In 1916, a group of nationalists sized and took over a number of buildings in Dublin, mainly the Post Office. This was called the Easter Rising. They then declared a republic. This led to extremely violent behaviour from both sides, but with a minimum of support in Dublin, the nationalists were overruled by the British Army. The British Government then executed 16 leaders and this influenced the views of many to the republicans, which are a group prepared to use means of violence to achieve independence. In 1918, Sinn Fein won a huge amount of seats in the General Election.
Being a nationalist party the MP’s refused to go to Westminster and so set up a separate Parliament in Dublin. This was this was profusely opposed and was quickly shut down. This led to a guerrilla war between the IRA and Britain. A civil war looked likely, but neither side was well enough equipped to have a huge effect. In 1921 Sinn Fein sent representatives to London to talk with the British Government. They agreed to set up a partition of Ireland, establishing an Irish Free State in the southern 26 counties that became separate from the UK but still within the commonwealth.
Some nationalists were still unhappy, and this led to a civil war that lasted two years. The nationalists who accepted the agreement won it and they were in control of the Irish Free State for the following ten years. The other six counties were named Northern Ireland and although it was still part of the United Kingdom, it was given its own Parliament in Stormont. Between the 1920’s and 1960’s, the nationalists were treated very unfairly in every aspect of life. Local councils were big employers, and they employed Protestants as far as possible.
Also, Protestants owned the vast majority of businesses, and they also only employed protestant workers. As late as 1969 22% of Protestants were unemployed compared to 41% of unemployed Catholics. Nationalists were also persecuted when applying for new houses. The council gave priority to Protestant families and new houses were more often than not built in Protestant areas. The Special Powers Act (1922) permitted internment. This was the ability to arrest on suspicion, search without a warrant and jail suspects without trial.
As expected most police officers were Protestant and tended to apply the rules more gently to their own community. The Nationalists could do nothing about this inequality. All adults were entitled to vote but a business owner was entitled to more votes than those who were not. As Protestants were the main business owners so nationalist votes had no effect. Gerrymandering was a very manipulating trick. The boundaries of areas were moved so Protestants were always in the majority. The Civil Rights movement was brought in after many civil rights marches had taken place.
The movement treated everybody fairly, everyone was entitled to one vote, interment was brought to an end and everybody had fair access to housing. Gerrymandering was also stopped and laws against discrimination were brought in. Equality throughout Ireland was paramount. Partition brought about a great many opinions from both sides. The Unionists believed that Partition was better than a united Ireland, as they were still separate from the U. K, and there was the feeling of betrayal from the Catholics.
They believed they could not be trusted and they needed to keep a close check in the police force for Catholics, and they still continued to give there own community priority over Catholics, doing so more discreetly. The nationalists said that they would have nothing to do with Northern Ireland or the Government in Stormont. They were still very bitter towards the Protestants for being treated unfairly and detached themselves from anything to do with them. They believed there was nothing for them in a divided Ireland.