How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (2023)

For 30 years Northern Ireland was marked by a period of deadly sectarian violence known as 'The Troubles'. This explosive era was plagued by car bombings, riots and revenge killings from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. The riots were sparked by centuries of conflict between predominantly Catholic Ireland and predominantly Protestant England. In the late 1960s, tensions erupted into violence, with some 3,600 dead and more than 30,000 injured.

Stresses leading to problems

How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (1)

The origins of the riots can be traced back to centuries of warfare as the predominantly Catholic people of Ireland tried to free themselves from British (predominantly Protestant) rule. In 1921, the Irish successfully fought for independence and Ireland was divided into two countries: the Irish Free State, which was almost entirely Catholic, and the smaller Northern Ireland, which was largely Protestant with a Catholic minority. .

While Ireland was completely independent,Northern Ireland remained under British rule, and Catholic communities in cities like Belfast and Derry (legally called Londonderry) complained of discrimination and unfair treatment by the Protestant-controlled government and police forces. Over time, two opposing forces in Northern Ireland largely merged along sectarian lines: Catholic "nationalists" versus Protestant "loyalists".

KEEP READING: How Northern Ireland became part of the United Kingdom

A 1960s civil rights movement inspired by the United States

In the 1960s, a new generation of politically and socially conscious young Catholic nationalists began in Northern Ireland, after thecivil rights movementin the United States as a model to end what they considered outrageous anti-Catholic discrimination in their homeland.

"There was systematic discrimination in housing and work," says James Smyth, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Notre Dame who grew up in Belfast. “Belfast's biggest employer was the shipyard, but it was 95 per cent Protestant workers. In the city of Derry, which had a two-thirds Catholic majority, the constituencies had been so badly rigged that it was politically controlled by [Protestant] loyalists for 50 years."

Young nationalist leaders like John Hume, Austin Currie, and Bernadette Devlin refused to accept the status quo. They saw what was happening in the United States and how peaceful mass protests had drawn attention to the plight of black Americans living below.demarcationyJim Crow.

"They took a cue from the American civil rights movement in that one of the songs sung in Northern Ireland was 'We Shall Overcome,'" says Smyth, who edited a 2017 book titledTrouble Reminder: Dispute the Recent Past in Northern Ireland.

(Video) What were The Troubles? | Northern Ireland spotlight

1968: Police crack down on protesters in Derry

How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (2)

A protest march was planned along Duke Street in Derry on October 5, 1968. Nationalist activists wanted to draw attention to discriminatory housing policies that led to de facto religious and sectarian segregation.

The march was banned by the Northern Ireland government, but protesters defied the order, demonstrating on 5 October with banners reading "One man, one vote!". and "Smash sectarianism!"

The crowd started to move but a cordon of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) policemen blocked them with batons. The police attacked the protesters while blocking their retreat. Television cameras captured disturbing images of RUC officers beating protesters with batons and causing chaos in the streets.

"On October 5, 1968, the riots started," Smyth argues, "and those television images stuck in people's memories."

1969: Violence on Burntollet Bridge

The police crackdown on October 5, 1968 increased tensions between Catholic nationalists and Protestant loyalists and set the stage for more violent clashes.

On New Year's Day 1969, nationalist activists destroyed a siteMartin Luther King is historicalMarch on Selmaand organized a march from Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, to Derry, "the capital of injustice", as Bernadette DevlinI callit's. The route took them through known loyalist strongholds where the threat of violence was palpable.

The RUC provided police escort for the nationalist marchers during the multi-day march until they reached Burntollet Bridge on the outskirts of Derry. In this point,protesters remember, the policemen put on their helmets and shields as if they expected trouble. At that point, a loyalist mob began throwing rocks at the protesters.

Scroll to Next

(Video) Feature History - The Troubles (1/2)

recommended for you

(Video) Northern Ireland and The Troubles
How Americans Celebrated the Holidays During World War II

The attackers, estimated at 300 loyalists, broke through the bridge with clubs and iron bars. Some of them wore the white armbands of the B-Specials, an auxiliary police unit of the RUC. As bloodied protesters fled to the frozen river for cover, RUC officers stepped aside and did nothing to protect them, says Smyth.

The Burntollet Bridge ambush was eerily similar to the events of March 7, 1965, when peaceful protesters from Selma crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were met by several white-helmeted Alabama State Troopers armed with tear gas, batons, and whips. they were brutally repelled.

KEEP READING:Irish Republican Army: The Troubles, The Attacks, The Hunger Strike

1969: Battle of the Bogside

How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (6)

Some historians trace the true beginning of the riots to the events of August 1969, when a parade of loyalists in Derry sparked three days of riots and violent reprisals.

