The conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century is known as The Troubles. Over 3600 people were murdered and thousands injured. At the heart of the conflict lay the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. The conflict has its roots in “the irish question”. “The irish question” was used to describe Irish nationalism and the calls for Irish independence. The goal of the unionist and overwhelmingly Protestant majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland. The conflict was based on two different visions of national identity and national belonging. This lead to actual fighting, including killings uprisings, violence and revenge: The troubles.
The two enemies in the conflict started cross-parting-talking in the beginning of 1996, and in 1998 the two parts officially ended The troubles. President of the United States at the time, Bill Clinton, took an active personal role during the negotiations. He pointed out veteran US senator George Mitchell as chair of the talks process that today is referred to as the Good Friday Agreement or the Belfast agreement. The agreement created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The agreement was made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfast on Good Friday;
- A multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties (the Multi-Party Agreement)
- An international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British-Irish Agreement)
This whole agreement led to major changes in the Northern Ireland politics. An assembly was set up which made many political decisions affecting people in Northern Ireland for the better. The assembly has members from all sides of the community. The Good Friday Agreement also marked a shift in Northern Ireland’s political landscape. The UUP and SDLP agreed to accept power-sharing, including with former paramilitaries who were committed to the peace process.
Even though there’s been pretty peaceful between the two parts, there are still fears that violence is returning, especially in areas where Protestants and Catholics live closely together. Since 2007, Northern Ireland has had a stable internal government where former enemies cooperate to make sure that the province will avoid falling into the pitfalls of the past. In 2015, six Irish men was arrested by the police after they discovered bomb-making equipment close to where the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were due to visit.
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the main issues regarding Brexit as it is the only point where the UK will continue to meet the EU. As the UK is leaving the EU they are also leaving the custom union. This means that Northern Ireland will have different trade regulations to Ireland which would require a border. If a hard border is created many people are afraid to feel like they are back in the time of The Troubles, and they fear that a greater division between the two countries will rise. A border does not have to mean a hard border however, it will mean barriers, checks, queues, papers, regulations and tariffs. This can become an obstacle for the 30 000 people who cross the border everyday (Connal Parr and Edward Burke, 2017). Additionally, Ireland is by far Northern Ireland’s largest external trading partner, accounting for nearly 30 percent of its trade in goods (Financial Times, 2017). According to data from Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, goods make up 81 percent of Northern Irish export to the Republic. And food and live animals account for the largest share of trade with Ireland.
Hope you enjoyed our post, -Benedicte, Rebekka and Ingrid.