Partition OF Ireland

The partition of Ireland occurred in 1921 which left six of the north eastern counties of Ireland to remain under British rule and created to states on the island of Ireland. Why did partition come about and what were the consequences of partition?

Partition in Ireland occurred after the Irish War Independence from 1919-1921. As negotiations for the Anglo-Irish treaty, of which Michael Collins was probably the best known, were on going Unionists in the north of Ireland feared that Ireland, as a whole, would break away from the United Kingdom and as a result of that fear they essentially threatened war against the British government if Ireland broke away. In response to this threat of violence Britain offered the Unionist population the province of Ulster. The only problem for Unionists was that Ulster, as with the rest of Ireland, was predominantly Catholic. So three of Ulster’s nine counties, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, were taken out of the equation, which then left a Protestant majority, a false majority, within the remaining six counties of Ulster. The high number of Protestants living in Ulster of course goes back to the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600’s. “A Protestant government for a Protestant people.”

The six county state created along sectarian lines became none as Northern Ireland and the first Prime Minister was Vicount Craigavon. In a speech Craigavon stated that the north was a “Protestant government for a Protestant people” and of course the state was a cold house for the native Irish Catholics who would not have the same rights as the Protestant majority. Wide spread religious discrimination was the norm both in upper and local government with the vote rigging under the Gerrymandering system, jobs being given out on religious grounds rather than merit with many business and government institutions, when describing employing Catholics, openly boasted that they ‘wouldn’t have one about the place.’ Gerrymandering was introduced in Derry in 1895 to ensure that the majority Catholic population would not be able to gain control of local government and was still in use in 1974.

The Civil Rights period 1967-1972 came about as a direct result of the sectarian nature of the Northern Ireland state. After enduring many decades of religious intolerance the native Irish Catholic population responded by conducting peaceful street demonstrations to highlight their plight to a world audience as the British government had done little if anything to alleviate the situation in the north. Of course not all Protestants were sectarian but those with the power and money were determined to hold on to it at all costs. With pressure mounting on Stormount and Britain two events took place in Derry’s Bogside that would change the course of Irish history, The Battle of the Bogside 12th August 1969 and Bloody Sunday 30th January 1972.