Rough Diplomacy

The Troubles

Whether it’s in the Middle East conflicts , crime ridden American cities, or the tension by the two Koreas, the efforts to quell the violence always use  North Ireland as an example. That being said, North Ireland is treading that peace carefully, as some still think it incomplete.

The history of British-Irish relations has often been harsh.

Irish independence was a struggle, the establishment of the Republic of Ireland was controversial.

At the heart of the conflict lay the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. The goal of the unionist and overwhelmingly Protestant majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

The partition of Ireland outraged not a few – and out of that grew “The Troubles” that both sides had to deal with.he Troubles 1968-1998, claimed roughly 3500 lives  .

Irish War of Independence - British

Irish War of Independence – British “black and tans” paramilitary death squads terrorizing Irish civilians.

However, in time, the governments and people of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland came to accept the situation and the problems became to Northern Ireland between republican terrorists and loyalist militias (whose tactics often matched terror for terror).

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“Women to the left, men to the right”. A British checkpoint restricts movement of the Northern Irish in Belfast’s commercial district – Northern Ireland

A large amount of people in the Irish Republic think it was just as glad to have Northern Ireland be London’s problem rather than their own : ;however ,there were those who reject that idea.

Since 1964, civil rights activists had been protesting against the discrimination against Catholics and Irish nationalists by the Ulster Protestant and unionist government .

Ian Paisley arrested outside Cathedral for trying to break through a police cordon.

In  April 1966 ,Loyalists led by Ian Paisley, a Protestant fundamentalist preacher, founded the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) to oppose the civil rights movement. It set up a paramilitary-style wing called the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV).

IRA training camp 1966

By May 21st a loyalist group calling itself the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) issued a statement declaring war on the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The group claimed to be composed of “heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause”.

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Destruction seen on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, during the 1916 Easter Rising.

At the time, the IRA was not engaged in armed action, and Irish nationalists were marking the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Some unionists warned “that a revival of the IRA was imminent.

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r easter rising parade 2016 belfast

The Easter Rising (Irish: Éirí Amach na Cásca), was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916. It was sudden, but the discontent with the British date back everal hundred years. The Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War.

Organised by a seven-man Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood felt it was an opportune time to gain independence, while England was spread thin.   It was the most significantarmed action of the Irish revolutionary period.   

Eamon de Valera under arrest in Richmond Barracks after the 1916 Rising. De Valera was in command in Boland’s Mills

Wounded while fighting in Boland’s Mills William Halpin under arrest in Richmond Barracks after the 1916 Rising.

Easter Rising commemorations on the Falls Road in West Belfast.

Things might then have settled down to a relative routine of simply keeping republican terrorists in Ulster under control were it not for the schemes, sell-outs and no less than treason on the part of numerous British politicians.

Northern Ireland went from being the six counties everyone wanted to that bit of Ireland which London seems desperate to get rid of and which Dublin refuses to take. So, even while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, with Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign, it has continually been pushed aside to the point of being a semi-independent micro-state of its own.

When British troops left, a local government was established (even including republican terrorists) and lately even the Union Jack was hauled down as if in surrender.

Here is what happened: As most know, “The Troubles” were brought to an end by a peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Under the terms of that agreement, all of the republican terrorists held by Great Britain were given an early release from prison but this did not apply to suspected terrorists or those who had previously escaped from prison but were still wanted men by Her Majesty’s government.

Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign the peace agreement Pool photo by Dan Chung. See PA story ULSTER Talks/PA

These came to be known as the “on the runs”. Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, wanted the British government to allow these escaped terrorists and suspected terrorists to be able to return to the United Kingdom without fear of arrest, in other words, to wipe the slate clean with a complete and total amnesty for all of their beloved republican terrorists. Naturally, the British government balked because the public would stand for no such thing, especially as, when these demands started to be made, the IRA had still not disarmed. All of that changed with the coming to power of Tony Blair. It turns out that in 2000 Prime Minister Blair wrote to Sinn Fein president (and former republican terrorist) Gerry Adams saying that if the republicans would share information about these wanted terrorists, something could be worked out on a case by case basis.

In 2003 a proposal to make this agreement law was made public and was to be tied to the disarmament of the IRA. British loyalists were outraged and Sinn Fein rejected the proposal as well (and why accept a deal when the other side seems always prepared to give more) but the Tony Blair was determined to press on.

Some accuse Blair and say he  wanted all loose ends tied up so he could be hailed as the man who brought “peace” to Northern Ireland ,after all. So, in 2007 a secret operation was put into effect to find and evaluate the “on the runs” by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. None of the public knew anything about this until recently when the deal was brought before a judge at the Old Bailey.

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For nearly 500 years the Old Bailey has been one of the world’s most famous criminal courts,

It was then that we learned from Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein that some 187 of these republican terrorists had received letters from the British government assuring them that they were in no danger of arrest or prosecution for the crimes they committed as part of the IRA.

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One of the particular cases to emerge was that of John Downey who was suspected of murdering four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing by the IRA. The judge ruled that he could not be prosecuted because of the letter he produced, from the proud controversials  in Her Majesty’s government, promising him immunity.

Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, when British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march against internment.

The Troubles: The Northern Ireland Conflict

From Visually.

The next government was now left to deal with this messy and embarrassing situation with Prime Minister Cameron going before the House of Commons to call the letter that was sent to Downey a “dreadful mistake”. A mistake?  What about all the rest? According to the Attorney General’s office of Northern Ireland, 149 of the letters were sent out by the previous Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and an additional  38 were sent out by the current coalition government of Cameron and Nick Clegg since 2010 with the last being sent in 2012.

The Protestant majority saw this as outrageous , considering  that no loyalists were given such amnesty for attacks on republicans nor have any of the British troops who participated in the events of “Bloody Sunday” been allowed to go free.

As the judge in the Downey case said, regardless of the circumstances and what may happen from this point on, these letters being sent out have spoiled the game as far as any sort of justice goes and it would be impossible to bring any of these terrorists to trial in the future since they can argue that they had either been given an official amnesty or, if not, were misled by the British government to think they had been so that in any event a prosecution would be impossible.

Scenes from the troubles

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