One of the most basic differences between the nationalists and unionists are their religious beliefs. On the one hand the Nationalists are Catholic and have very strong, strict religious rules. They have one central religious leader, the Pope in Rome, who decides all the matters of worship for every single Catholic in the world. They want their churches to be beautiful and be decorated with rich ornaments and statues. For the Catholics the Virgin Mary is a central figure of worship.
Also the Catholics continue to attend Mass in which Jesus Christ is remembered, as the worshippers drink wine and eat wafer. The wine represents the blood of Christ and the wafer represents his flesh. Catholics believe they should not eat meat on Fridays and also believe the priests and nuns should not marry, as they should preserve their chastity. This is because Catholics believe people close to God should remain pure and untouched. Finally Catholics strongly forbid abortions, as they should never take place under any circumstances, even if the mother’s life is at risk. The feel the same way about artificial birth control and should never be used.
On the other hand Unionists are Protestants and the only thing they agree on with the Catholics is that they both worship God and believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They believe individuals should make up their own mind on how they worship and no one should dictate other people on their ways of worship. They believe churches should be plain and look like a casino; with gold and ornaments everywhere you look.
As the Catholics believe Virgin Mary is a very important figure, the Protestants believe she is a rather minor figure and only God should be worshiped. Protestants do not attend Mass, as they believe it is more superstition than religion, so they eat meat whenever they want. The also done believe in confession like the Catholics do. Since they believe only God has the right to pardon sins not a priest. Unlike the Catholics who have a central religious leader, the Protestants believe in The Church of England as the official Protestant Church, and the Queen is the head of the church.
There are also thousands of different Protestant churches around the world with a number of different worshippers, ranging from thousands in some places to only a handful in others. Finally Protestants also differ with Catholics on views regarding abortion. Protestants are more lenient and believe abortions are allowed, especially if the mother’s life is at risk. Since having an abortion is the lesser of two evils. They also believe methods of birth controlled are allowed in certain circumstances.
Their religious differences do not normally result in violence, compared to their political differences. Both sides have peaceful political parties that do not use violence to get across their points. But both sides also have paramilitary groups that believe word will never solve their problems, so violence is the only way to get their message across.
There are four main Nationalist political parties, these include:
Fianna Fail – This is Irelands most successful political party. It was founded in 1926 and was first elected to power in 1932. The party’s current leader is Bertie Ahern and has been the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland since 1997. Fianna Fail is represented by; 77 Teachta Dala, 28 Senators, 4 Members of European Parliament and 301 national councillors.
Fine Gael – This is the second largest party in Ireland and was formed when two smaller parties merged together under a treaty in 1933. Fine Gael’s current leader is Garret Fitzgerald. Fine Gael is represented by; 51 Teachta Dala, 15 Senators, 5 Members of European Parliament, and 290 national councillors.
Labour- This is the third largest party in the Republic of Ireland. The party’s current leader is Pat Rabbite. Labour is represented by; 20 Teachta Dala, 5 Senators, 1 Member of European Parliament and over 100 national councillors.
Sinn Fein – This party is supposedly closely linked to the now disarmed Provisional Irish Republican Army. Sinn Fein’s leader Martin McGuiness is Deputy First Minister, a position equal to the First Minster, which is currently held by Reverend Ian Paisley, the founder and leader of the anti-republican Democratic Unionist Party. Sinn Fein is represented by; 4 Teachta Dala and 2 Members of European Parliament.
The main Paramilitary group in the Republic of Ireland is the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It has lost most of its legitimacy with the political groups of the Republic of Ireland who disregard them as the true Irish Army. They believe that words wont solve anything and so resort to violence. They are against any peace talks held in Ireland and are responsible for a number of bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland. Lately they are supposedly disarmed but many people in Ireland still believe that not all of the IRA’s weapons were taken into custody and they still have access to guns and bombs.
The two main parties in Northern Ireland are:
The Ulster Unionists Party – This is a moderate Unionist political party in Northern Ireland and is supported by most of the Unionists. Sir Reg Empey leads the party.
The Democratic Unionist Party – This is the larger of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland. It is led by Ian Paisley and is the fourth largest party in the British House of Commons. Many of its leading members include Members of Parliament Nigel Dodds, David Simpson and Gregory Campbell.
The main Paramilitary group in Northern Ireland is the Red Hand Defenders. This is a extreme terrorist organisation formed in 1998 and has members from other paramilitary organisations like the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalists Volunteer Force. In January 2002 it claimed that catholic school staff and postal workers in Belfast were legitimate targets and continued to claim responsibility on several attacks and bombings.
Up to 2001 the Red Hand Defenders were responsible for 8 deaths. 6 of its victims have been civilians, 1 was a member of the Ulster Defence Association loyalist paramilitaries and 1 was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The group seem to take verses from the Bible to justify their actions – “And the Lord thy God shall have delivered them to thee: thou shalt utterly destroy them. Thou shalt make no league with them, nor show mercy to them…neither shalt thou make marriages with them.”