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Some last words:
The use of the name "Brit" really has two uses. This is a nickname the Irish (as well as us Yanks) call the British, but it also fits the Diplomacy format to abbreviate names to three or four letters. Besides, I think its a tad kinder than "Limey."
This is a collection of what I have learned and heard in the news for the last 30 years. I am adding to it and editing it as time goes on.
Note that Derry and Londonderry are two names for the same city. The traditional name is Derry, or Irish (Gealic) for "Oak Grove." Under English occupation the mapmakers renamed it "Londonderry." The Loyalist call it the later and the Nationalist call it the former.
The "Troubles," as the people call the present conflict there, got its present start in 1968. This was a time of world wide rioting. There were student riots everywhere, London, Paris, Bonn, and of course here in the United States. Here in the United States, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King were both murdered. There were bad riots in Watts and Newark, NJ, and elsewhere. During the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a anti-(Viet Nam) War rally went bad and the police rioted. Later, the Weathermen would start a national bombing campaign. In Czechoslovakia the Warsaw Pact armies rolled in and ended the Prague Spring.
In Northern Ireland, there were some pretty strange laws in place. Protestant Loyalists ran the Northern Ireland Government in
Stormont since the partition, following the Black and Tan war. Initially, the British promised to turn over the six counties of Northern Ireland
in due time. The catholics felt there would be no need to join a Protestant dominated interim government where they would not be welcome,
and in fact, in jeopardy of harm. So, in Northern Ireland, the six counties remained under local loyalist Protestant Control. Catholics were not
welcome into the government, nor jobs, nor housing.
In the 1960's some new ideas and ways of thinking were on a collision course that brought the present situation. In Britain the Socialist party was in control and they were making education available and free for everyone. Ideally this would elevate the masses as a whole. This was the first time the poorer Irish were given a chance at University Education. Universities all over the world were teaching that students could take charge of their world. At the same time, television was entering Northern Ireland, and the people, both Protestant and Catholic was seeing how the rest of the world lived. And the catholics were experiencing a serious housing shortage.
The housing shortage was caused by two things. One was that the poorer Catholics were expanding their population faster that anyone in government would have foreseen. The other was the Protestant dominated laws were designed to keep the Catholics from getting houses. This was because in Northern Ireland in the 1960's in order to get a vote you had to own a house. In fact, if you owned ten houses you had ten votes. The government controlled public housing, and discrimination kept Catholics from getting votes.
The housing shortage was getting very bad when the students had enter the scene. They were watching the BBC showing the American Black civil rights movement. Their attitude was the American Blacks weren't taking discrimination, and neither should they. The Irish students were inspired by an American Black woman, Rosa Parks, who refused to sit in the back of a bus in the South. So, the students started to encourage squatting in empty houses that the Northern Ireland housing authority wouldn't allocate to Catholics. Well, this started a clash with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the British state police of Northern Ireland. The RUC came in and forcibly removed the sqautting families from these houses. This began the downward spiral into the war today.
The students then began to demonstrate for a more fairer housing distribution. The Protestant dominated government saw this as a
threat to their stranglehold on government, and used the B-specials to break up the student demonstrators. This alarmed the moderates in
Northern Ireland, catholic and Protestant. An American styles civil rights group was formed, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association,
(NICRA). NICRA was initially a mixed group of liberals and moderates of both catholics and Protestants.
A new political party was begun, called the "Alliance Party." It was to be a mixed party of Catholics and Protestants. It advocated equal treatment of both "traditions" AND continued union with Britain.
NICRA started to hold rallies and demonstrations, but they were opposed by the Protestant hard-liners who saw this as a threat to their Protestant control. One of the most outspoken opponents to any catholic participation in government was the Reverend Ian Paisley, He is the leader of the Free-Presbytarian Church. (You have to hear him talk like when he is railing against "Priestcraft" to believe this guy is for real). There was a large anti-catholic feeling and this only confirmed their fears that the catholics were out of control. The RUC started clubbing the NICRA where ever they got together.
Now the students came back into the picture. In early 1968 they were demanding equal housing, anti-discrimination, equal education, equal jobs, and the worst of their demands was "One man, One vote." They started their marches, the RUC special anti-march branch called the B-specials would club and arrest everyone.
Then the Protestant marches started. There is an Protestant group called the Orange Order. They profess loyalty to the English Crown
and to Protestantism. They swear an oath to eradicate the Catholic Church. Now in all honesty, not all members think they have to go out
and kill every catholic and the oath is just a traditional hangover from another time. But in the 60's, it was an instrument of discrimination that
was done in the name of God.
The Protestant Orange Order would march celebrating every defeat the Irish Catholics every experienced against a Protestant force. They still do this and do it every year. The Orange parades are very provocative to the Catholics. The Catholics have a parade celebrating the Easter Uprising when the Irish Rebels took Dublin in 1916. This was very provocative to the Loyalists. Now the Students and NICRA were marching and demonstrating for civil rights. There were clashes. The RUC ordered a moratorium on parades, and the students ignored it. At their parade the RUC clubbed the marchers. What they RUC didn't realize was that the BBC televised the whole march, including the RUC thwacking everybody on two legs. The film even showed moderate and liberal Members of Parliament with blood streaming down their faces.
