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The Irish Republican Army, also known as the IRA, is a parliamentary and nationalist organization that opposes the connection of Northern Ireland to Great Britain. The IRA is also dedicated to the creation of a single unified Irish state. The name IRA derived from the veterans of the Easter Battles of 1916. The battle was fought for support of Irish independence. Accordingly the IRA became the political division of the Sinn Fein party. The political leaders of Britain and Ireland, negotiated a treaty that incorporated 26 of Ireland’s counties as the Irish Free State. The remainder of Ireland, remained part of the United Kingdom.
The Irish Republican Army began to decline after Eamon de Valera became a prime minister and took over the Irish government. The IRA and the Irish state were in constant conflict, during the 1930s and 1940s. The IRA started to concentrate on Northern Ireland in the 1950s. The IRA tried to gain favor from Northern Ireland, but failed.
In 1969 the IRA started new radical social reforms in Northern Ireland, and the British government couldn’t overcome them after a dozen years. This crisis also allowed the IRA to make a drastic comeback. The Irish Republican Army was split into two groups. The officials, which promoted a Socialist Ireland by democratic means, and provisionals, that promoted terrorism. In 1972 the Provisional IRA’s terrorist tactics led to the downfall of the Northern Ireland government. From 1972 to 1994 the Provisional IRA maintained their campaign on terminating British victims in Northern Ireland and Britain.
On August 31, 1994, the Irish Republican Army announced a cease-fire. This would affect the 25-year-old battle against British domination of Northern Ireland. This cease-fire came about from several years of confidential meetings between the IRA and the British government. This arrangement for peace is called the “Downing Street Declaration.”
The controversy between Northern Ireland and Britain began with Roman Catholic objections against favoritism by the protestant majority in the country. British troops were sent into Northern Ireland to patrol the country. They still remained there in 1994. The Catholic minority wanted a reunion with the Republic of Ireland, which was mainly Catholic. The Protestants of Northern Ireland resisted the reunification. The IRA gave no amount of time for the duration of the cease fire, nor did they surrender their weapons. There were two earlier cease-fires in 1972 and 1975, but they failed to last.
Nationalists, supporters of the Irish Republican Army and others have grown tired of the Northern Ireland conflict, and celebrated the announcement of the cease-fire. The IRA has commanded its units to obey a complete halt of military actions. In the first public meeting between Gerry Adams (the leader of Sinn Fein), Albert Reynolds (the Irish Republic’s prime minister), and John Hume (the leader of Northern Ireland’s Catholic nationalist), the British government was not pleased with the stating of the cease-fire. The British government was warily optimistic about the conference. A political scandal led to the collapse of the Irish government in Dublin. Throughout the years, Dublin acted as a halfway house between the Irish, British and American governments. The prime minister Albert Reynolds was replaced by John Bruton.
A terrorist, loyalist and Protestant militia called the Ulster Defense Association shot and killed a Catholic man. The loyalists work with the sympathetic Protestant officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This proved that the IRA was not the only forceful group in the Northern Ireland crisis. The Protestant militia soon after the killing called a cease-fire. This group was responsible for more deaths than the IRA, in the two years before the cease-fire was called.
Ian Paisley, a leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, protested that the IRA must surrender their arms before any contact between the IRA and the British government can proceed. Paisley also continued to disapprove the idea of representatives of Sinn Fein to take part in all the meetings dealing with the future of Northern Ireland.
Gerry Adams and Britain negotiate over the matter of IRA disarmament. Adams argued that weapons of the British army and the Northern Irish police can be incorporated in the talks. The British government agreed to Adams request only if the cease-fire was for real. The Ulster Unionist Party claimed that Britain was bought, and they refused to attend a meeting if the IRA retained their arms. Sinn Fein and British ministers held a public meeting in Belfast about how to start the peace talks. Unionists criticized the meeting. IRA announced that if Britain would not agree to all party meetings then IRA would return to violence. British representatives then blamed Sinn Fein of using scare tactics to get their way in the peace talks.
On July 12, 1995 or “King Billy’s Day” Protestant protesters and police fought over the right to march in the Catholic area of Portadown. This day indicates the anniversary of Protestant King William of Orange, who crushed the Catholic King James and certified English control of Ireland.
Before the first anniversary of the cease-fire, Gerry Adams and Patrick Mayhew, Northern Prime Minister met. The progress concerning the peace talks was at a stalemate. Britain and the unionists wanted the IRA to disarm before any talks began. The IRA believed that to be surrendering, and would only consider disarmament after1 all-party talks. Adams believed that the peace settlement was “doomed to collapse” if there was no agreement on the matter of allowing arms and all party talks.
