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I.2.a. Historical Background and Political Perspectives
An extended historical interpretation from a Marxist perspective, which makes use of the large volume of archive material released in the 1970s. Focuses on the interaction of class and other economic and political factors in the conflict in Northern Ireland. Maintains that the divisions in the country made some form of partition inevitable, the issue at stake being what form it would take.
A history of the period from a nationalist perspective with the stated aim of putting in context the divisions and conflict in Northern Ireland. A postscript notes briefly some of the political developments in the 1920s and 1930s including the introduction of the Special Powers Act in 1933 and the emergence of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
A major study looking at the history of Catholics in Ulster from the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169 to the signing of the Belfast agreement in 1998. The author, who defines herself an ’Ulster Catholic’, takes a fresh look at the attitudes, assumption and convictions of the Catholic community, and at some of the causes of sectarian division. She notes that there has been a return of self-confidence among Ulster Catholics since the signing of the GFA and that the overwhelming majority of them support the constitutional arrangement based on majority consent.
The chapters in this history of the IRA which deal with the gradual shift in the position of Provisional Sinn Fein and IRA, their engagement in the political process through discussions with both the rival nationalist SDLP and the British government, and their eventual decision to end the military campaign, provide valuable insights into the dynamics of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The final chapter subjects the republican case to critical – though not unsympathetic – scrutiny but rejects the contention that the struggle was in any straightforward sense an anti-colonial one or that its religious dimension can be ignored.
A history of Northern Ireland, and socialist political analysis of the causes of the conflict there, by a leading civil rights campaigner and founding member of People’s Democracy. He concludes that the choice in Ireland is ‘between, on the one hand, a semi-fascist Orange statelet in the North, matched by a pro-imperialist police state in the South, and, on the other hand, an anti-imperialist and socialist revolution’.
Critical examination of both Nationalist and Unionist accounts of the causes of the conflict. Authors distinguish broadly between explanations that focus on external factors – the policies of British and Irish governments – and those that identify the internal factors of religion, culture and ethnicity in Northern Irish society. They reject the proposition that the conflict is fundamentally a religious one, and are sceptical not only of the various Marxist accounts – Orange, Green and ‘Red’ – but of the essentially materialist accounts by many liberal commentators. While acknowledging the multiplicity of causal factors, they view the conflict as essentially one between groups which identify themselves along different national, ethnic and religious lines, though they hold out the hope of an accommodation between them to produce an ‘agreed’, though not necessarily a united, Ireland.
Coverage of major events during the Troubles. Includes a useful chronology and an account of the Ulster Workers Council strike in 1974. . The revised 2012 edition also covers political developments in Northern Ireland since the origonal publication including the historic power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin in 2007.
Aims, in words of editor, ‘to give its readers a reasonably broad critical introduction to the Northern Ireland conflict’. Most of the 13 contributors to the book are academics working in the field of sociology, politics and media studies, plus writers and journalists. The thrust of the argument in the book is that the conflict needs to be understood as an anti-colonial struggle, not as a religious or ethnic one, and that tackling the inequalities brought about by colonialism is the key to securing a lasting peace.
Records the experiences of this distinguished Irish travel writer during her cycling tour of Northern Ireland in 1976-77. Briefly recapitulates the historical background to the Troubles, and re-examines the rival myths and prejudices of the Protestant and Catholic communities, both of whom warmly welcomed her while remaining suspicious of each other. Informed by genuine affection for the people of Northern Ireland and an optimism about its future in the longer term though discounting the possibility of a united Ireland.
Puts the case, following the publication of the report of the New Ireland Forum, for an independent Northern Ireland
Marxist analysis of the political and economic factors leading to a resurgence of national consciousness in the constituent parts of the UK. In a chapter on Ireland, he rejects what he sees as the oversimplified imperialist analysis of Ireland’s situation by Irish nationalists and some fellow Marxists from Connolly to Farrell. Argues the case for an independent Northern Ireland.
Mixture of history, personal memoir and analysis by this Irish academic, writer and statesman. In chapter 8, ‘Civil Rights: the Crossroads’ (pp. 147-77) he argues that the campaign of civil disobedience begun by the civil rights movement in 1968 was bound in the context of Northern Ireland’s deeply divided society to increase sectarianism and lead to violence. Defends Partition on the grounds that the alternative would have been a much bloodier civil war than the one that occurred in the South in 1922-23. Cites a loyalty survey conducted by Richard Rose in 1968 to dismiss as unrealistic the proposition that the Catholic and Protestant working class might unite in a struggle against a common class enemy and create a workers’ republic in a united Ireland.
Examination from a socialist perspective of key issues by three Northern Ireland academics. Includes a chapter on the reform of the RUC in the 1970s.
Investigation of the convictions and sense of identity of people in the Catholic Community in Northern Ireland based on recorded interviews with fifty-five individuals – not all of them necessarily practising Catholics – about their political allegiances, their relationship with Protestants, and their attitude to the IRA, Britain, Southern Ireland and the Church.
Advocates a ‘civic unionism’ which acknowledges both the Britishness and Irishness of Northern Ireland. To quote from the Preface it ‘accommodates questions of cultural identity, liberal emphases on the entitlements of individuals and a substantive understanding of politics in which the practice of dialogue is central’.
Standard and frequently cited work by an American political scientist based in Britain. Charts the origins and development of the divided community in Northern Ireland since the foundation of the state, and considers the problems of governance it gives rise to. Includes a discussion of the civil rights movement. Sees no immediately practicable solution to the problem and draws a comparison with the race problems in the United States. The analysis is supported by data from an extensive social survey of public opinion and informal discussions with people active in Northern Ireland politics.
Analysis of the causes of conflict in Northern Ireland, dealing mainly with the period from partition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, though with a brief survey of the longer historical background. Pays greater attention than the majority of accounts to economic and class factors.
Detached assessment of the evidence. Concludes that while discrimination against Catholics in this period certainly existed, it was more marked in some policy areas than others – more marked in electoral practices (especially at local government level), public employment and policing, generally less so in private employment, public housing and regional policy. But he notes that geographically, also, there were marked differences, with discrimination being more widespread in the west, which had a higher Catholic population.
Reviews the principal interpretations of the causes of conflict in Northern Ireland, including various Nationalist, Unionist and Marxist accounts, and proposed solutions. Concludes that both the traditional nationalist and traditional unionist interpretations had lost their popularity over the previous 20 years to be replaced by one prioritizing internal causes. Points also to the serious disagreements among Marxist commentators but acknowledges the major contribution a number of them, including McCann, Farrell, Bew, Gibbon and Patterson, have made to the literature, Suggests a new paradigm may be needed which, among other things, would take account of the contrast between different parts of Northern Ireland where areas only a few miles apart can differ enormously ‘in religious mix, in economic circumstances, in the level of violence, in political attitudes.’