History of Ireland Essay
The Nationalist marching season, sometimes known as ‘the twelfth’, ‘Orangemen’s Day’ and ‘Boyne celebrations’, takes place on the 12th July throughout Northern Ireland, but why does it take place? The first reason I will be investigating is the Battle of the Boyne. This event took place in July 1690 when William of Orange claimed victory over the catholic King James II after James’ attempt to reclaim his English thrown by invading Ireland in an effort to build support for his cause.
Despite William of Orange’s apparently perfect ‘Protestant hero qualities’, their reasons for the march may not be entirely accurate. For example, William did not defeat James in the aid of the struggling Protestants but to eliminate James’ threat on his path to defeating Louis XIV. The fact that Protestants choose to ignore this is called selective history because they are choosing bits of history that suit their cause.
Having said this, the event inspired Protestants and Unionists and made William of Orange, or King Billy, their hero because he rescued them from being driven out by the Catholics, it also has a direct impact on the formation of groups such as the Orange Order who are the organizers of the marches during the marching season and the main body of the Unionist and Protestant faith. As you can see in source ‘A’, the Orangemen wear orange neck-pieces to celebrate William of Orange’s and Protestants as a whole’s success.
The battle of the Boyne is celebrated because of its victory over Catholics. It therefore represents Protestant ascendancy and supremacy over the Catholics and the march takes place to demonstrate this power as a way of saying ‘we have the power to do this, so we will’. This also explains why the march still continues year after year and follows the same route through Catholic territory because if it did stop or redirect for whatever reason it would undermine their authority, making them appear weak and the Catholics look as if their power is increasing.
To help maintain their dominance they also intimidate the Catholics by marching through predominantly Catholic areas and chanting anti-Catholic songs, such as, ‘slaughter the Papists one by one’. From this lyric it is clear that the march does not attempt to unite the communities but instead is rubbing the power of the Protestants in the Catholic’s faces and in doing this, they are celebrating their identity. Having said this, the march is more celebrating the power they once had, since after the Good Friday Agreement their superiority has slipped away.
Therefore the march is a symbol of the Protestant’s nostalgic memories of the supremacy over the Catholics. Occasionally, tension between the marchers and Catholics results in violence. This risk creates a lot of pressure on the authorities to deal with the march and a lot of public attention is turned towards the march in newspapers and television. This publicity and fuss over the marches has resulted in spurring the Protestants on, because without it the Protestants would not be proving their supremacy to anyone and therefore its significance would be eradicated and they may not feel the need to march through Catholic areas or even at all.
Question 2 Bloody Sunday took place on Sunday 30th January 1972, when a civil rights march of over 15,000 people gathered in Londonderry city centre. The area was sealed off by the British Parachute regiment, 1 Para. This action was met with stones being thrown at them from some of the marchers, soon after this 1 Para opened fire on the marchers, killing 14 of them all of whom were unarmed and many of whom were shot in the back. The soldiers claimed that they were shot at first by paramilitaries, and they were simply returning fire but reports from the marchers deny this.
This event created tension because according to almost all of the demonstrators 1 Para were not provoked in any way, ‘there was no provocation whatsoever, they just seemed to fire in all directions’, this quotation is from Father Daly who was an eyewitness to the event, the way they ‘seemed to fire in all directions’ could suggest that they weren’t trying resist an attack but merely shooting randomly, this makes it look to the Irish that the British troops were killing innocent Irishmen for the sake of it.
This source could be seen as reliable because he is a priest and is probably honest and truthful, but on the other hand the fact that he is a Catholic priest could lead him to be biased against the British armed forces because he may not want them in Ireland. Having said this, it will cause the Irish to be very angry and they will think of the British as murderous and heartless people which will increase tension between them.
The Irish people turned on them as they saw them not as protectors of Ireland but instead as the enemy. The events also created tension when the enquiry was carried out into the events of Bloody Sunday. It was carried out by Lord Widgery, an English barrister, who lead the enquiry and put together the final report that was supposed to have used the evidence provided to draw an accurate conclusion on the events of the day.
When the report was finished, it strongly defended the British parachute regiment, despite their actions killing 14 unarmed demonstrators The strongest criticism of 1 Para was that their actions were ‘bordering the reckless’. Of course, the Irish Nationalists were outraged; they saw the enquiry as a cover-up and a white wash. The members of 1 Para were not to face any disciplinary action as the report accepted that the British soldiers were shot at before their retaliation despite the fact that the evidence against them from eye witness accounts was immense.
The anger felt by the Irish Nationalists created an enormous amount of tension between the two countries, and as well as this, it lead many Nationalists towards more extreme methods of expressing their nationalistic views because the anger that they felt towards the British made them want take more effective action to get the British soldiers and British rule out of Ireland. The increase in extremism also created tension because there was an increase in violence between the countries which will weaken their relations. Not only were the Irish angry, but people were outraged all over the world.
An example of this is the way that America’s funding for the IRA increased, this meant that the IRA would have the money to make the organization more powerful and therefore be a larger threat to Britain, making the tension between the two countries increase. The enquiry into bloody Sunday was reopened in April 1998 by newly elected English Prime Minister Tony Blair. This is an important event in the Bloody Sunday time line because it suggests that the English government itself is aware of the fact that the previous enquiry by Lord Widgery may not have been accurate or objective.
This could increase the tension between Ireland and England because the Nationalists could perceive this to be England admitting to the murder of the 14 innocent marchers and therefore confirming their doubts and mistrust, adding to the resentment felt towards England. Having said this, the new enquiry also reduced tension because the fact it was re-opened shows that the British government was prepared to accept their mistakes in an attempt to reunite the two countries.
This could have been the first step in a peace process as England would hope that this act of acceptance would encourage Irish Nationalists to do the same and in doing so start a new, clean and peaceful slate. The enquiry could also have helped ease tension because it would take away many extreme Nationalists reasons to use violence because they could no longer justify aggression towards a new, reformed England which recognized its past mistakes.