‘The Troubles’ refers to a period of violence that broke out in Northern Ireland, from 1968 to 1998. Sources D, E and G to an extent highlight how the discriminations against each religion have built up over time. Source D gives us a Catholic perspective, whilst sources E and G are in favour of Protestants. The other sources, F, H, I and J give us more of an insight into the short-term reasons for the Troubles. All of the sources provide an insight into the long-term problems that ‘The Troubles’ caused, and how they affected the attitudes of people generations down the line.
Take source D, for example – B. Devlin describing her school days. This gives us some insight into prejudice teachings among the Catholics, but it does not illustrate the Protestant point of view. The source indicates that The Troubles are an ongoing problem, and stems from past events, for example, her school Vice Principal describes when “All her family had suffered at the hands of the British forces. ” Devlin also explains how the Vice Principal’s beliefs were that Protestants weren’t hated, just viewed not to be Irish.
This suggests that the Vice Principal (Mother Benignus) was extremely patriotic, and this could have influenced the children’s beliefs from an early age. The fact that the source was written in 1969, during the Troubles, could have had an effect on what Devlin was writing, as she was actually living through and experiencing the Troubles first hand. However, this source does not contain enough sufficient evidence to conclude why the Troubles broke out, as it does not show a Protestant view of the situation.
Sources D, E and G are views of the long term reasons, and how resentment and difference over time have built up, due to education systems reinforcing prejudices. The sources give us some perspective of each community over a long period of time. These educations remind both groups of events in their history where each suffered at the hands of the other, for example the Famine in the 1840’s and the rebellion as a result of Oliver Cromwell’s plantation. Source E is a cartoon drawn by a Protestant, which already indicates that it contains prejudice towards Catholics.
It depicts Erin, a female peasant that represents Ireland, being constrained by a Catholic priest with ropes. This source implies that Protestants are being submissive to Catholics, and that Catholics are holding not just Protestants but their whole country from economic progress, whereas England and Scotland were well ahead at the time. The cartoon was produced at a time when the empire of Britain was the most powerful country in the world. Ireland was treated like a colony in the Act of Union in 1801. This source reinforces Devlin’s views in source D of a prejudiced education being given to the two different groups.
In contrast to source E, source G is a more serious depiction of how Catholics treated them. It is still a cartoon, yet portrays a more serious meaning. We see that it has been taken from a Protestant textbook, which again reinforces Devlin’s views in source D of how each group received a biased education. Emotive language is used in the picture’s caption, which is a device that will provoke sympathy for the Protestants, for example ‘stripped naked’ and ‘perished’. The term ‘wild Irish’ is used against the Catholics by the Protestants, because they view them as traitors to the country, something that Mother Benignus in source D also believes.
The reason for the event in source G is long term. It was caused by an uprising of Catholics who had had their land taken away by English Protestants, and led a rebellion against them. Source H is a much more shocking image in comparison to the other sources, partly because it is a photograph and partly because it appears to display police brutality. The photo was taken at a time of great political change in the world. For example, Martin Luther King was leading civil rights marches for black people in America, and others were protesting against the war in Vietnam.
Because police brutality was depicted in this photograph, it gave the British Government bad publicity which led to international condemnation. Ireland was inspired by the civil rights movements taking place internationally, and protests began against gerrymandering. This can be compared with source D, written by Devlin who leads many civil rights marches. The police brutality was committed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which was made entirely of Protestants. This kind of police brutality is also illustrated in source J, with the Special Powers Act.
This law and the way they treated the civil rights protestors only reinforced the Catholics negative attitudes towards them. In source I we see a good example of the disintegration of law and order on the streets. Terence O’Neill’s attempts at better rights for Catholics were met with violent opposition. The source was produced in 1969, right in the midst of ‘The Troubles’ and the photo is taken at Burntollet in Derry. Derry was very much the heart of many conflicts, where the RUC was brought in to resolve it, but ended up fuelling the fire.
The RUC even ordered back up from the B-Specials, who used a lot of violence towards the protestors, such as gas and water cannons. This added to the resentment of Catholics towards Protestants, just as in source H. The wording of this source could be slightly biased; taking into account the word ‘ambush’ is used. This is a very provocative statement to use, and implies that the attacks were planned. Source J is a documentary made during ‘The Troubles’ in 1981, just like sources D, H and I. However it is a video documentary unlike the other sources, and when I watched it I noticed how careful Channel 4 had to be with the way it was presented.
Unlike the other sources, it also showed more short term reasons for the troubles, such as the Queen’s visit to Belfast. This visit angered Irish Nationalists, as it reaffirmed Ireland’s ties to the British crown. It was also the anniversary of the Easter Rising, when Catholic Nationalists had attempted to overthrow the British Government. This is similar to sources D, E and G, illustrating how past events contribute to the recent troubles. Northern Ireland had very much been controlled by the Protestants since the Partition, and they rigged the government to favour themselves and keep the Catholics in place.
Terence O’Neill had tried to stop this, but his proposals were met with violence. This can be linked to source F, where civil rights marches took place to stop gerrymandering. The police forces were almost entirely Protestant, and The Special Powers Act in 1922 was originally set up to deal with the IRA, but it gave the police in Northern Ireland more power than any other police force in the UK. They could suspend the civil liberties of a suspect. This was used more often on Catholics as the IRA became less of a threat during the 1960s.
All of this built up the Catholic’s resentment towards Protestants, just like in sources H and I where it led to civil rights marches and loyalist attacks. The conclusion I have reached is that although there is evidence in sources D to J, to explain why the Troubles broke out, many of the sources are biased in some shape or form. This leads me to believe that there just isn’t enough sufficient evidence to give me a solid answer to the question. However, all the sources offer me different perspectives of different communities, which is a useful insight into some of the reasons for why the Troubles broke out.