The modern Northern Irish conflict dates to the twelfth century, when the English extended their kingdom to Ireland, but the conflict began to take its present form in 1921, with the end of the Anglo-Irish War. At that time, the governments of Great Britain and Ireland concluded an agreement by which the Irish got their state, but the northern part of the Irish island, the province of Ulster, remained part of the United Kingdom. In Ulster, most of the population is of the Protestant faith, descendants of English settlers who were systematically settled on the Irish island by the British Crown and government over the past centuries. In the newly created Northern Ireland, a separate parliament was formed, in which the majority were Protestants, also called unionists, and who conducted their domestic policy to a large extent without the interference of the central government in London. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the British government considered the Irish problem solved and did not worry too much about Northern Ireland's domestic policy and the methods pursued by the Northern Irish (Protestant) authorities.
On the other hand, there were many Irish Catholics who were dissatisfied with the solution imposed by the Anglo-Irish agreement and immediately began the struggle for the unification of the Irish island. Several paramilitary organizations emerged from that struggle, the most famous and most successful of which was the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which split into several factions over the years, but these factions continued the struggle for Irish unification and independence with various terrorist actions and diversions. Northern Irish authorities have responded with repressive measures against the Catholic population and various discriminatory laws and regulations that have affected Northern Irish Catholics. In addition, Protestant paramilitary organizations retaliated equally with attacks by the IRA, and violence on the streets of Belfast, Londonderry, and other northern Irish cities intensified year after year.
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The violence culminated in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Catholic population began to demand equal political and civil rights more and more, and the strengthening of nationalist tendencies on both sides contributed to the increasing entry into paramilitary organizations. In addition to extreme organizations, there were also organizations that sought to achieve change through peaceful means and political channels. These organizations launched a vigorous human rights campaign in the late 1960s. Numerous marches and peaceful protests were organized, which increasingly attracted the attention of the media, which also began to express dissatisfaction with the Northern Irish order. The protesters demanded more and more often, masse and louder equality of Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants, the abolition of the property census in local elections, equality in employment, a solution to the housing issue of the Catholic population and an end to election rigging. For the first time began to claim their rights within Northern Ireland without insisting on the independence of the whole Irish island, that is, on the annexation of Ulster to the Republic of Ireland. As the marches became more massive, they increasingly ended in violence and vandalism. They have become so massive and dangerous to the elemental security of northern Irish cities that the British government in London decided to send an army to Northern Ireland to calm the situation. The British military sought to establish control by methods reminiscent of actions to quell colonial uprisings. Curfew and special legislation were introduced, and house searches and similar actions became the norm organizations. But Protestant extremists did not stand still either, but in September 1971, for fear of possible changes in Catholic favor, they founded a new and one of the most powerful Protestant paramilitary organizations, the Ulster Defense Association.
The increasingly difficult political and social situation has prompted peaceful and aware citizens to start demanding change, equality and justice even more vigorously. The most active among them, united in the predominantly Catholic Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, organized the largest protest to date on Sunday, January 30, 1972, in the second largest city in Northern Ireland, Londonderry. The reason for this peaceful but illegal protest was, among other things, the decision of the British government that all those suspected of being members of one of the factions of the IRA can be arrested and interned without investigation and trial. According to estimates at the protest about 5,000 people gathered while other estimates mention up to 20 and 30,000 protesters, respectively. In any case, the protest march attracted the attention of the media and the public, but also of the British government, which decided to prevent the protest with the army and all available police forces.
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Protesters planned to march on the city’s main square, Guildhall, but British military units, made up mostly of the infamous Parachute Regiment, set up barricades at the entrances to the main square. Protest organizers then decided to divert the procession to Free Derry Corner, but a group of younger protesters separated from the crowd and began throwing stones at military barricades, to which soldiers retaliated with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas. Such scenes were common in Northern Ireland. opportunities so the atmosphere did not seem too hot at first. But then the military command received information that a sniper, a member of the PIRA (Provisional IRA), was nearby, and issued an order for the paratroopers to act with live ammunition. The situation then spiraled out of control. Parachute units, accustomed to firing first and then asking questions, opened fire on the aggressive part of the protesters who immediately began to flee. The first victim was killed from behind in Chamberlain Street as she tried to flee British troops, and the adrenaline of British paratroopers increased to the point that they disregarded the ceasefire order that was immediately issued. The violence then escalated and turned into real bloodshed. The paratroopers began firing uncontrollably at civilians, and soon 12 more people were killed, 12 were wounded, two were run over by armored vehicles, and hundreds of protesters were arrested. In the following days, another protester died as a result of the injuries, and the death toll rose to 14. Many of those killed and wounded were shot while trying to help the previously affected, and in such a situation posed no danger to British soldiers.
The events of 31 January 1972 went down in history as Bloody Sunday and caused great outrage throughout the British Isles and around the world. The investigation that followed immediately after the event found that none of the dead and wounded were armed, but that the protesters were the first to fire, provoking a reaction from the British army. The conclusions of the commission of inquiry violence and protests across the island of Ireland while Catholic organizations immediately launched a campaign to conduct a new investigation. In protest, the Irish government withdrew its ambassador from London, and Irish citizens set fire to the British embassy building in Dublin during protests in February 1972. The following year, Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries carried out some 1,300 bombings and about 500 armed actions in which 467 people (321 civilians and about a hundred soldiers) lost their lives.
Bloody Sunday had a major impact on Irish collective consciousness and caused several social and political changes. The British government abolished the Northern Irish Parliament two months later, introduced direct administration from London and sent thousands more troops to establish control on the streets of Northern Irish cities. The event inspired several artists and cultural workers but benefited the Irish Republican Army factions and Protestant paramilitary organizations the most. Namely, in the months after Bloody Sunday, Northern Irish Catholics increasingly joined paramilitary organizations, which automatically meant the increasing militarization of the Protestant population. Many young Irish, both Protestants and Catholics, who until January 1972 showed no greater interest in politics and events in Northern Ireland suddenly became nationally and politically aware further contributing to Northern Ireland’s social, political, national and religious divisions.