The Violent "Troubles" in Northern Ireland Roman Catholics

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The Violent "Troubles" in Northern Ireland

Roman Catholics are Christians who are loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster, has for decades been a division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland. For hundreds of years, Great Britain ruled the entire island of Ireland. But in the Easter Monday Rebellion of 1916, armed rebels, who had formed the Irish Republican Army, took up arms against British rule. In 1922, in the face of constant armed opposition, Britain agreed to let the Irish vote for independence, county by county. The 23 mainly Roman Catholic counties in the south and west voted to form the Irish Republic, with its capital at Dublin. britain-ireland map.png

Protestants are also Christians, who do not connect themselves with the Pope or the Church in Rome.

In the six counties in the northeast, however, the mainly Protestant population voted to create Northern Ireland and to stay a part of Great Britain. Today, two-thirds of Northern Ireland's population is Protestant, and one-third is Roman Catholic.


For years, a violent political and religious conflict has raged in Northern Ireland. Towns are carved up into Protestant and Catholic sections, divided by painted lines, brick walls and barbed wire. The Protestant majority is mostly loyal to the British, who rule Northern Ireland. The Catholics mostly favor rejoining the rest of Ireland to become one country, free of British rule.

In 1968, these Catholics, who had been treated as second-class citizens in a Protestant-dominated society, began a protest that turned increasingly violent. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its supporters armed themselves and vowed to end British rule and unite all of Ireland. Branches of the IRA began a series of assassinations and terror bombings. Protestant extremists responded in kind, vowing never to leave the protection of British rule.

From Northern Ireland's capital, Belfast, to the smallest country village, the struggle between the IRA and Protestant extremist groups, known as "The Troubles," tore the region apart. Murders and assassinations became common. Bomb blasts destroyed families and ripped at the fabric of life. Children grew up in an atmosphere of hatred, violence and death.

In 30 years of conflict, more than 3,300 people, including many innocent women and children, lost their lives. Many Northern Ireland towns were rigidly split into Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. The two groups even claimed their own colors--orange for William of Orange, a Protestant, and green for the Catholic cause. The predominant color in Northern Ireland, however, was not orange or green, but red--for the blood shed in the conflict.

The Troubles are rooted in ancient grudges and mistrust. Just asking the groups involved how and when it all began is a sure way to start yet another big argument!

England started trying to gain control of Ireland way back in the 1100s. By the early 1700s, Protestant English settlers had taken over 95% of the land in what is now Northern Ireland. The settlers went to other parts of Ireland too. Ireland's Catholics were treated badly by the newcomers, who passed strict anti-Catholic laws. Anger at this abuse led to the Anglo-Irish war of 1919.

When the war ended in 1921, Britain gave up rule of the 26 counties that now make up the Irish Republic. But the Brits would not give up Northern Ireland, where the majority of people were still loyal to Britain. Most Catholics in the North refused to accept British rule or to leave their land. The two groups have exchanged gunfire and bombs ever since.

Roots of the Troubles

432 --St. Patrick arrives in Ireland, bringing Christianity. (The Protestant faith did not yet exist.)

1541 --Britain's King Henry VIII is declared King of Ireland by Englishmen living in Ireland. He opposes the Catholic religion.

1608 --Britain's King James I sends thousands of Protestant English farmers to Ireland to take over land owned by Catholic farmers, mostly in the north.

1692 --New laws forbid Catholics to vote, own land or practice their religion. Such laws remain in effect until 1829.

1916 --The Easter Rebellion. Armed Irish patriots rebel against British troops in Dublin, Ireland, on the Monday after Easter. The British execute rebel leaders.

1919-21 --The Anglo-Irish War between the British and the Irish Republican Army. In a treaty, Britain finally gives up control of most of Ireland but tightens its grip on the six counties of Ulster (Northern Ireland).

1921-23 --Irish Civil War between those who accept the treaty with the English and the Irish Republican Army, which wants all of Ireland to be free of British rule. The Republicans lose.

1949 --Britain declares Ulster a permanent part of the British Empire. The lower 26 counties of Ireland declare themselves the Irish Republic, totally free of British control.

January 30, 1972 --During anti-British protests in the Ulster town of Londonderry, 13 unarmed marchers are killed by British troops, an event now known as Bloody Sunday. Britain imposes direct rule on Ulster. A more intense era of bloodshed begins. The Irish call this violence the Troubles.

1979 --Britain's Earl Mountbatten, Prince Charles' favorite uncle, is killed by Irish Republican Army terrorists at his Ireland vacation home.

1981 --Ten Catholic Republican protesters die in hunger strikes.

April 10, 1998 --After 22 months of talks, many Irish groups announce an agreement that may finally bring peace. People in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will vote on the agreement on May 22.
Northern Ireland Troubles Questions:

  1. Write what you think each of the following words mean, and write down EXACT QUOTES from the text that show how the meaning is hinted at.

    1. Dominated

    2. Extremists

    3. Predominant

    4. Grudges

    5. Treaty

  1. Give two supporting details (EXACT QUOTES from the text) that go with this main idea: “In 1968, these Catholics, who had been treated as second-class citizens in a Protestant-dominated society, began a protest that turned increasingly violent.”

  1. Cite the main idea that goes with these two supporting details together (EXACT QUOTE from the text):

    1. The Protestant majority is mostly loyal to the British, who rule Northern Ireland.

    2. The Catholics mostly favor rejoining the rest of Ireland to become one country, free of British rule.

  1. Take a look at the timeline – How does organizing information in this way assist the reader?

  1. Using exact quotes from the TIMELINE section, write a short paragraph about where the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland came from.

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