The Irish Question (Ирландский вопрос)

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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