Before 1920, the island of Ireland was part of Ireland and the United Kingdom. However, in 1921 Northern Ireland was formed when Ireland was divided between Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920. It is important to understand that majority of Northern Ireland's citizens were unionist who wanted to remain within the UK. Most of these individuals were the Protestant descendants of the settlers from England. Unfortunately, the first few years of Northern Ireland having received self-government within the UK were marked by bitter conflicts, especially in Belfast. These conflicts were contributed by the fact that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) opposed the creation of Irish Free State. However, in 1925 an agreement was made among Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and Irish Free State to define the borders. We should also know that there was a lot of hostility and discrimination between the Protestants and Catholics when Northern Ireland came into existence. In fact, 1935 conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics emerged where nine people lost their lives, and thousands of Catholics were forced to flee their homes in Northern Ireland. Despite this violence, Northern Ireland was relatively peaceful for the most part of the 20th century from 1923 until the late 1960s.
There was an onset of "The Troubles" or the "Northern Ireland Conflict" during the late 1960s. The conflict was majorly nationalistic and political, motivated by historical events. It also had sectarian or ethnic dimension. However, it was not a religious conflict. The contentious matter was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Irish republicans/ nationalists, who were largely Catholics wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland while the Unionists/ Loyalists, who were majorly Protestants, wanted the Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. The conflicts started during a campaign to end the hostility and discrimination against the Catholic minority by the Protestant government and the police force. The government tried to suppress this campaign and were accused of police brutality. This differences resulted in inter-communal conflicts and violence between the police and the nationalist youths. British troops were deployed in 1969 when violence escalated. However, in the same year, there was the rise of several paramilitary organizations which resulted in subsequent warfare over the next three decades. These republican paramilitaries conducted a guerrilla campaign against the British forces, together with a bombing campaign against political, commercial, and infrastructure targets. Over 3000 people were killed in the conflict where 32% were members of the British army, 52% were civilians, and 16% were members of the paramilitary groups. Fortunately, the Northern Ireland conflict ended with a Good Friday agreement of 1998.
It is obvious that the Contemporary identity in Northern Ireland is fragmented, complicated, and fragile. In fact, the Northern Irish feel that they are connected to their colleagues in the Republic of Ireland and that they are distinct from the English. They view the British citizens who reside in Northern Ireland as oppressors and interlopers. Nowadays, the economy of Northern Ireland is based on manufacturing and agriculture. Northern Ireland's main industries are engineering, shipbuilding, and textiles. However, unequal opportunities and different resources resulting from colonization have created conflict. The religious and ethnic strife often stems from the uneven allocation of economic opportunities and resources. Most Protestants are at the top of the social class in that they dominate the business and professional classes. Moreover, they own large farms and majority of businesses. Most Catholics tend to be unskilled individuals who work on small farms. Catholics are usually poorer than Protestants because of the inequality that is usually attributed to religious and ethnic roots.
The enmity between these two groups is motivated by long-standing prejudices. Many Protestants believe that Catholics are irresponsible and lazy. These perceptions are normally caused by the social separation between these groups. In most cases, Catholic and Protestant families live in separate areas and worship separately, and their kids learn in segregated schools. On Sundays, most Catholics usually participate in recreation or leisure activities after mass whereas many Protestants scorn Sunday recreation activities. In general, it is essential to know that Protestants tend to see themselves as the citizens of the United Kingdom. Regarding possessing businesses and farms, Protestants constitute the political, social, and economic elite. Their manners and accent are in keeping with those of England. Catholics on the other hand, tend to be poorer and most of them usually speak Gaelic and have larger families. It is important to know that the current division of North Ireland into two traditions that is the Protestant and the Roman Catholic is based on the fraught interactions of Scots, English, and native Irish during the past centuries.Food traditions of the Northern Irish are not quite different from the customs of the Irish in the Republic of Ireland. For instance, Christmas supper includes white meat such as chicken and fish. Being a Catholic nation, meat is usually prohibited during the Fridays. Furthermore, it is necessary to understand that cultural life in Northern Ireland often follows the contours of sectarian and political differences. For instance, Protestants and Roman Catholics may listen to the same song but call it distinct names regardless of their gender, age, and class. Although there is a shared involvement in global cultures such as football, Hollywood movies, and famous music, both unionist and nationalist societies maintain their cultural practices. Irish dance and music and the Gaelic games such as hurling and football form a cultural focus in nationalist societies, along with interest in the Gaelic language. Northern Ireland in many aspects is a traditional society. Family life is central, church attendance is high, and community ties are powerful. Day to day interactions of most individuals is confined to members of their society, whether in country villages or urban neighborhoods. Cultural, dancing, and music festivals are common in Catholic societies, especially in the months following St. Patrick's Day. The sectarian differences between Protestants and Catholics have left several imprints on the arts. In fact, the troubling reality of Northern Ireland has been key to fiction, poetry, drama, and the visual arts. Northern Ireland's music is often categorized as either Protestant or Catholic. It usually incorporates flutes, drums, bagpipes, harps, and fiddles.
In conclusion, it is evident that North Ireland has evolved steadily since its independence in 1921. And despite various challenges such as conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants, the country has a vibrant culture and background. The contemporary identity in Northern Ireland is fragmented, complicated, and fragile due to the differences between these two groups.
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