Civil Rights Movement - Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland

Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland

Further information: Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom which has witnessed violence over many decades, known as the Troubles, arising from tensions between the British (Unionist, Protestant) majority and the Irish (Nationalist, Catholic) minority following the Partition of Ireland in 1920.

The civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland can be traced to activists in Dungannon, led by Austin Currie, who were fighting for equal access to public housing for the members of the Catholic community. This domestic issue would not have led to a fight for civil rights were it not for the fact that being a registered householder was a qualification for local government franchise in Northern Ireland.

In January 1964, the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was launched in Belfast. This organisation joined the struggle for better housing and committed itself to ending discrimination in employment. The CSJ promised the Catholic community that their cries would be heard. They challenged the government and promised that they would take their case to the Commission for Human Rights in Strasbourg and to the United Nations.

Having started with basic domestic issues, the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland escalated to a full scale movement that found its embodiment in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. NICRA campaigned in the late sixties and early seventies, consciously modelling itself on the American civil rights movement and using similar methods of civil resistance. NICRA organised marches and protests to demand equal rights and an end to discrimination.

NICRA originally had five main demands:

  • one man, one vote
  • an end to discrimination in housing
  • an end to discrimination in local government
  • an end to the gerrymandering of district boundaries, which limited the effect of Catholic voting
  • the disbandment of the B-Specials, an entirely Protestant Police reserve, perceived as sectarian.

All of these specific demands were aimed at an ultimate goal that had been the one of women at the very beginning: the end of discrimination.

Civil rights activists all over Northern Ireland soon launched a campaign of civil resistance. There was opposition from Loyalists, who were aided by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland's police force. At this point, the RUC was over 90% Protestant. Violence escalated, resulting in the rise of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from the Catholic community, a group reminiscent of those from the War of Independence and the Civil War that occurred in the 1920s that had launched a campaign of violence to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Loyalist paramilitaries countered this with a defensive campaign of violence and the British government responded with a policy of internment without trial of suspected IRA members. For more than 300 people, the internment lasted several years. The huge majority of those interned by the British forces were Catholic. In 1978, in a case brought by the government of the Republic of Ireland against the government of the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation techniques approved for use by the British army on internees in 1971 amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

The IRA encouraged Republicans to join in the civil rights movement but never controlled NICRA. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association fought for the end of discrimination toward Catholics and did not take a position on the legitimacy of the state. Republican leader Gerry Adams explained subsequently that Catholics saw that it was possible for them to have their demands heard. He wrote that "we were able to see an example of the fact that you didn't just have to take it, you could fight back". For an account and critique of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, reflecting on the ambiguous link between the causes of civil rights and opposition to the union with the United Kingdom, see the work of Richard English.

One of the most important events in the era of civil rights in Northern Ireland took place in Derry, which escalated the conflict from peaceful civil disobedience to armed conflict. The Battle of the Bogside started on 12 August when an Apprentice Boys, a Protestant order, parade passed through Waterloo Place, where a large crowd was gathered at the mouth of William Street, on the edge of the Bogside. Different accounts describe the first outbreak of violence, with reports stating that it was either an attack by youth from the Bogside on the RUC, or fighting broke out between Protestants and Catholics. The violence escalated and barricades were erected. Proclaiming this district to be the Free Derry, Bogsiders carried on fights with the RUC for days using stones and petrol bombs. The government finally withdrew the RUC and replaced it with the army, which disbanded the crowds of Catholics who were barricaded in the Bogside.

Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, in Derry is seen by some as a turning point in the civil rights movement. Fourteen unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers protesting against internment were shot dead by the British army and many were left wounded on the streets.

The peace process has made significant gains in recent years. Through open dialogue from all parties, a state of ceasefire by all major paramilitary groups has lasted. A stronger economy improved Northern Ireland's standard of living. Civil rights issues have become far less of a concern for many in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years as laws and policies protecting their rights and forms of affirmative action have been implemented for all government offices and many private businesses. Tensions still exist, but the vast majority of citizens are no longer affected by violence.

Read more about this topic:  Civil Rights Movement

Other articles related to "rights, movement":

Index Of Philosophy Articles (A–C) - A
... of Natural Society A Vindication of the Rights of Men A Vindication of the Rights of Woman A Voyage to Arcturus A ... American Enlightenment American Indian Movement American Journal of Bioethics American Philosophical Association American Philosophical Quarterly American Philosophical Society American philosophy ... Viewpoints Animal language Animal Liberation (book) Animal rights Animal spirits Animals in Buddhism Animistic fallacy Anioł Dowgird Anja Steinbauer Anna-Teres ...

Famous quotes containing the words civil rights, northern ireland, ireland, northern, civil, rights and/or movement:

    Civil Rights: What black folks are given in the U.S. on the installment plan, as in civil-rights bills. Not to be confused with human rights, which are the dignity, stature, humanity, respect, and freedom belonging to all people by right of their birth.
    Dick Gregory (b. 1932)

    For generations, a wide range of shooting in Northern Ireland has provided all sections of the population with a pastime which ... has occupied a great deal of leisure time. Unlike many other countries, the outstanding characteristic of the sport has been that it was not confined to any one class.
    —Northern Irish Tourist Board. quoted in New Statesman (London, Aug. 29, 1969)

    No people can more exactly interpret the inmost meaning of the present situation in Ireland than the American Negro. The scheme is simple. You knock a man down and then have him arrested for assault. You kill a man and then hang the corpse.
    —W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt)

    In civilization, as in a southern latitude, man degenerates at length, and yields to the incursion of more northern tribes.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    During the Civil War the area became a refuge for service- dodging Texans, and gangs of bushwhackers, as they were called, hid in its fastnesses. Conscript details of the Confederate Army hunted the fugitives and occasional skirmishes resulted.
    —Administration in the State of Texa, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)

    Unfortunately, I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demanded was our right to twinkle.
    Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962)

    Christianity was only a very strong and singularly well-timed Salvation Army movement that happened to receive help from an unusual and highly dramatic incident. It was a Puritan reaction in an age when, no doubt, a Puritan reaction was much wanted; but like all sudden violent reactions, it soon wanted reacting against.
    Samuel Butler (1835–1902)