The Context and Development of Irish Literature:
History, Poetry, Landscape

The Northern Ireland Situation

The border partition in the north created a Protestant-dominated state as part of Great Britain, composed of six northern counties:  Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry, Tyrone.  The careful drawing of the border created a Protestant majority in these areas.  Sir James Craig was the first Prime Minister from Northern Ireland.  Soon the Protestant-dominated government ensured Protestant control of all state apparatuses—which in turn ensured continued domination by the Protestant majority:  Catholics were discriminated against in housing, jobs, education, the courts, and more. 

In Ulster the IRA, composed mainly of die-hard republicans who condemned de Valera’s entry into government, kept up an inconsistent campaign of resistance throughout the 1950’s, mainly along the border areas.  The violence had declined somewhat in the early 1960's, and when Captain Terence O’Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1963, he tried to initiate some reforms.  But the unionist party found a new energetic spokesman in the Reverend Ian Paisley (below, circa late 1960's), head of the “Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster,” who was militant in his opposition to Catholicism and Irish Nationalism.  Simultaneously, Catholics organized an American-style Civil Rights campaign that gained momentum through the summer of 1968.  The clash was inevitable:  in 1968 riots erupt in (London)Derry and Belfast; in 1969 the use of British troops is sanctioned; the IRA responds with greater agitation, becoming firmly entrenched in the Catholic neighborhoods in the cities of Belfast and (London)Derry.  That same year, the Provisional IRA breaks from the official IRA, in hopes of intensifying the armed struggle with Northern Ireland and Great Britain.  This culminates in 1972:  13 Catholics are shot dead by the British army in (London)Derry (“Bloody Sunday”); England suspends the NI constitution and transfers political rule directly to Westminster; later that summer 9 are killed, 130 wounded by PIRA bombs in Belfast on 21 July (“Bloody Friday”).

Belfast riots, early 1970's

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