There have been many ways in which The British Government has tried to deal with the troubles in Northern Ireland there was Direct Rule in 1972, Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement in 1973, the events following Bobby Sands’ death in 1981, the Anglo Irish Agreement in 1985, The Downing Street Declaration in 1993, and finally the Good Friday Agreement 1998. Each one helped in its own way but to achieve true success it could be said that the action would have to both eliminate terrorism and bring peace to Northern Ireland even if it’s short lived.
The “troubles” in Northern Ireland is a term used to describe the latest periods of violence involving Republican and Loyalist paramilitary organizations, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the British Army and others in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the Belfast Agreement (or Good Friday Agreement) of 10th April 1998. The Troubles have been variously described as terrorism, ethnic conflict, a many-sided conflict, a guerrilla war, a low intensity conflict, and even a civil war.
Direct rule in 1972 was the first of the events to take place, it was needed to restore order after Bloody Sunday, and it meant that Northern Ireland was controlled directly from Westminster. This meant that although day-to-day items were handled by the parliament within Northern Ireland, any major policies were taken care of by Westminster. Direct Rule helped by creating the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) which was an organisation designed to protect Northern Ireland from terrorists, the members were from both religious back grounds and it succeeded in restoring minimal amounts of peace and lasted for 25 years.
However near the end the violence started again, even though throughout this action violence had accrued on both sides, this time there was a definite increase. The unionist set up yet another paramilitary the UDA (Ulster Defence Association), this meant other paramilitaries and even members of the general public felt the need to defend its self and fight back. The IRA bombings in England increased meaning that the links between the two countries were once again weak, which didn’t bode well as the parliament of Britain was still controlling law and order in Northern Ireland.
People felt that direct rule had come too late to make a real difference as the violence and retaliations had became so frequent and out of control that by the time the British government tried to stop it, it was too late to make a real lasting difference. This can be linked to most of the other actions or events talked about it links to both Bobby Sands’ death and the Anglo-Irish Agreement as they are all mainly focused on terrorism; it also links to the Downing Street Declaration as England tried to take control in both these situations.
Direct rule would be one of the more important actions not because it made a drastic difference but because of all the violence it caused. One could say if the actions were listed in terms of effectiveness (with the most effective at the top) Direct Rule would be third, coming under the Good Friday Agreement and the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Overall it was quite effective because it minimally stop violence and brought some piece to Ireland for 25 years, however it didn’t truly rid the country of terrorism so it cannot be truly successful.
Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement in 1973 was the nicest of the actions as it didn’t involve violence or favouring one side in particular. Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement was established by a man called Willie Whitelaw who had the idea that he could get everyone to talk about their problems and everything would be peacefully resolved. The agreement had three parts an elected Northern Ireland Assembly, a power-sharing cross-community Northern Ireland Executive and a cross-border Council of Ireland.
The elected Assembly and the Council of Ireland would have made the residence of both Eire and the Republic Of Ireland feel like they had a say in how their join country was run. Also the actions were meant to make Ireland feel they had a say in their own laws where really England still retained control over law and order, this way they could still keep an eye so to say on the goings on in Ireland. It also aimed to reduce support for the IRA by giving nationalists more power.
This was a good action because at first everyone felt they had an equal say in what was going on in the country. However unionists hated it, they said it was like France having a say in how Kent was run, meaning it was like a country not of your language and overseas controlling your home land it was ludicrous and un-heard of. The unionist finally called a general strike over the council for Ireland this meant things such as the electricity supply didn’t have workers to maintain it meaning in some places it simply went off.
Finally the Sunning Dale agreement collapsed in 1974 and direct rule returned. It’s similar to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 because they both tried to get the parties talking however the Good Friday Agreements terms were more thought out. It could be said that Power sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement failed for that very reason its terms were not thought out and it seems to be written for practicality rather than taking how the public would feel into consideration.
This action is going to have to be quite low on the importance scale being at the bottom of the list as it didn’t last for long with the retaliations and strikes from the unionists. It also didn’t display any of the things defined in “success” the action didn’t even touch on terrorism and instead of bringing peace to Ireland it created more violence. The next event was the death of Bobby Sands’ who was arrested and sentenced to the maze prison in 1976, while in there Bobby was involved in riots and hunger strikes that newspapers and TV stations covered.
When the news of Bobby Sands reached the outside world they replied to it by electing him MP of Fermanagh in 1981, however he couldn’t be MP from prison but the gesture helped the propaganda. Margret Thatcher was put in a very difficult position as she was seen to have little sympathy for those in prisons even though they were on hunger strikes but then what could she have done? If she had force fed the prisoners she would be seen as being violence to show her power, however if she talked them out she would be seen to be negotiating with terrorists.
The actions of those in prison and the publicity surrounding Margret Thatcher highlighted the troubles in Northern Ireland and united most of the catholic population but unfortunately it united them behind the IRA. This event helped the troubles by showing not only all of Ireland but the British public the state that Ireland had come to. Showing the violence that people were forced to live in, meant people wanted to help and tried and solve the problem.
However some people decided the only way to help was to unite behind the IRA; this meant that a negative effect of this event was to dramatically raise the amount of support for the IRA. Overall this event was quite successful as it united allot of people however the British government showed a negative attitude towards the whole situation being that the support born of this event went not to the British but to the IRA. If the British had created a person or party for the supporters to rally round this could have been then end to the troubles.
This event links in a triangle with Direct Rule and the Anglo-Irish Agreement as these are the actions mainly focused on terrorism it also links to the Anglo-Irish agreement because they both involve Margret Thatcher. In the theoretical list of effectiveness Bobby Sands’ death would be fourth. Next is the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985, this agreement was set up between Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) and Garret Fitzgerald (Taoiseach of Ireland).
