It’s time for a quick history lesson, the contents of which might sound familiar if you happen to have a love for European history (as the writer of this article does). Back in the seventeenth century, when the English empire was taking strides to conquer as much of the world as it could, they succeeded in capturing Ireland, and proceeded to settle it heavily in the island’s north. Most of these English settlers were Protestant, while most of the original Irish inhabitants were Catholic. (Remember that, it’s important.)
As northern Ireland became more prosperous and industrial, southern Ireland, particularaly the Catholic masses, became poor and malnourished under the ownership of English, Protestant land owners. This led to many issues, including eventual political divides between the two religious factions; Irish Catholics wanted independence from the British, while the Protestants (now both Irish and English) feared being under the home rule of a Catholic majority. Tensions rose until, in 1921, Northern Ireland was made a part of Britain and the rest of Ireland was declared a free state; enter a short period of peace, right up until the 1960’s, when riots, terrorist attacks, and other bloody violence. These conflicts have continued ever since, with a bit of a stale mate since the 1990’s.
With that, we have arrived at the current conflicts occurring in Northern Ireland.
Last night, violence erupted in downtown Belfast after Protestant militants attacked and wounded fifty six officers who were in charge of protecting a parade being held by Irish Republican Army supporters. The militants reportedly wore British flags as capes, and caused damage to public property, such as pavement and scaffolding. Police responded to the attacks with non-lethal means, such as water canons and plastic bullets.
The Protestant attacks seem to stem from the belief that the Irish government never should have authorized such a parade in the first place; they see it as propaganda and completely uncalled for. There is speculation that this may be the first of more violence to come, especially as similar parades continue. In the meantime, the Irish police have vowed to “pursue the militants” and to wreak justice upon them for their violent acts.