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The Troubles

The Troubles is a neutral term for the period of violence between various factions in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the mid-1990s, up to the ceasefires and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Around three to four thousand people have died as a result of the violence.

In general terms, the conflict was between Unionists (or "loyalists"), who want the province to remain in the United Kingdom, and Nationalists (or "republicans") who wish the province to become part of a united Ireland. Generally speaking (but not in all cases) Unionists are part of the Protestant majority of Northern Ireland, while Nationalist are usually Catholic. Catholics thought they were being treated unfairly and pressed for wide reforms, while Protestants were wary of sharing power with Catholics and often did not want to compromise.

There is a common distinction between the terms Unionist and Nationalist on the one hand, and Loyalist and Republican on the other. In this context, "Loyalist" and "Republican" generally imply support for violent methods and for paramilitary organisations, whereas the labels "Unionist" and "Nationalist" are normally reserved for those who favour constitutional politics.

Violence was carried out by various groups, including the Provisional Irish Republican Army (also known as the IRA or "The Provos") and the Irish National Liberation Army on the Republican side, and the UVF and the UDA on the Loyalist side. These paramilitary groups also produced splinter-groups and factions, and sometimes used cover names in an attempt at deniability, which confuses the picture further.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the police force in Northern Ireland, was largely Protestant, not least because police officers living in Nationalist areas were particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack. The lack of Catholic officers in turn increased the sense of alienation in sections of the nationalist community.

A policing review, part of the Good Friday Agreement, has led to some reforms of policing, including more rigorous accountability, measures to increase the number of Catholic Officers, and the renaming of the RUC to the Police Service of Northern Ireland[?] to avoid using the word "Royal".

Some significant groups are:

Nationalist or Republican political parties:

Unionist or loyalist political parties:

Other parties:

(Neither the Labour Party nor the Liberal Democratic Party organises in Northern Ireland)

Republican paramilitary/terrorist groups:

(See Irish Republican Army for a discussion of how some of these are related).

Loyalist paramilitary/terrorist groups:

The Bloody Sunday in 1972 was one of the key events during The Troubles. From 1971 until 1975, under the Special Powers Act[?] there was Internment (see Long Kesh).

Currently, the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom are working together closely and peacefully to seek a solution and have been doing so for some time. There is no simple solution to The Troubles and it can only be hoped that the current paramilitary ceasefire holds and that relative peace is maintained in Northern Ireland for the sake of all its inhabitants.

It is widely held by many in both Britain and Northern Ireland that The Troubles came to an end in the mid-nineties with the various paramilitary cease-fires that were established. The period that came after The Troubles was the Northern Ireland peace process[?], the Good Friday Agreement.

There are however continuing inter-communal tensions that tend to arise in particular during the "Marching Season" when nationalists try to prevent traditional loyalists marches through their neighbourhoods. One particular flashpoint that has caused repeated strife is the Garvagy Road area in Drumcree.

It is also reported that punishment beatings by IRA related groups continue. In response, the UUP recently called for the Provisional IRA to be disbanded by January 18th 2003. Also of note is the recent internecine feuds within individual Loyalist paramilitary groups and between separate Loyalist paramilitary groups .

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