It aimed to stop the IRA’s violence on both England and Northern Ireland, and reduce support for Sinn Fein. Margret Thatcher thought the only way to resolve the issues would be to get the Republic of Ireland involved in the affairs or Northern Ireland. This would in theory of had a calming effect, the Republic was in a state of peace, the thoughts of Eire would help restore order to Northern Ireland. It would also prevent Eire feeling undermined by finding out the future of their own country from members of another nation.
However the idea of this made unionist uneasy but Margret Thatcher seemed blind to their fears, which meant riots and protest could be on the cards once again. The agreement set up an intergovernmental conference in which the Northern Ireland secretary and Irish foreign minister would meet regularly, keeping communications and relations between the two parts of Ireland strong. As one of the major causes of the troubles was terrorism especially from the IRA this agreement set up a border control hoping that this would help prevent the terrorism from the IRA.
This would have helped the troubles by stamping out terrorism and having the same laws in each half of the country. The added border control prevented crossing the border to avoid justice and also stop the flow of weapons to and from the IRA over the border. This like every other agreement had mixed reactions it was well received in Britain and Eire, however in Northern Ireland it was rejected by Sinn Fein as they still refused to accept the partition of Ireland. Ian Paisley was very vocal about what he thought of it, many gathered to hear him condemn it.
This links in the “terrorism triangle” with the death of Bobby Sands and Direct Rule, as these were then actions mainly focus on terrorism. The Anglo-Irish Agreement also links to Bobby Sands’ death because of the involvement of Margret Thatcher. This is an action of high importance just seconded on the scale, as it did bring peace to northern Ireland even if short live and it also did help improve the situation on terrorism. In 1993 the Downing Street Declaration was put into place, this agreement was between Prime Minister John Major and Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
It aimed to set up talks between groups to decide upon a new form of government for Northern Ireland, but only parties who rejected violence could be part of these talks. This meant that all the opinions, no matter what they decided upon, would be against violence and therefore bring peace the Northern Ireland by not even considering it as a solution in the planed talks. This Declaration was very popular because now more than even Northern Ireland was longing for peace; Sinn Fein had lost an election to the SDLP where both Catholics and Protestants were voting for them.
Another aim of the declaration was to show that every ones traditions were acknowledged, the Irish government would set up a forum to promote trust and understanding but again only parties who rejected violence could be part of it. Having this made people on both sides feel considered and respected and they were more inclined to agree upon what was discussed and reject any violent solutions voiced. This action is rather hard to link but it can be linked to Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement, as they both tried to get parties to talk.
This is middle level importance as it brought slight peace and improved communications however didn’t have a great impact on terrorism as those who were likely to commit acts of terrorism were excluded from all meetings, so it mealy created another group of people against terrorism. Also creating this group seemed to emphasise separation in Northern Ireland meaning that the strong links that the Anglo-Irish agreement had created were ruined and Eire were once again feeling undermined and the nation was further apart than ever. It would be fifth on the list just above Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement.
Lastly, and most important by far is the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This was set up between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Aherne, but the agreement also included the Northern Ireland secretary Dr Mo Mowlam. The aims of this agreement were the best planed of all actions taken; it proposed setting up a new Northern Ireland assembly with 108 members this is where all key decisions would be made. Having many members of both backgrounds making the decisions made everyone feel they were fairly thought out therefore they were more likely to agree with them.
Another aim was talking to terrorist, which Dr Mo Mowlam was the best at as she went to the maze prison and offered terrorists tea. This, to the terrorists themselves showed the government understood them therefore they were more inclined to agree with them. Also to the outside world it showed the government were treating their paramilitary prisoners with the respect due to them which meant those still free were on the government’s side too. This by far is the most successful, and probably why the agreement is still here to this very day.
Dr Mo Mowlam knew how hard her job was but she managed to persuade people not to associate Stormont with past memories and to look to a new parliament, the Orange Order even called off one of their parades to help ease the tension. Several promises were made to try and please all parties including early release of paramilitary prisoners and a north-south council was set up to encourage communication between Eire and Northern Ireland. Restabilising the communications meant that Eire once again didn’t feel isolated and the early release of prisoners showed that the country was willing for peace on all sides.
Giving the message to the public allowed them to see that they could live in peace and that there country was truly in peace now and even the release of old terrorist couldn’t change that. This is the top of my importance scale as it did reduced terrorism and it also brought and is still bringing peace to Northern Ireland. This links to Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement because it involved groups talking, also links to the Anglo-Irish agreement because it involved Eire in the search for peace.
In all fairness the British government have had a lot of success controlling the troubles; putting all the attempts together they have reduced terrorism a great deal. They also brought peace to Northern Ireland and took away a lot of the tension between parties, and established strong links between Northern Ireland and Eire allowing both peaceful communication and Eire’s opinions and inputs. The only down side to this was taking thirty six years to bring this country to peace but it happened.
Present day Northern Ireland thanks to the combined efforts of all these actions and events is finally in a state of peace and harmony. The thanks for this can be given to the British government for their ideas and actions. However credit also is due to Dr. Mo Molam for her ideas and commitment during the Good Friday Agreement without her even this successful action wouldn’t have lasted. Finally the American Government played a major role by bringing in a neutral party to the chaos and creating communications, and having a clear headed out look on things.
The most effective by far was the Good Friday Agreement for the simple fact that it lasted, it reduced terrorism and restored communications that’s all that’s needed for it to be successful but this action is still currently doing both those things. The least effective has to be Power Sharing and the Sunning Dale Agreement; even though it was a lovely idea it was too idealistic and didn’t change much at all. Everything seemed to stay the same just more people became annoyed, and others happy it didn’t bring peace and didn’t resolve anything, therefore can never be classed as successful.