Elections in Northern Ireland and the Troubles (Geopolitics article)
Northern Ireland belongs to the United-Kingdom like Great Britain, Scotland and Wales. Next UK general elections will occur on the 7th May 2015 to elect the 56th English Parliament. The latter owns legislative power and is consisted of the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Commons is elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term and is composed by 650 deputies. It can be dissolved by the Queen or by the Prime Minister. It has a significant power because it can pass bills and has oversight authority for the government. The Prime Minister is named via UK general elections because he will be the representative of the party or of the majority coalition within the House.Why are these elections an important event in Northern Ireland in a tense social context ? How are they the reflection of the geopolitic context in Northern Ireland?Global presentation of the different political parties of Northern IrelandIn Northern Ireland the majority of political oppositions are based on the North-Irish community conflict dividing Unionists (of Protestant origin and claiming their affiliations with the United-Kingdom) and Republicans (of Catholic origin and claiming their political and economical independence.There were 43 parties in Northern-Ireland in 2010. I am going to speak about the 5 more important political parties, in other words those which are represented in the House of Commons.1. Unionist PartyThe current majority party in Northern-Ireland in the House of Commons is the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). It is a British party representing Protestants' interests in Northern-Ireland. It has 8 seats in the House of Commons (fourth party in term of number of voices).The second important Unionist Party is the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party). Close to the DUP it represents also the Protestant community claiming an union with the United-Kingdom. It has conservative ideas and it is an ally of British Conservative Party in the House of commons which is the majority party with 302 members on 650.2. Republican PartyThe Sinn Féin is the majority Republican Party (more to the left than its homologue the SDLP). It has 3 seats in the House of Commons. Nevertheless the deputies of the Sinn Féin refuse to sit in the House contesting British government.The Social Democratic Labour Party owns 3 seats in the House of Commons. It often links with the British Labour Party contesting Conservatives.3. The Alliance : a non-Community partyIt is the only non-community party in Northern-Ireland. It has 1 seat in the House of Commons and it demands a non-confessional unionism, that is to say an unionism which will be independant of dominant religions.To understand well the stakes of these elections and geopolitic context in Northern Ireland it is necessary to do a feedback about Troubles.The Troubles (Na Trioblóidi in Irish)1. ContextThe 21th december 1921 Ireland and England have ratified a Treaty which formalise the creation of a Free Irish State. But this state concerned and still concerns Southern Ireland only and Northern Ireland is still attached to the United Kingdom.Between 1921 and 60's tensions arised. Indeed Northern Ireland claimed their independence from British domination. But the geopolitic situation has no changed since this period.2. Beginning of the TroublesAt the end of 60's Catholics in Northern Ireland decided to demonstrate peacefully against anti-Catholic discriminations.August 1968 : a march is repressed by the Royal Ulster Force (or RUC), the British Army composed by more than 90% of Protestants. Even if the march was peaceful and if they did not have weapons or intention to undermine, Northern Irish Catholics were abused and beaten.Autumn 1968 : Catholics still protested and the RUC continued their crackdown.1969 : first attacks in Northern Ireland bu the RUF to terrorise Catholics and to stamp out their revendications.12th-14th August 1969 - Battle of the Bogside : a demonstration was stopped by the RUF at Londonderry. Balance sheet : 8 dead persons, hundreds of injured persons and all of them were Catholic. From this day Catholic districts rose. But the 16th August 1969 in Belfast in response to Catholics' actions Protestants burnt 160 Catholic houses, killed 8 Northern Irish Catholics and injured 300 persons.
If you want more details about the Battle of the Bogside you can go on this website : XAnd to illustrate more I would like to share with you a 13 minutes short movie by Aoife Mc Ardle in which we can hear the song The Troubles by U2. It deals with tensions and clashes in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.3. Bloody SundayBelow the song by U2 about Bloody Sunday :4. Good Friday agreementsIn 90's Northern Ireland and the Great Britain found an agreement to pacify the situation. They have signed the Good Friday agreements. It is the officially end of the Troubles.
Balance sheet of the 30 years of the Troubles1. Political parties and Communities' HistoryExcepted the Alliance, all political parties are based on a religious community difference separating on the one hand the Catholics and on the other hand the Republicans and Protestants Unionists.At the beginning of the troubles in 1969, because Catholics were in a minority they organise themself to fight against the control of the United Kingdom. Nowadays Republican Parties, still often associated with the left side, are representative of the Catholic Community.And because Protestantism is the British state religion, Protestants are claiming to belong to the United Kingdom. Unionists Parties are often associated with Conservative Parties.Even if differences are less important than during the troubles, the 'political background' makes UK general elections very strained. These elections are within political and community stakes in Northern Ireland.2. StakesThe next UK general elections will show both major trends : unionist and republican. If the Republican Party, Sinn Féin, beats the Unionist Party, the DUP, the debate about Northern-Irish independence maybe will re-start. Nevertheless a victory of the DUP could consolidate the majority's position in favour of the British government.The political History of Northern Ireland mixes community/religious aspect and political life. However since the cessation of the troubles community differences and religious differences fade themself in favour of civil peace.
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