Chapter 18 – Belfast
Fabio is proud that he looks like Brad Pitt, but when they arrive in Belfast at sunset he is nervous. He has read too many articles and seen too many movies about Ireland and Irish terrorism. Now things are different. But this country has a long story of fights and rebellions.
History of an 800-year war.
1171: King Henry II of England and his army land in Ireland.
15th Century: The English rule Dublin and a small area near Dublin called ‘the Pale’. The expression ‘beyond the pale’ originally meant outside the Dublin Pale and not English. The expression is still used in English to mean uncivilised and savage.
16th Century: Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I, conquer more of Ireland. English soldiers crush Irish resistance.
17th Century: ‘Plantation of Ulster’. English and Scottish protestants emigrate to Ulster (Northern Ireland). They are given the best land to farm. The Catholic natives are left with the poor land and have to work for their Protestant masters. Today, most of the good land in Ulster is still owned by the protestants and the Catholics are still angry about it.
July 12th 1690: ‘Battle of the Boyne’. William of Orange, protestant King of England defeats James’ Catholic army at the River Boyne. Ireland becomes a British colony. The Battle of the Boyne is still celebrated by Protestants today.
300 years… Resistance to British rule in Ireland.
The English are finally weakened in the 20th Century.
1916: ‘The Easter Rising’ Irish rebels take control of a post office in Dublin. The British crush the rebellion using paid spies and a large army.
1921: The IRA (The Irish Republican Army), using small guerrilla units, defeats the armies of the British Empire. Southern Ireland is named Eire and becomes an independent catholic state within the British Empire. The Protestants of Northern Ireland (60 % majority in Ulster) refuse to be part of a catholic state. The island is divided between the Catholic south (Eire) and the Protestant north (Ulster).
Many Catholics say that the division of Ireland was illegal and they want Ireland to be united.
1968: Ulster’s Catholic civil rights movement demands equal rights with the protestants.
The Catholics ask the British government to send troops to protect them from the exclusively protestant police.
1969: The Catholics decide the troops are anti-Catholic.
‘Bloody Sunday’. British troops shoot thirteen Catholics dead in Londonderry.
1972: IRA starts bombing British mainland.
1981 Bobby Sands, an Irish prisoner, dies after a hunger strike. Ten other prisoners starve themselves to death to protest about British treatment of Irish prisoners
1981 – 1994: A long three sided war between the IRA (catholic guerrillas), the UVF (protestant guerrillas) and the British Army. No obvious victor, no conclusions and no peace.
1995: President Clinton arrives in Northern Ireland from the USA.
October 1997: IRA leaders shake hands with British Prime-minister Tony Blair and the three sides in the war try to make peace.