Out of all the conflicts that have occurred in Western Europe since the Second World War, Northern Ireland has been one of the most bitter, long lasting and intractable. This conflict is based in the struggle of one side of the community for a unified independent Ireland and the opposition of the other part of the community to this aim and their desire for Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Due to the hostility between these two sides issues of discrimination in areas such as housing, employment, electoral manipulations and religious histories have been rife. Northern Ireland is torn over the balance of power relations between communities and questions of governance. Suspicion has been prevalent between both communities in Northern Ireland for many centuries. With such differing background of the two communities a sense that their interests are incompatible has been established for a long time.
Employment has always been a major area of disharmony among Catholics and Protestants. Since 1921, the partition of Ireland, rates of employment have differed widely between the two groups. Under the unionist government of the 1920s the rate of unemployment for Protestants was 6.6% while for Catholics it was 17.3%. this discrepancy further widened the gap between the two groups leading into areas of housing poverty and education. With such a high rate of unemployment it was almost impossible for a Catholic to afford decent housing or schooling for their family. It was these issues that forced the Catholics to demand civil rights which in turn was a cause for conflict at the end of the 1960s. On paper things are improving. In August the Equality Commission published a re...
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...ere was a common history curriculum being taught in all schools in Northern Ireland. By 1994, a common religious curriculum was brought into the schools. By these means the schools introduced common ground between the school children and gave them the starting point from which to build relations which would be of benefit to each community.
John Hume, leader of the SDLP always says the following "..we are a divided people". He is right. Remaining in the UK does not in itself solve the problem and joining the ROI does not solve it either. To solve the divisions in society we need agreement between the divided people and a subsequent healing process. Agreement between the people means coming to an arrangement to which both unionists and nationalists can agree. The low level of support for Irish unity indicates that division will not go away as a result of Irish unity.
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