Saturday, July 20, 2019
2001: A Peace Odyssey? :: European Europe History
2001: A Peace Odyssey? Introduction When I was in Ireland in 1997, I learned one important thing within few days: Do not ask, talk or enter into discussions about the contentious issues of politics and religion, and so I did not. However, it is impossible to touch Irish ground without also touching the fringes of what is popular referred to as the 'Irish Question'. I noticed armed soldiers guarding the polling place at a by-election in county Armagh, a lorry driver vehemently expressed his disgust at the Irish tricolour and an elderly gentleman passionately told the history of Ireland. Naturally he focused on the events that have caused Irish nationalists grieving for centuries, e.g. Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, King William of Orange's defeat of James II, the confiscation of the land of Catholics and their degradation to tenant farmers. He did not mention the Rebellion in 1641 or the Siege of Derry. To outsiders, the logic of this conflict is difficult to understand. Although King William's seizure of the throne was the foundation of democracy and the end to monarchical dominion over the British Isles, the Glorious Revolution is hardly remembered in England. However, "Orangemen see the victory [over James II] as an historic triumph for civil and religious liberty." This is what they celebrate every year in July, and is of course what offends Catholics. Their perception of the parades is one of Protestants showing off their ultimate defeat of Catholicism. Misunderstandings, lack of communication and refusal to understand the others' standpoint seem to be the root of the conflict. A wind of change blew over Northern Ireland in 1998. An overwhelming majority endorsed The Good Friday Agreement leaving hope for the future. But recently the peace process has slowed down. The compromises made in the Agreement were obviously easier to write down than to implement. One side has been accused of not keeping their promises, and the other has, as a result of this, been reluctant to continue the process. The former are Sinn FÃ ©in and the IRA, the latter are Protestants and unionists. Since the Troubles started in the late 1960s, Protestants have been split regarding the peace process. The majority wants peace. However, there is an extremely different perception of the price at which it should be bought. In the following sections, the differences between and the reasons for the Protestant attitudes to the peace process will be examined.