British- Irish relations over the past three hundred years have been troubled. There have been many tensions caused by religion in Northern Ireland and Britain’s unfair rule of Northern Ireland. The British are guilty of many of the indignities suffered by the Irish people. They are also guilty of causing all of the religious and territorial conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
The division between Northern and Southern Ireland dates back to the 16th century. A succession of English monarchs had used the planting of Protestant English and Scottish people on lands seized from Irish Catholics as a way of increasing loyalty to the British Crown. This is an example of how the British treated the people of Ireland unfairly.
In 1912 British parliament gave home rule to Ireland. Home rule is when a country who is ruled by another country is giving the ability to govern its self. However some people in Irelands Northern counties did not want home rule. They wanted to remain governed by Britain. So the people in the Northern Counties (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone) remained under British rule while the Southern Counties formed the Republic of Ireland. Shortly after the formation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland hostilities pushed these two countries to the brink of civil war. This was prevented by the start of World War I.
English persecution of the Irish people is one cause of the tensions in Northern Ireland. Before 1793 Irish Catholics were persecuted by British law. Catholics were not allowed to buy and sell land, get proper education, marry Protestants or vote. This fueled problems in Ireland. After 1793 Britain was afraid, after loosing America, that a revolution would happen in Ireland. So the restrictions on the Irish Catholics were done away with. This however angered the protestants who formed the Orange Order, who was against the Catholics. This all came to a head when in 1798 when a small rebellion broke out.
“It began with a blight of the potato crop that left acre upon acre of Irish farmland covered with black rot.”(The Irish Famine, 1) This of course is in reference to the Irish Famine. The Irish Famine was another cause of the tensions in Ireland. As crops across Ireland failed, the price of food soared. This made it impossible for Irish farmers to sell there goods, the good which the farmers relied upon to pay their rent to their English and Protestant landlords. These people were thrown into the streets with no money and nothing to eat. This forced the people to eat the rotten food, which in turn caused the people to be consumed with cholera and typhus. With nowhere to go the starving people decided to emigrate to America and other English speaking countries. This was the people’s salvation.
“Even emigration was no panacea – ship owners often crowed hundreds of desperate Irish onto rickety vessels labeled “coffin ships.” ( The Irish Famine, 2) Many people, on their voyage to America succumb to disease, starvation and many other causes. As much as one third of the passengers on the coffin ships died before reaching America.
The Irish Famine which lasted from 1846-50 took as many as one million lives from hunger and disease. Overall the combined forces of famine, disease and emigration caused Ireland’s population to drop from eight million before the famine to five million 1 year after it ended. This all could have been avoided if Britain’s response to the famine had not been delayed. “Many people criticized Britain’s response, and further blamed centuries of British political oppression on the underlying causes of the the Irish Famine.”(The Irish Famine, 2)
During World War I, people who wanted Ireland to become a republic continued their fight. These people belonged to various political organizations, including the political party Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Citizen army. On Easter Monday in 1916, 1,600 protesters rebelled against the British. They took control of several public buildings in Dublin and declared Ireland a republic. The fighting lasted for four days before they were forced to surrender to the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tan Soldiers .
In 1905 Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party was formed by Arthur Griffith. It was and advocate of a politically and economic Ireland. And then in 1918 Sinn Fein Candidates were elected to every Irish political position outside of the Ulster providence. However instead of serving in the British parliament they set up their own parliament called the Dail Eireann, in Dublin. The Dail Eireann had its own courts, tax system and postal service. In 1919 the Dail Eireann declared Ireland a republic. This lead to three years of war between the militant wing of Sinn Fein and British soldiers known as black and tans. In July 1921 Michael Collins, who was the leader of Sinn Fein’s armies negotiated a treaty with the British government. This lead to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which left most of Ireland independent, but Northern Ireland under British rule. This lead to another outbreak of civil war. This time the war was between those who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty (people who favored the separation of Ireland) and the Republicans, who wanted a united Ireland.
The civil war lasted until 1923, when the republicans were convinced by their new leader to accept the division of Ireland for the time being. The new leader of the Republicans was Eamon De Valera. Valera was a native born American. He took part in the Easter uprising of 1916 but escaped execution because of his American birth. He was elected president of Sinn Fein and he opposed the partition of Ireland.
In 1926 Eamon De Valera formed a new political party called Fianna Fail. The members of this party opposed the partition of Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In 1932 Eamon De Valera was elected to be the Prime Minister of Ireland . And in 1959 he became Ireland’s first president.
After Fianna Fail came to power in 1932 the party began to abolish the oath of allegiance to the British crown and some of the restrictive clauses imposed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty. “An economic war followed in 1933.”(“Essays in History” 7) In 1933 the British Government imposed a tax of 40% on Irish exports to Britain in retaliation
On January 30, 1972 a large demonstration in Derry took place against internment. “The march, which was called to protest internment, was “illegal” according to British government authorities.” (Bloody Sunday, 3) The British Army’s 1st Parachute Regiment opened fire on unarmed and peaceful civilian demonstrators killing 13 and wounding a number of others. Bloody Sunday is just another example of the cruel and unfair treatment of the Irish people.
British- Irish relations over the past three hundred years have been troubled. There have been many tensions caused by religion in Northern Ireland and Britain’s unfair rule of Northern Ireland. The British are guilty of many of the indignities suffered by the Irish people. They are also guilty of causing all of the religious and territorial conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. The mistreatment of the people dates back to the 16th century. However the mistreatment still continues in Northern Ireland today.
Today in Ireland there is peace. Although there have been a few incidents the peace seems to be lasting. However British troops still occupy Belfast.