A Former Unites States Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, was to direct a panel that would come up with ways to compromise with the IRA on disarmament matters. The unionists opposed Mitchell, and believed that he was an Irish Catholic. Mitchell sent reports on disarmament to British and Irish governments. The compromise was that disarmament would be during the all party talks instead of being before or after them. John Mayor, British Prime Minister, instead proposed an elected assembly in Northern Ireland. This infuriates Sinn Fein and the Irish government in Dublin. Mitchell warned Britain that the IRA will split if an all-party talk is not announced.
The Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, called for negotiations to restart the peace progress, and also warned Britain of the IRA’s return to violence. Spring was ridiculed by the unionists. Thousands of people marched through Dublin two weeks later. They called for peace and the restoration of the truce. After the cease-fire ended, two people died and more than one hundred people were injured. The cease-fire ended after 17 months and nine days.
Anglo-Irish peace talks, chaired by Mitchell, reconvened in Belfast in September 1996. Sinn Fein was excluded from the peace talks, until they renew its cease-fire. The IRA waited for the conclusion of Britain’s general elections before contemplating on the renewal the cease-fire.
After Tony Blair replaced John Mayor as Prime Minister in Britain, he approved for a talk between Britain and Sinn Fein, but the IRA still would not gain entry into all-party peace talks until renewing the cease-fire. The IRA announces a new cease-fire on July 19, 1997. This was welcomed by the British and Irish leaders, but the Unionists rallied against it. They claimed it to be another phony truce. The cease-fire ended the stalemate over disarming the IRA and the violent Protestant rivals. The pact would have the IRA disarm during the all-party talk. The unionists feared that the IRA would never give up their weapons and voted against it. Blair claimed that he would treat Sinn Fein like the other parties only if the cease-fire holds.
Early in the New Year, the Ulster Democratic Party was charged in the killings by Northern Ireland’s police for the spark of revengeful killings. The Ulster Democratic Party was readmitted after serving its suspension on the same day the IRA was suspended. The IRA was accused to be linked with killings. The Irish and British Prime Ministers went on with the peace negotiations.
The political leaders of Britain and Ireland agreed to a peace agreement that would end violence. It gave the Catholic minority more privileges in the north, and it confirmed that the Protestants would not be dominated by the Catholic south. It addressed the largest reform in Ireland’s political structures since it was split in 1921. The result of the arrangement took place on June 25, 1998. This also created a Northern Ireland Assembly, a council for the North and the South.
The people of Ireland voted in support of the Good Friday peace agreements, that assured adjustment in the way Northern Ireland will be governed. Majority of both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic voted yes. To test the peace agreement the “Real IRA” planted a bomb, which killed 29 peoples and injured hundreds. The “Real IRA” apologized for the attack and announced a truce of its own. More killings continued within the Protestant and Catholic communities, and this raised the concern that the violence would continue despite the peace process.
The Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 reached an accord for an all-party cabinet. This gave way for the new system of government. The plan was put forth by David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, and his deputy from the Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party, Seamus Mallon. The plan was approved by a vote, but it was almost ruined by Protestant deputies who wanted the IRA to start decommissioning its large weapon stashes before the Assembly undertook power.
On April 1, 1999, Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, and Bertie Ahern, Irish Prime Minister, predicted they would find a solution to the Protestant-Catholic Administration for Northern Ireland. Ahern and Blair tried to convince the other parties to agree on a “national day of reconciliation.” This would start the means of disarmament for the IRA and other British gangs. David Trimble would not get his party to support Sinn Fein until they would disarm. Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein chairman, claimed that the agreement does not require the IRA to disarm. McLaughlin also stated that negotiations on disarmament could be brought about if Sinn Fein politicians could have power in the new government. After four nights of negotiations at the all-party peace talks in Belfast no solution was found, and Tony Blair called for a break.
The Anglo-Irish summit was reconvened on April 14, 1999. The political leaders of Irish and British governments tried to break the deadlock over the issue of disarmament. There was no proof that pointed to an early progress between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists conflict. The issue of disarmament was the biggest conflict since the Good Friday agreement.
At Belfast on May 3, 1999, the Irish and British governments, led by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, again tried to negotiate a new plan to end the stalemate. The plan would organization a transitional executive made up of ministers from all parties, and it would have six-month limit for settlement on the issue of disarmament. The proposal also stated that the Sinn Fein party would have until May 2000 to disarm, and all arms have to be shed before entering the executive. Though the cease-fires are maintaining, there are occasional cases of violence from the rivals of the Good Friday agreement.
Also on May 3, 1999, Bertie Ahern denied information that the Irish and the British were contemplating on a plan to form a new executive. The IRA has dismissed the pleas to disarm by comparing disarmament to degrading surrender.
Years of negotiating and devising new plans to solve the Northern Ireland crisis has failed to be solved. After solving the problem of the cease-fire, the problem of disarmament still consists. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have not yet found a solution for the issue of disarmament. The Irish Republican Army believes disarmament to be surrender and the Ulster Unionists believes disarmament to be a scare tactic. Therefore, giving each other no choice but to disagree and stagnate.
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