Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"The Troubles", Egyptian Style

There was the news we’d been expecting, stashed away on page 12 of the Sunday Bergen Record: “Egypt recognizes moderate Islamic party.” Don’t pay attention to this story. Look over there at the union protests in Wisconsin. N.J. Gov. Christie is about to propose his budget cuts – New Jersey may soon have its own “Egyptian-style” protests. Oh – do they plan to loot, riot, set fire to vehicles, burn down government buildings, and beat up journalists, too?

The report in the Bergen Record comes from the Associated Press by an Arab reporter. The AP would, like Joe Biden, have us believe that there’s nothing to worry about. The Muslim Brotherhood is a peaceful organization, started in 1928 and outlawed, beginning in 1948, no less than three times, not just in the last 15 years, whose goal was to build hospitals and feed the poor. Its slogan was: “Islam is the solution.”

The Middle East is not the only area of the world divided by intra-religious strife (the Sunnis versus the Shia). “The Troubles” have plagued Northern Ireland for at least two hundred years. They date back at least to 1613 when Protestant Scottish immigrants colonized the previously Catholic city of Derry. The immigrants built a wall around the town and renamed it “Londonderry.” In 1689, James II set out from France to recapture the city and regain the English thrown. But in the Battle of Boyne in 1690 King William III defeated James II. Since 1714, a Loyalist group called “The Apprentice Boys”, (named after the young apprentices who shut the gates and pulled up the drawbridges before James’ forces arrived) have celebrated the siege with a procession on the ramparts. The victory gave Britain rule over all of Ireland until the uprisings of 1916. The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty allowed the formation of the Irish Free State out of Ireland’s 26 southern counties, leaving the six northern counties to the Protestants, who constituted the majority of the population.

Under the Act of Union 1800, the separate Kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain were merged on Jan. 1, 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Throughout the 19th century, Irish opposition to the Union was strong, occasionally erupting in violent insurrection. In the 1830s and 1840s, attempts had been made under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell to repeal the Act of Union and restore the Kingdom of Ireland, without breaking the connection with Great Britain. These attempts to achieve what was simply called repeal failed.

The Irish Home Rule Movement articulated a longstanding Irish desire for the repeal of the Act of Union of 1800 by a demand for self-government within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The movement drew upon a legacy of patriotic thought that dated back at least to the late 17th century.

Home Rule held out the promise of a new constitutional order and harnessed the energies of a more recent militant tradition, providing an alternative to nationalist militancy. For almost half a century – from the early 1870s to the end of the Great War – Home Rule was both the single most dominant feature of Irish political life and a major influence within British politics. It united over a period the Irish past with the present, bound militants with constitutionalists, Irish with British politicians. For the British father of Home Rule, William Ewart Gladstone, Home Rule was about the reconciliation of Irish nationalism to the British state. For other politicians, the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists Home Rule presented a fearful spectacle, their opposition to it so complete that a civil war seemed to offer the only path towards a resolution.

Until the 1870s, most Irish voters elected as their Members of Parliament (MPs) Liberals and Conservatives who belonged to the main British political parties. These representatives were British landowners with property in Ireland. They would appoint stewards to run the land so they could remain in England to assure their seats in Parliament. The Conservatives, for example, won a majority in the 1859 general election in Ireland. A significant minority also voted for Unionists, who fiercely resisted any dilution of the Act of Union.

The modern violence began with Catholic Irish Nationalists called for unification with the Irish Republic in the South. The conflict began in Derry in 1968-1969, with confrontations between nationalist demonstrators and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The RUC broke up several illegal marches of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, who were demonstrating against discrimination against Catholics in electoral boundaries, voting rights and allocation of public housing.

The rioting escalated beyond the control of the RUC in August 1969, in the Battle of the Bogside. This was a huge riot in which, after disturbances broke after an Apprentice Boys march, the residents of the nationalist Bogside, erected barricades around the area to resist police incursions. After three days of rioting, when the RUC had proved unable to restore order, the government of Northern Ireland requested the deployment of the British Army. Initially they were welcomed by the Catholics as a neutral force compared to the RUC.

“Bloody Sunday” refers to the Jan. 30, 1972 riot in which British paratroopers fired on protesters demonstrating against the imprisonment of paramilitary suspects without trial. Fourteen protesters were killed.

More than 3,500 people were killed in the conflicts and the towns of Derry and Belfast were divided by a wall. The city of Derry was called “Londonderry” by the Anglican Protestants and “Derry” by the Catholics. Loyalist and IRA paramilitary groups formed. The IRA disavowed these violent groups as “breakaway” groups that allegedly had nothing to do with the IRA’s political aspirations, led by Sinn Fein.

Finally, in a 1999 deal brokered by Pres. Bill Clinton, Sen. George Mitchell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, a compromise called “The Good Friday Agreement” was signed. The agreement formed a semiautonomous government body consisting of Catholics and Protestants, called for the disbanding of paramilitary groups, the release of political prisoners, and the reorganization of the police force to include more Catholics.

Northern Ireland would also remain a part of Great Britain until a majority of its citizens voted to the contrary. The leaders of the two sides shook hands and everyone assumed that peace had prevailed. But former DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) leader Jim Allister, refused to acknowledge the agreement stating that it rewarded 30 years of terrorism.

Despite the outbreak of peace, “peace walls” still divide the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. One Catholic priest noted, in an interview with Smithsonian, that the only ones who can declare peace are the violent.

Factions in the Middle East took note of “The Troubles” in Ireland and studied the IRA’s bomb-making methods and public relations strategies. However, it seems the peace process in Ireland failed. Both sides have their representatives in government. But the religious factions still hate one another. Businesses in Ireland have tried to observe political correctness by hiring equal numbers of employees from both beliefs, only to have fights break out in their stores aisles between employees and customers.

We can hardly expect any better behavior from the Middle Eastern Arabs whose notion of civilization remains steadfastly implanted in the seventh century. But we in America have “Troubles” of our own, which the Media wants us to pay more attention to than the passing of two military ships through the Suez Cana on page 12.


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