Ireland and the Troubles
The unrest in Ireland extends back for centuries. Ireland was at one time a Catholic country. In 1690 Prince William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James, and Protestant ascendancy continued for centuries. In the many intervening wars the soldiers of the English kings were rewarded with Irish land. Catholic Irish landholders were forced out and land was given to the King’s men.
As a matter of public policy Irishmen were starved out of their rented land. During the potato famine in the 1850s, English owned the land. Crops did well, except for the potato, the sole source of food available to the Irish. All other crops were exported for profit and the Irish either starved or emigrated to other countries. Many went to America.
Modern unrest started during World War I. The whole of Ireland was at the time a part of the United Kingdom. Irishmen fought and learned to fight in the English Army. In 1916 the Irish Volunteers staged an uprising in Dublin, celebrated as the Easter Sunday Uprising. Civil war was being waged in Ireland. An armistice was signed in 1921-1922 and the Irish Free State was formed. Yet, the Irish were not yet entirely free of England.
Then in 1938 the Irish Free State became the Republic of Ireland, no longer tied to England. However, the six counties in the northeast part of Ireland remained an English Province. A fact that no one forgets.
Even today, in Ulster, the six Counties, the men of Orange, celebrate that seventeenth century victory by marching. “It is their right.” Unhappily their route extends through Catholic enclaves in Belfast, and other towns. The marching, the beating of drums and display of Protestant rights provokes anger, catcalling, fights, riots and oftentimes shootings and bombings.
In the north, in predominantly Protestant Ulster, politicians, political societies and paramilitary activists are each in their way fighting to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, remains relatively calm, although one must assume that within its borders militants are still striving for, one Ireland, one Nation.
Because of the increased violence, in 1968 British troops arrived in Belfast to keep the peace. Shortly thereafter the Irish Republican Army considered to be associated with the political Sinn Fein split and while the Official IRA assumed a political (socialist) stand, the Provisional IRA assumed an active militant one.
On Sunday, January 30,1972, there was a non-violent civil demonstration in Bogside, Derry. The march was to protest internment without trial. As it happened, during the march the 1st Parachute Regiment opened fire, killing thirteen civilians. Later, in retaliation, the IRA fought back and the British Embassy in Dublin was burned down, and the Parachute Regiment frequented pub in Aldershot, England was bombed, killing seven. London then took control of security. A condition that exists even today, more that two decades later.
Bloody Sunday, as the occurrence is known, greatly exacerbated the situation with both sides engaging in even more violent acts. This condition also remains today.
Since that time, politicians and ordinary citizens have made many attempts to bring Sectarianism to closure through peace marches, meetings, treaties, commissions formed, and governments reorganized.
At the time this story opens, some years later, it has been recognized that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has not infrequently sided with the Protestant population. A commission has been set up, and in an attempt to mitigate this situation, a new police force, scheduled to be at least one third Catholic, is in the making. It has not been easy, and militant activists both in and out of uniform are fighting without retreat.
Places of Interest
Geoghegan Family Crest