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 Catholics.

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 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 situation.

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 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. 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 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 differences.
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 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.

Inhabitant житель
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
Recent новый, свежий, современный
Presaged предсказанный
Devout искренний, набожный
Compatriots соотечественник
Coherent понятный, последовательность
Adversary противник, враг

The List of Books:

1. Richard Kearney. The Irish Mind. Exploring Intellectual Traditions.
Dublin 1985
2. Harold Orel. Irish History and Culture. Aspects of a people’s heritage.
Dublin 1979
3. Jonah Alexander, Alan O’Day. Ireland’s Terrorist Dilemma. Dordrecht
4. T.M. Devine, David Dickson. Ireland and Scotland .Edinburgh 1983
5. Peter Bromhead. Life in Modern Britain .Longman Group UK Limited, 1992

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