Background: Northern Ireland Conflict
In 1921, an Anglo-Irish Treaty had granted most of the island of Ireland autonomy from Britain, but maintained British rule over six northern counties with a large Protestant population. In the late 1960s, tensions between Catholic Republicans and members of the pro-British Unionist majority spilled over into riots. British troops were deployed on the streets. These ethno-political conflicts in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe are known as “The Troubles“.
The duration of “The Troubles” is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast “Good Friday” Agreement of 1998.However, sporadic violence has continued since then. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), originally the name given to a militia that fought for Irish independence in the early part of the century, re-emerged during this period. From 1972 onwards the splinter Provisional IRA took over the mantle of the armed struggle against British rule.
London took over direct rule of Northern Ireland in 1972, the bloodiest year of the “Troubles”, when 467 people including 321 civilians were killed. This is kown as “Bloody Sunday”, when British paratroopers shot dead 13 protesters. In all, more than 3,600 people died in the conflict, including more than 1,000 members of the British security forces, and more than 36,000 were injured.
In 1993, a joint Anglo-Irish declaration was released in which Britain said that it will not block an end to British rule in Northern Ireland if a majority wanted it. The Good Friday Agreement, signed in April 1998, created a power-sharing assembly and government for Northern Ireland. However, there have been disagreements over disarmament and the establishment of a new police service for the province. The devolution of rule was supended but was later definitively restored in 2007 when Protestant Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness were sworn in as first minister and deputy first minister. In 2010 a British judicial report into Bloody Sunday concluded that none of the victims had posed any threat to the soldiers and that their shooting was without justification. British Prime Minister David Cameron formally apologized for the killings.