An American audience may find it difficult to comprehend the sense of
history which is in the Irish conflict. It goes back to the 1920s when
the island was partitioned, and Catholics in Northern Ireland believed
that they were on the wrong side of that border, and believed that
they had been done out of their political heritage.
But Protestants have a sense of history which goes back to at least
the seventeenth century, where from the time of the plantation of
Ulster at the beginning of the 1600s, they have had to look to their
own resources to ensure that they remained in control in the north of
Ireland because they'd lost control in the rest of Ireland.
So what you have are two sides with a very strong sense of history, a
history in which they believed themselves to be victims, Catholics
believed themselves to be victims, Protestants believed themselves to
be victims, so they had two clashing senses of history.
And as long as they had that selective sense of history, then they
could do anything in the present and use history as to justify what
they did in the present. And that is why history is such a potent
force in the Irish conflict.
You must remember that Ireland had been Britain's oldest colonial
problem, oldest unsolved colonial problem. She was dismantling empire
here, there and everywhere; the one question she could never settle
satisfactorily was Ireland. And from the beginning of the 20th
century, Ireland loomed larger in the British political scene, to such
an extent that there was a serious problem, that British politics were
going to be polluted by the Irish question.
... middle of paper ...
... the medium term.
We could say that, in fact, peace process is the hard bit; killing is
easy. Killing can give certain people in the community their sense of
self esteem. It's the only thing they know.
Knowing that that has to stop, they simply become ordinary members of
their community. And so as part of the peace process, it is essential
that what has built into it is an attempt to civilianize these people.
It has been tried in other peace processes with very limited success,
it should be said. El Salvador is a classic example.
But, I think, it is more likely to be achievable in the Irish conflict
for very simple reasons. And that is the continuing part of the
family, the continuing traditional Catholic beliefs. The fact that it
is the communities which sanctions violence, and the community can
turn it off.
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