Peace Can Be Achieved: The Trouble Period – North Ireland Conflict
By Niyati Agrawal
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”― Albert Einstein
In the 1920s a disagreement broke out between the Irish Catholics and the Protestants, where the Catholics wanted independence from the British government and the Protestants opposed it as they were afraid of a state with the catholic majority. Finally in 1921, a treaty was signed. Republic of Ireland with majority of Catholics and North Ireland with majority of the Protestants were formed. While Republic of Ireland enjoyed freedom of separate governance, North Ireland continued to be under the rule of the British- in turn being a part of the United Kingdom. Both these countries are geographically located on the island of Ireland.
A long period of ethnic and politic conflict from the 1960s then arose in the state of Northern Ireland. It continued till 2010. This period of internal unrest is generally referred to as the “The Troubles”. Protests broke out with the demand of Irish Catholics for the unification of Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The civil protest took a violent turn when the British Army intervened and a conflict broke out between them and the Irish Republican Army. Terrorist activities and bombing became the means of showing dissent. This resulted in the death of over 3000 people till the 1990s. In 1998, a peace-treaty was signed by the government of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. This was the Good-Friday Agreement which stated a separate elected assembly for the state of North Ireland and a cross-border body which would take decisions of common concern between the two states situated on the isles of Ireland. In return the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was to drop its arms and maintain peace in the country. The army, a military organisation formed to fight for the unification, did not fully agree with the treaty.
The army refused to drop its arms until the assembly was formulated. The government refused to take full force of power till the arms were dropped. This continuous tussle resulted in the assembly of North Ireland to be dissolved on more than several occasions. The criminality of the IRA was increasing. The brutal murder of a catholic from Belfast in the year 2005 by the IRA was a huge turning point. The IRA started losing its support from the catholic community who had stood by them for years.
A final ray of hope for peace was seen in the year 2010 when the Prime Ministers of England and Ireland signed the Hillsborough Castle Agreement, where the England government had handed over the entire control of police and justice system of the six counties to the assembly of North Ireland. The administration and legislature however remains to be cross-country, geographically it is still a part of the United Kingdom.
The entire conflict of the island of Ireland starting from 1920 and finally coming to a conclusion in the 2010, gives the world a hope that peace can be achieved. It is not an easy process neither is it a fast one. But with negotiations, sensitivity to both the sides and mixed or integrated decisions it does come.
Owing to the similarity of situations, it is time that India and Pakistan take a leaf out of North Ireland’s book and resolve the Kashmir conflict. Lives have been lost, religious sentiments have been hurt and there has been an economic dip at both ends. Peace is demanded from the people of both the countries. It is difficult, but it needs to be done.