Bloody Sunday, or during the Hunger Strikes of 1981, when there was mass, hostile mobilisation of the two communities and it seemed possible that the Troubles would escalate into a genuine civil war. Many people today have had their political, social and communal attitudes and perspectives shaped by the Troubles.


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