The ethnic problems between the English protestant settlers and the Irish Catholics have existed ever since the days of British colonization. Under British rule, the Irish Catholics have remained a disadvantaged group for a long period. In 1949, the Republic of Ireland proclaimed its independence. Whilst the protestant unionists then supported Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom, the catholic republicans appealed that Northern Ireland should be united with the Republic of Ireland. Because of the frequent violence between the two sides, the problems with Northern Ireland have become increasingly heated since the end of the 1960’s. Northern Ireland, as a result, has experienced severe social turbulence over the 30 years or so, when there were serious violent conflicts, terrorism attacks and bloody fights.
With the efforts of many people, the major political parties of England, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were finally concluded with the Belfast Agreement in 1998, bringing the first gleam of hope for peace in Northern Ireland. The long way toward a peaceful Northern Ireland has since been on track. A compromise has been reached between the ethnic groups of both sides that they would jointly rule the local government of Northern Ireland, sharing the power and responsibilities. The operation of the power-sharing autonomous government, which was established thereafter, was however unsuccessful. The difficulties in achieving any consensus among the ethnic groups of the two sides have, many times, led to the suspension of the autonomous government. After a lengthy yet historical negotiation of five years, a consensus was finally reached among the Democratic Unionist Party, the Republican Sinn Fein Party, as well as the English and British leaders. The St. Andrews Agreement was finally established in 2006, which restored the devolution of the Northern Ireland. In 2007, the administration of the new power-sharing government of the Northern Ireland was formally restored.
The research provides an in-depth analysis and discussion on the Northern Ireland’s progress toward peace, aiming to establishing an integrated research paper on the Northern Ireland. The purpose of this study is to probe the approaches adopted by a society, which had been suffering from problems in national identification and ethnic conflicts, to move from “conflicts” to “coexistence”.
The research methodologies include historical studies and documentary analysis. This paper contains six chapters. The research structure is outlined below:
The first chapter contains an introduction to this research. In the second chapter, the author explains the historical background of the Northern Irish problems and discussed on the reasons of political, religious and ethnic conflicts between the Irish Catholics and the English Protestants. Further analysis is made on how the problems of Ireland have evolved into the Northern Irish problem. The third chapter discusses the process to solve the Northern Irish problems, including the problem-solving process jointly participated by the British and Irish governments, the U.S. influence on Northern Ireland’s progress toward peace, and the Belfast Agreement which was reached eventually. In the fourth chapter, the author further explores the power-sharing, autonomous government of the Northern Ireland, which has been established based on the Belfast Agreement. The initial discussion is focused on the administrative models adopted by the local government, the operational progress at the preliminary stage and the crisis of suspension encountered by the government. Secondarily, the author probes the significant breakthroughs achieved in Northern Ireland’s peace progress, as well as the factors impairing such progress. The fifth chapter deals with the “transitional justice” emerged in Northern Ireland. Further exploration has been made to understand the efforts made by the British and the Northern Ireland governments for victims of the Northern Irish conflicts over the recent 40 years, including the “transitional justice” approaches and reforms in the police and political systems. In this chapter, the author also studies the impact of the transitional justice on the ethnic conflicts in Northern Ireland. In chapter 6, the author provides the conclusion for this research paper.