The conflict that took place in Ireland and the north in particular from August 1969 until July 2005 has been called many things over the years but warfare is what it was. The British government have told many that the conflict was Catholic-Protestant and that they were caught in between, but this is not true at all. With the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 brought the conflict to an end after 3700 deaths.
From ‘The Troubles’ to ‘sectarian tit for tat killings’ were terms used to describe the Irish-British conflict in Ireland, not just the latest phase of the conflict, but going back over the centuries. Warfare, as those who have experienced it, is what it was as a result of the British presence in Ireland. A war between the Irish and the British in which religion was used as the great divider as the United Irishmen had seen and tried to eliminate that divide introduced by the British. Although religion was used by the IRA on some occasions, and wrongly so, Loyalist death squads were introduced by the British government to kill Catholics and try and deter them from supporting the IRA. Although the British would portray themselves as the ‘meat in the sandwich’ their presence here in Ireland is the main cause of the conflict.
To many historians it was the Battle of the Bogside era which saw the conflict emerge from the Civil Rights period. In January 30th 1972 Bloody Sunday would be the main recruitment drive for the IRA an particularly the PIRA. 1972 was the bloodiest year in the conflict when it literally exploded on to the scene. Within the conflict some 3700 people, combatants and civilians alike, lost their lives with many thousands more injured. As the war dragged on with no end in sight some people could see that a political may well bring a united Ireland quicker than warfare. With the (John) Hume (Gerry) Adams document in 1993 the political battle field was beginning to look more promising.
Good Friday international peace agreement in 1998 brought with it a chance to unite Ireland with politics. Some would say that the Sunning dale Agreement in 1973 was a chance missed by Republicans but the political landscape was much different then than it is now. A Stormont executive, power sharing, has been set up with a devolved government in Belfast. There are some who disagree with the peace accord and wish to carry on the cause of uniting Ireland by warfare and have become opponents of Sinn Féin and the Republican movement. They oppose the Stormont executive but as Republicans would see it as stepping stones to a united Ireland, a way to a means, and the Stormont executive is not the ‘end game’.
There have been many benefits from the Good Friday Agreement with on being the end of the old sectarian police force the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the beginning of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) amongst others. The agreement is far from perfect as are the police but it must be a step in the right direction.
Gleann Doherty, Derry Guided Tours.