The struggle for peace in Northern Ireland is one that has raged for many decades. The desire for peace on the "Emerald Isle," is a notion that consumes both Britain and Ireland, but it is not one to be easily obtained. This essay will examine the last eleven months of the peace process between the two countries.
To understand the extreme intensity of this conflict, it is necessary to look back at the history of the Irish nation.
The first British involvement in Ireland began in 1169, when Anglo-Norman troops arrived at Bannow Bay in County Wexford. During the next half of the millennium, successive English rulers attempted to colonize the island, waging battles to increase their holdings- moves that sparked periodic rebellions by the Irish.
As the English gradually expanded their reach over the island by the 16th century, religious persecution of the Catholic Irish grew- particularly after the accession of Elizabeth I, a Protestant, to the throne in 1558. Oliver Cromwell's subsequent siege of Ireland in 1649 ended with the massacres of Catholics at Drogheda and Wexford and forced the resettlement of thousands that had lost their homes during the struggle. By 1691, with victory of Protestant English King William III over the Catholic forces of James II, Protestant control in Ireland was complete.
Catholics suffered greatly in the subsequent period of British occupation, enduring laws that prevented them from bearing arms, holding office, and restricted their rights to an education. While many of those rights were restored, the animosity between Catholics and Protestants remained. With the passing of the Act of Union in 1800, a law that joined England and Ireland as one, the island became officially governed by London and Westminster. .
During the next century, several movements sprang up to push for a more independent Ireland. One of them, called the "Home Rule" movement, founded in the 1870's, pushed for the establishment of a separate Irish parliament to govern domestic affairs.