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Moscow 1998

The Irish Question

State Pedagogical University

Snigir Aleksei

The Plan:

1. The position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom

2. British policy towards Northern Ireland

3. Theories of political violence in the Northern Ireland conflict

I The Position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom

The inhabitants of Ireland are mainly Celtic by origin, and the majority
never accepted the Reformation. In 1801 a new law added Ireland to the
United Kingdom. By this time much of the land belonged to Protestant
English landlords, and the Act of Union followed the period in which
rebellions peasants were brutally suppressed. But in the six Northern
Counties the Protestants were not a dominant minority: they were the
majority of the population. Most of them were descendants of Scottish
and English settlers who had moved into Ireland several generations
before. They considered themselves to be Irish but remained as a
distinct community, and there was not much intermarriage. There had
been conflicts and battles between the two communities, still remembered
along with their heroes and martyrs.

In 1912, when the liberals were in power, with the support of the main
group of Irish MPs (for Ireland had seats in the UK parliament). The
House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill, but the House of Lords delayed
it. It was bitterly opposed by the Protestant majority of the people in
the six northern counties and by the M Ps they had elected. They did
not want to be included in a self-governing Ireland dominated by

Eventually, the island was partitioned. In 1922 the greater part became
an independent state, and (in 1949) a republic outside the Commonwealth.
Its laws, on divorce and other matters, reflect the influence of the
Catholic Church. The six northern counties remained within the United
Kingdom, with seats in Prime Minister and government responsible for
internal affairs. In the politics of Northern Ireland the main factor
has always been the hostility between Protestants and Catholics

Until 1972 the Northern Irish Parliament (called Stormont) always had a
Protestant majority. By 1960s Catholics produced serious riots. The
police were mainly Protestants. They used their guns. Several people
were killed. The UK Labour government of the time had sympathy with the
Catholics grievances. The Protestant parties regularly supported the
Conservatives, while some MPs elected for Catholic parties took little
or no part in the work of the Parliament.

In 1969 the UK Labour Government sent troops to Northern Ireland, with
others to help impartially to keep order. But to most Catholics UK

o keep order. But to most Catholics UK
troops have become identified with the Union of Northern Ireland with
the UK. Many Catholics don’t like the idea of the division of the
island, but recognize that the union of the North with the Republic
could only be imposed against the wishes of the majority in the North,
and would probably lead to a civil war. Less moderate Catholics have
some sympathy with their own extremists, the Irish Republican Army
[IRA], who are prepared to use any means, including violence, in support
of the demand to be united with the Republic of Ireland.

In 1969-72 the UK governments, first Labour, then Conservative, tried to
persuade the Protestant politicians to agree to changes which might be
acceptable to the Catholics, but made little progress. In 1972 the UK
government decided that the independent regime could not solve its
problems, and put an end to it. Since then the internal administration
has been run under the responsibility of the UK cabinet. In political
terms this decision of Mr. Heath’s government was an act of self-
sacrifice. Until 1972 the Irish [Protestant] Unionist MPs had regularly
supported the Conservative in the UK Parliament, but since then they
have become an independent group not linked to any UK party. Most of
them, like the Northern Irish Catholic MPs, have taken little part in UK
affair except those involving Northern Ireland.

From 1972 onwards successive UK governments have tried to find a «
political solution» to the Northern Irish problems, that is, a solution
acceptable to most Catholics and most Protestants. Several devices have
been tried with little or no success. Protestant politicians are
elected on programs, which involve refusal to accept compromise.

Meanwhile, the IRA continues its terrorist campaign. It receives both
moral and financial support from some descendants of Irish people who
emigrated to the US. Although so many innocent victims have been killed,
many of them by chance or through mistakes, it does not seem likely that
any different British government policy would have succeed in preventing
the violence that goes on.

Northern Ireland’s economy, based partly on farming, party on the heavy
industries of Belfast, has brought its people to a standard of living
well above that of the Republic, but lower than Great Britain’s. With
the decline of shipbuilding there is no serious unemployment, and vast
seems have been spent by UK governments in attempts to improve the

II British Policy towards Northern Ireland

The links between Northern Ireland and Britain were close and of long
standing, for Britain’s involvement with Ireland is dated from the 12th
century. Ireland had been ruled directly from Westminster since 1800
under the Act of Union, and the Irish economy was intimately bound up
with that of the rest of the United Kingdom. Moreover, when Britain
abandoned the union after the First World War, it bestowed wide self-
government on Only part of Ireland, the twenty- six county Irish Free

eland, the twenty- six county Irish Free
State. The remaining six counties of Northern Ireland were given a
regional parliament and government with limited powers and remained an
integral part of the United Kingdom. But there was no political
consensus to the nature of the state to be established. Northern
Ireland was riddled with ethnic and regional divisions, and to crow all,
in 1920s and 1930s its economy was hardly healthy with its inefficient
agriculture and ailing industries. In fact, Britain was faced with a
problem of establishing a regime, which would be self- supporting and
would survive manifold divisions. But Britain failed to find adequate
solution to this problem, and all its attempts brought to a bloody end.