That event was a real eye opener, but the NICRA was now even more determined to do what they believed was right. Another bigger march was planned. It would be a unity march from Belfast to Londonderry/ Derry. The RUC promised they wouldn't get near march. At a place where the terrain narrowed the march, the Orange Order surrounded and trapped the marchers and beat the living crap out of them. Only a few of the most determined marchers continued on to Derry, where the residents gave them a heros welcome.
The residents knew what was coming next, an anti-catholic riot. In the catholic ghetto called the Bogside they put up barricades in the street to keep them out. The Lord Mayor ordered the RUC to take down the barricades. The RUC started clearing barricades, But they also started wrecking houses. The people came out and started putting up more barricades and the RUC started rioting.
The catholics in Belfast guessed they would be next and also put up barricades. The Falls Road area had been victims of this many times before and were organized to defend their areas in case they were attacked by riot. They broke up the street into rocks and pelted the RUC and Orange Order with pieces of the street and Molotov Cocktails, (they call them "petrol bombs.") The B-Specials came in and started burning down entire blocks of houses in the catholic neighborhoods.
Even in the world of the Watts riots, the Viet Nam War and Czechoslovakia, the riots in Northern Ireland had grabbed world wide
attention. The Republic of Ireland started to mobilize their army. If the authorities would not stop the rioting, (and in fact, the authorities
were making matters worst). they would at least do something. They moved on their side of the border to annex Derry. Meanwhile, the
Catholic Bishop of Ireland pleaded to London to do something. The British were faced with a very embarrassing situation and what they
would consider a foreign invasion from Eire, so they sent in their military.
The entry of the Army had an immediate effect on the riot. The B-Specials retreated to barracks, RUC backed off, and the Orange Order dissipated. There was peace on the streets for a while. Catholics came out and served tea to the British Soldiers in gratitude for the end of the rioting. It was a honeymoon that would not last long.
The catholics wondered where the Irish Republican Army was during the rioting. The IRA, what we would call the Official IRA today, had been turning away from the armed struggle to become more political and socialist, (socialist, because they are, after all, European. In Europe they consider socialism a good thing, and even the British Government was Socialist at this time). So the present IRA, the Officials, were totally unprepared to deal with the violence of the 1968 riots. Catholics felt the IRA let them down. The saying of the time was "IRA = I Ran Away."
The British Army was ordered to go into the homes of the Catholic neighborhoods and search for weapons. They were not ordered into the Protestant neighborhoods. While searching the Catholic homes, walls were torn out, floors pulled up, televisions broken, things were taken, property was damaged. The Protestant homes had not experienced this, there homes were not searched. Then when Catholics tried to move about the areas that they would normally venture in quieter times, the British Army was there to stop them an search them. This didn't happen to Protestants. The Catholic people's relationship had soured completely with the British Army.
Catholics started getting belligerent with the British soldiers while they watched their homes searched. The Army was belligerent back.
Feelings toward each other really got bad, and a soldier was killed by a sniper. The British responded by rounding up all the men in the block
and they were interrogated for information. This was the beginning of "internment." The British would go out and round up all the men in
an area, aged 16 to 40 or so. They would take them to interrogation centers. While there they were tortured. If the catholic men were
not IRA supporters when they were rounded up, they were once they were released. People went to the Official IRA and demanded they
do something. The Sinn Fein party was divided on what to do.
A secret Aurdt Feust Army Council meeting was called to decide what to do, and after a decision not to do anything was reached, half the membership walked out on the Official IRA and set up a new Irish Republican Army, one that would dump all the politics, socialism and other meaningless crap. They planned to fight until they blasted the British out of Ireland. They were new "Provisional" IRA. Until internment, three British soldiers had been shot by sniper. After the Provisionals got organized in 1969, 30 were killed in August alone. The Sinn Fein split too, the new group called itself the Provisional Sinn Fein.
The Loyalist Ulster Volunteers stepped up their attacks on Catholics in retaliation for the IRA attacks on the British Army. The Provos started a bombing blitz campaign in Belfast in their economic war against the British. The Loyalists formed the anti-catholic Ulster Defense Association, which was the mainstream anti-catholic fighting arm of the Orange Order. (There have been some who say the Ulster Defense Association was just another name for the Ulster Volunteers Force. I personally don't know. I believe that they are two different groups.)
Also in the early seventies, the communist Irish National Liberation Army was formed. It is still around today, still socialist, although not as much as in the very left leaning days of the late seventies and early eighties.
It should be noted that on countless time prominate Protestants have spoken out against what they see as injustises to Catholics. It was Protestant doctors, and members to the Orange Order, that gave validity to the catholic men who claimed they were mistreated. They protested that there was no way the injuries, (like broken eardrums), they were treating could have been self inflicted.
Since 1968, every single Catholic church in Northern Ireland has been firebombed at least once.
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