Northern Ireland Since 1921
The determination* of the Protestants of Ulster not to accept Home Rule for Ireland had prevented a peaceful settlement* of the Irish question before the First World War....Separate Parliaments in Dublin and Belfast had been accepted reluctantly* by Irish Catholics in 1922 as a temporary solution. For the northern Protestants, however, there was nothing temporary about the settlement, and Protestant attitudes have not changed since. The issue, for them, was not religious, but political. They were loyal subjects of the King, proud of their British traditions, and totally committed to* ensuring that they should remain within the United Kingdom.
When the border between Northern Ireland and what became the Irish Free State was first drawn, only six of the nine counties of Ulster were included in the new province. Within those six counties Protestants outnumbered Catholics by two to one. Catholics, who thought of themselves as Irish rather than British, resented* the creation of what they thought was an artificial Protestant and Unionist-controlled province. (The Unionist Party won the votes of almost all Protestants.) History dominated the thinking of both sides: the Catholic population of the 'Six Counties' remembered their Irish traditions and the long record of English oppression; the Protestants kept alive the memory of their Scots and English roots and made sure that the conflicts of the seventeenth century were not forgotten.
Within the six counties of Northern Ireland, Catholics were in a majority in Fermanagh and Tyrone, and there were large Catholic minorities in Londonderry, Armagh and Down. Over half the population of the city of Londonderry was Catholic, and there was a substantial Catholic minority in Belfast. The British government had originally intended to redraw the border between the Free State and Northern Ireland so as to meet, as far as possible, the wishes of the local inhabitants, but once the Northern Ireland
Parliament and government had been set up and fallen under Unionist control, the attitude of 'What we have we hold!' prevailed*; no more concessions were made.
From its beginning in 1921, the Northern Ireland Parliament, eventually* housed at Stormont outside Belfast, contained a majority of Unionists and a minority of Nationalists. Most leading members of the Unionist Party belonged to the Orange Order, whose objective was to uphold the Protestant cause. The province's government, which was responsible for most matters except foreign affairs, defence, and some aspects of taxation, was always in the hands of the Unionists. Local government, despite the fact that some localities had Catholic majorities, was also in almost all cases run by the Unionists. One of the bitter complaints of Catholics in Northern Ireland was that 'gerrymandering*' — the drawing of ward* and district boundaries to suit* the political interests of one's own side — gave the Unionists a perpetual majority in places like Londonderry city, where Catholics outnumbered Protestants.
Source: W. Robson, 20th Century Britain, 1983
1. (British traditions): During the reign of James I. (from 1603 onwards) English or Scottish noblemen who had enough soldiers to subdue the Irish population were given land confiscated from the Irish. Most of the settlers, who were mainly of Protestant stock, flocked to the North Eastern counties, hence the name "plantation of Ulster".
2. (remain within the U.K.): Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom in 1801.
3. (Unionist control): Because of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 the Irish Republic will have a say in the government of Northern Ireland. But still, it guarantees that Northern Ireland will stay in the United Kingdom until a majority in Ulster takes a different decision.
4. (Orange Order): The Orange Order owes its character and name to the victory of William of Orange (King William III.) at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where the Protestants were victorious.
*determination - Entschlossenheit
*Home Rule - self-government
*settlement - agreement
*reluctantly - hesitatingly
*to be committed to s.th. - to be devoted or dedicated to s.th.
*to resent s.th. - to feel bitter or angry about s.th.
*to prevail - to win
*eventually - finally
*gerrymandering - Manipulation von Wahlkreisgrenzen
*ward - voting district of a city
*to suit - to satisfy
1. What settlement prevented a solution to the Irish conflict? Why?
2. Northern Ireland and Ulster are often used as synonyms. Why is this not correct?
3. What is the ratio of Protestants to Catholics in Northern Ireland?
4. Why did (and does) "history dominate the thinking of both sides"?
5. What kind of union do the members and supporters of the Unionist Party have in mind?
6.What does "gerrymandering" mean? Explain by an example.
7.Robson added the following headlines: "Local Government", "Northern Ireland an artificial province" and "Protestant attitudes". Find the corresponding sections of the text.