Britain determined both the boundaries and the form of government in the
1920 Coverment of Ireland Act. The controversial six counties included
a large Catholic minority, some one- third of the population within
Northern Ireland, including some predominantly Catholic areas on the
borders with the Irish Free State. The form of government was modelled
on Westminster and a subordinate regional government and parliament were
given restricted financial powers but almost unlimited powers over such
vital matters of community interest and potential conflict as education,
local government, law and order. The 1920 settlement gave the two-
thirds Protestant and Unionist majority a virtual free hand and ended in
anarchy and the fall of Stormont in 1972. From the beginning the
British government was anxious that the Catholic minority in Northern
Ireland should accept the legitimacy of the new creation and to that end
Westminster did urge the government of Northern Ireland to adopt a
friendlier and more accommodating attitude towards the minority,
particularly in respect of law enforcement, local government and
education. Nevertheless, in the last analysis, it refused to exercise
its sovereignty to block such divisive measures as the abolition of
proportional representation in local government elections or to
counteract sectarian tendencies in education and law enforcement. The
reason that Westminster did not do so was that any firm stand would have
meant the resignation of the unionist government and, in view of its in
built majority, its immediate return to office. Such an eventuality
would have presented alternatives: a humiliating climb down or the
resumption of direct responsibility for the government of the six
counties -- the very thing that the 1920 government of Ireland act had
been designed to avoid. As far as Westminster was concerned, minority
rights in Northern Ireland had to be subordinate to the broader
interests of the United Kingdom and British Empire.

III Theories of Political Violence in the Northern Ireland Conflict.

There have been various attempts to sympathize the range of theories
which have been put forward to explain the Northern Ireland conflict and
to relate these two practical remedies and solutions to the problem.

to the problem.
The diversity of the theories which have been put forward have
necessarily limited attempts to test them concisely using empirical
data. For example, aside from the theories such as religion and class
which have been most widely canvassed, explanations as diverse as
Freudian social psychology and caste have been put forward. Clearly it
is impossible to attempt to test all these theories using survey data,
and for the purposes of this analysis, only the major theories are
examined. There is a fundamental dichotomy in these theories between
those, which are economic in nature and non-economic. Each has
particular implications for the future and for the possibility of
solving the conflict. From the economic interpretation it logically
follows that the conflict is essentially bargainable, and that a change
in socioeconomic conditions will after the intensity of the conflict.
Better living conditions, more jobs and material affluence will make
people less interested in an atomistic conflict centering on religion.
By contrast, most non-economic theories imply that it is a
non-bargainable, zero- sum conflict: the gains of one side will always
be proportional to the losses of the other. These theories are
summarized in the words: « the problem is that there is no solution».
The Irish, according to popular account are an intensely historically
minded people. Present day problems they explain by what seems to
others an unnecessary long and involved recital of event so distant as
to shade into the gloom of prehistory. History indeed lies at the basis
as to shade into propagandist issue of contemporary Ireland: one nation
or to? To many radicals, this issue is already an archaism in a world
increasingly dominated by transnational capitalism. They prefer to
substitute an analysis of « divided class» for an outdated propagandist
device adopted to split the workers. The idea of « two nations»
occupying the same territory has a long provenance throughout the world.

Catholics tend to have lower status jobs than Protestants but once we
take differences in family backgrounds and education into account the
disadvantage disappears. There is no evidence of occupational
discrimination. In terms of the financial returns of work, Catholics
receive a lower wage than Protestants, and this persists even after
family background, education and occupation are held constant. There
are a variety of explanations, which could account for this pattern,
none of which, unfortunately, can be tested by the data to hand.
Protestants tend to predominate in well paid, capital intensive
industries, such as engineering and shipbuilding, while Catholics are
concentrated in more marginal and competitive industries, such as
building and contrasting, with generally lower wage rates.
Consequently, it is possible for a Protestant to receive a high wage for
performing the same task as a Catholic working in another industry.
Since most of these capital-intensive industries are more extensively

e industries are more extensively
unionized than their counter parts, it could be argued that Protestant
bargaining power, and hence wage levels, are greater than similar
non-unionized Catholic workers. Finally, these differences in incomes
could be interpreted as the direct result of religious discrimination
against Catholics, with Catholics simply being paid less than
Protestants in the same jobs.

