The country of Northern Ireland was born in violence and that violence has persisted throughout the majority of its existence in the twentieth century. The roots of this conflict are complex and stem centuries before Northern Ireland came into official existence in 1921. The reasons remain at large. The conflict has been divided down many lines; ethnically between the British and the Irish, geographically, between the North and the South of Ireland, and religiously between Protestants and Catholics. Historically and even during contemporary times, it is a combination of religions and politics, however social and economical factors do arise as well. The key conflict in Northern Ireland, which impinges on all other conflicts to a certain extent, is the conflict between the Protestant and Roman Catholics. For the persons that resided in Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics alike, it did not matter whether they lived on the same land or that they all were essentially from the same place. What they identified with, was their different belief systems. Protestants and Catholics were so opposed to one another that inevitably they created two polarized communities within Northern Ireland. Religion had a special significance as it was used as a marker to distinguish and discriminate between sections of the community. In this essay I will focus on the causes for the longevity of this division from 1921 to 1972. In turn, I will also emphasize on how the concept of ‘identity’ has alienated both sides on Northern Ireland’s landscape.
In 1921 Unionism succeeded in the inclusion of six of the nine counties of Ulster. Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Down comprised the new state of Northern Ireland. The new Northern Ireland six county administration was the largest area that could comfortably be held with a pro-Union majority. It was given its own government with devolved powers but the British Government retained ultimate authority. The Unionists of the North, Protestant by religion and British by tradition, wanted to keep a close link with the British monarchy and the imperial Parliament at Westminster. They had made these decisions during the closing decades of the nineteenth century and had received support and encouragement from the Conservative Party within the Parliament and outside of it. When the Government Act of 1920 provided two parliaments for the North (situated in Stormont) and South (situated in Dublin), it failed to implement one in the South due to the South’s political turbulence and guerrilla warfare. The partition brought little satisfaction to any groups involved. This had not been a first preference for Unionists in Northern Ireland, many of whom saw it as a compromise diluting their position within the Union. Many Nationalists, however, felt isolated and vulnerable within this new Protestant majority state.
The historical basis for conflict in Northern Ireland can be defined by the Irish Nationalist beliefs. All throughout different parts of Ireland a sense of Ireland grew among sections of its community, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An Irish nation was suppressed and divided by many centuries of conquest and unable to evolve into united nation because of the dominating presence of a succession of foreign invaders. The most important were the English, who attempted to impose an alien rule and culture upon Ireland. This was resisted over a long period of time, at first without any degree of success. However Ireland defeated its British oppressor and established itself as a nation in its own right. The exclusion of some of Ulster’s counties left Ireland as an incomplete geographical entity. Nationalists believed that although they were free of occupation by an alien power, Ireland would not be whole until the six occupied counties were restored to the motherland. The majority of the northern