Northern Ireland


The Problem of Northern Ireland:

Wilsons government:

  • By 1951 Ireland had been partitoned for 30 years since
  • Catholics felt like 2nd Class citizens
  • IRA sought an end to British influence in NI and the creation of an all Irish state.
  • British army 1969- The Wilson gov sent in the army to help keep the peace and to protect the Catholic community.
  • One of Wilsons advisers said 'i can get them in but i am not sure if i can get them out'.

Heath's government 1970-74:

  • Inherited long standing problem
  • Explosion of sectarian violence – Civil rights of 1960’s saw British army struggling to keep peace and Belfast was going into breakdown.  Groups challenged Stormont Ascendancy (wanted better education, allocation of public housing, a “one man one vote” system, fair employment practices).

Faulkner and Internment: Since 1912 the Ulster Unionists had always been part of the Conservative and Unionist party. At first Heath backed the Belfast govs leader, Brain Faulkner. In 1971 he went along with Faulkners policy of internment- locking up terror suspects without trial. Internment was uneffective as a security measure and alienated the nationalist community.

  •   BLOODY SUNDAY (Jan 1972): Attempt to control a demonstration against policy of internment in Derry.  Started off as a protest movement, became a day of violence- 13 civilians were killed.  Inquiry in 1972 was largely rejected by the Catholic community (reinvestigated under Blair in 1998).

= Provoked counter reaction from the Catholic nationalist communities and acted as the single greatest source of recruitment for the Provisional IRA. For the catholic community in Northern Ireland it was now not so much about civil rights as the need to defend their communities against loyalist and British army violence.

= Heath suspended the Stormont Parliament and brought in direct rule from Westminster.  Wanted to try to defeat the IRA but also bring about a peaceful solution to tensions  and a permanent political solution.

Attempts to resolve issues...

  •  SUNNINGDALE AGREEMENT 1973 (complex plan for power sharing parliament) FAILED!  Heath preoccupied by economic and political crisis at home (Miner’s Strike, Emergency Measures).   Heath’s persistent negotiating style, could have resolved problem had it not been for the economy.

Thatcher's government 1979-1990:

  • Stated that the IRA were 'murderers' and she


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