There is, therefore, not much of an economic basis for the Ulster
conflict—actual differences between the two communities can be explained
by family background and inherited privilege. There remains, however,
the possibility that it is less the objective economic differences that
cause the conflict than individual subjective perceptions of those

It is often argued that economic deprivation is a major cause of
violence, rioting with Catholics feeling economically deprived compared
to Protestants, becoming frustrated, and venting their frustration
through aggression: much of the British government’s policy for Northern
Ireland has focused on alleviating the economic deprivation of the
Catholic minority. But in fact, socioeconomic considerations have
little to do with rioting either for the population as a whole, or among
Catholics and Protestants considered separately. The combined effect of
all socioeconomic variables, is a negligible. Only one of the five
socioeconomic variables has a statistically significant effect.
Unemployment has no significant effect, in spite of the prominent role
it plays in official thinking.

On this evidence, it seems unlikely that economic changes will reduce
conflict in Northern Ireland. It is, however, possible that economic
improvements for the Catholic community would effect the climate of
opinion among Catholics as a whole, and hence reduce conflict.

Religion by itself does not have much to do with rioting. Catholics, in
particular, are not significantly more likely than Protestants to riot.
The recent troubles may have been presaged by Catholic civil rights
activity in 1968 and 1969, which led to violence, but in 1973 the
violence had escalated and spread to both communities more or less
equally. Nor do religious beliefs have any significant effect; the
devout are neither more nor less likely to riot then their less devout
compatriots. In this, as in other ways, the conflict is not one of
religious belief.

Finally, political views about the origins of the conflict are important
for Catholics but not as much for Protestants. Let us examine
Catholics, beginning with the comparison of two groups: those who think
Catholics are entirely to blame for the troubles and those who think no
blame at all attaches to Catholics. The first group is some 18 percent
less likely to riot than is the second group. So for Catholics, rioting
seems to have strong instrumental overtones in that those who have well
defined views that attribute blame to Protestants are much more likely
to riot. Their riots, like many block riots in the United States, are

e many block riots in the United States, are
in part a means of seeking address for grievances. But for Protestants
the interpretation placed on the conflict is much less important. Those
who think Protestants themselves are entirely to blame are only 9
percent less likely to riot then are those who think Catholics are
entirely to blame. Protestant rioting thus seems to be more reactive in
the sense that its stems not so much from a coherent view about their
aims, or their adversaries’ aims, or the nature of the conflict, as it
does from other sources, notably reaction to Catholic violence.


Majority большинство

Rebellion восстание

Peasant крестьянин

Suppress запрещать, подавлять

Minority меньшинство

Descendant потомок

Martyr мученик

Partition расчленять

Internal внутренний

Hostility враждебность

Riot бунт ,беспорядки

Grievance жалоба , обида

Impartially беспристрастно

Regime режим

Campaign кампания

Intimate объявлять , хорошо знакомый

Bound граничить

Bestow давать, дарить, помещать

Riddled изрешеченный

Controversial спорный

Subordinate подчиненный

Urge убеждать, побуждение

Enforcement давление, принудительный

Sovereignty суверенитет, Верховная власть

Abolition отмена, уничтожение

Counteract sectarian tendencies нейтрализовать сектантские наклонности

Resignation смирение, отставка

Eventuality возможный случай

Humiliating унизительный

Resumption возобновление

Diversity различие, разнообразие

Empirical эмпирический

Canvass обсуждать, собирать(голоса)

Diverse разный ,иной

Caste каста

Survey изучаемый, рассматриваемый

Dichotomy деление класса на 2 противопоставляемых

Bargainable выгодный

Gloom мрак , уныние

Contemporary современный

Device устройство, средство, план, девиз

Wage зарплата

Hence с этих пор, следовательно

Income доход

Inherited наследованный

Deprived лишенный

Frustration расстройство(планов), крушение(надежд)

Alleviating смягчающий, облегчающий

Negligible незначительный

le незначительный

Recent новый, свежий, современный

Presaged предсказанный

Devout искренний, набожный

Compatriots соотечественник

Coherent понятный, последовательность

Adversary противник, враг

The List of Books:

Richard Kearney. The Irish Mind. Exploring Intellectual Traditions.
Dublin 1985

Harold Orel. Irish History and Culture. Aspects of a people’s heritage.
Dublin 1979

Jonah Alexander, Alan O’Day. Ireland’s Terrorist Dilemma. Dordrecht

T.M. Devine, David Dickson. Ireland and Scotland .Edinburgh 1983

Peter Bromhead. Life in Modern Britain .Longman Group UK Limited, 1992

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