The Story of Ireland Part 5
Caveat: I have serious problems with the BBC’s portrayal of the 30-year civil war in Northern Ireland as a battle of “religious identity.” This analysis conveniently whitewashes a longstanding pattern of social and economic discrimination against Northern Ireland’s Catholic underclass.
Part 5 of the Story of Ireland covers 1900 to the present – including the “Troubles*” in Northern Ireland from 1969 until the Good Friday Peace Accord negotiated under Tony Blair in 1998.
The filmmakers attribute the early 1900s rise in Irish nationalism to global nationalistic fervor that simultaneously gave rise to the African National Congress, the Chinese nationalist movement led by Sun Yat Sen (1911) and the Serbian nationalist movement that triggered World War I.
In 1913, the British parliament was preparing to grant home rule for Ireland, which was violently opposed by the protestant Ulster Volunteer Force. The latter feared losing their autonomy to a majority Catholic Ireland.
On Easter Sunday 1913 (Bloody Sunday), Irish revolutionaries seized the post office in Dublin and declared an Irish Republic. The brutal British reprisals radicalized many civilian nationalists into joining the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
After winning a sweeping majority in the 1918 elections, Sinn Fein** declared an independent Irish republic. In 1921 Sinn Fein leader Michael Collins negotiated a peace treaty with Prime Minister Lloyd George granting southern Ireland and the six protestant counties of Ulster the status of free states within the British union.
Because it stopped short of home rule for Ireland, the civil war continued until Ireland won full independence in 1923. Northern Ireland would remain part of Great Britain.
Although Sinn Fein remained committed to the reunification of the two Irelands, for 40 years Irish heads of state opted for peace and political stability over political union. During World War II, Ireland declined to join the allied forces and remained neutral. It also supported Red China’s application to join the UN in 1949.
Thanks to membership in the Common Market and European Union, Ireland was one of the richest countries in Europe by the late 90s. Yet according to the filmmakers the so-called Celtic Tiger was accompanies by skyrocketing inequality and massive political corruption.
*”The Troubles” is a euphemism for the conflict between Northern Ireland Catholic paramilitaries fighting for greater civil rights and eventual reunification with southern Ireland, protestant paramilitaries and British troops deployed to suppress the Catholic insurgency.
**Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.