Throughout Northern Ireland, Smyth says, loyalist groups regularly organized parades to commemorate Protestant military victories dating back to the 17th century. In Derry, the local branch was known as the Apprentice Boys and they planned a patriotic parade of loyalists for August 12 that passed right through a predominantly Catholic area called the Bogside.

(Video) Millions Could Again Face The Troubles If Northern Ireland Protocol Is Scrapped

The Bogsiders viewed the Apprentice Boys parade as a direct provocation and prepared for a violent confrontation, barricading the streets and preparing Molotov cocktails. Unsurprisingly, Nationalist Bogsiders clashed with the parading apprentices, and RUC officials rushed to quell the riot. They met stiff resistance from the Bogsiders, who hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The "Battle of the Bogside", as it is known, lasted for three days, but some of the worst damage was done in Belfast, where loyalist mobs, backed by B-Specials, stormed Catholic neighborhoods and burned 1,500 houses.

On August 14, the overwhelmed Prime Minister of Northern Ireland called on the British government to send troops to restore order. It was the start of a decade-long operation by the British Army in Northern Ireland.

"Basically the whole state of Northern Ireland collapsed in three or four days," says Smyth. "They couldn't keep order, so the British had to intervene."

"Bloody Sunday" and 30 years of sectarian violence

How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (7)

British troops were initially welcomed by Catholic nationalists as possible protectors, but the military soon adopted a controversial policy of "Internment without trial', resulting in hundreds of suspected IRA members being arrested and imprisoned without due process.

On January 30, 1972, Catholic nationalists organized a protest march in Derry against the British internment policy, but called in the military to end it. When the protesters failed to disperse, the troops opened fire with rubber bullets and then fired live ammunition. Thirteen protesters died in a tragedy known as "Bloody Sunday.“

"It's amazing that more people haven't died," said Smyth, who was among the protesters in Derry that day.

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Northern Ireland suffered dozens of car bombings and sectarian attacks by paramilitary groups from both sides, such asIRA provisionaland the Ulster Volunteer Force. Hundreds of civilians were among the dead.

(Video) Northern Ireland: The Troubles 50 years on

The unrest ended, officially at least, with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which created a framework for sharing political power and ended decades of violence.

How the troubles started in Northern Ireland (8)


How did the troubles in Northern Ireland start? ›

The Troubles arose from longstanding grievances between Catholics and Protestants who held deeply opposing views on Northern Ireland's relationship with Great Britain. A short distance and a long-shared history bound the two nations together, laying the foundation for the conflict.

When did the troubles in Northern Ireland start and what was it? ›

What were the Irish troubles simplified? ›

The Troubles is a term used to describe a period of conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years, from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. However the origins of the Troubles can be traced back hundreds of years.

How was the Irish troubles fought? ›

Marked by street fighting, sensational bombings, sniper attacks, roadblocks, and internment without trial, the confrontation had the characteristics of a civil war, notwithstanding its textbook categorization as a “low-intensity conflict.” Some 3,600 people were killed and more than 30,000 more were wounded before a ...

What caused the Troubles to start? ›

The conflict began during a campaign by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to end discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist government and local authorities.

Why did Northern Ireland and Ireland split? ›

The territory that became Northern Ireland, within the Irish province of Ulster, had a Protestant and Unionist majority who wanted to maintain ties to Britain. This was largely due to 17th-century British colonisation.

What was IRA fighting for? ›

The IRA aimed to keep Northern Ireland unstable, which would frustrate the British objective of installing a power sharing government as a solution to the Troubles.

Do Northern Irish consider themselves Irish? ›

In 2021: 42.8% identified as British, alone or with other national identities. 33.3% identified as Irish, alone or with other national identities. 31.5% identified as Northern Irish, alone or with other national identities.

What was the conflict between England and Ireland? ›

Since England first invaded the country more than eight centuries ago, Ireland has suffered from war, religious conflict, and political division, and the encounter between the English and the Irish has also left a profound legacy on Irish culture and even in the landscape itself.

What was the root cause of the Troubles in Ireland? ›

The origins of the Troubles date back to centuries of warfare in which the predominantly Catholic people of Ireland attempted to break free of British (overwhelmingly Protestant) rule.

What was the main cause of the Irish war? ›

It began because of the 1916 Easter Rising. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) men fought the British soldiers because they wanted Ireland to be its own country and wanted Britain to move its army out of Ireland.

Why did England invade Ireland? ›

In 1171, Henry II decided to invade Ireland with a big army to invoke the Laudabiliter, a bull passed some years ago to invade Ireland for church-reform reasons. He decided to do so after papal commissioners headed his way to issue a condemnation for Becket's murder.

Who was responsible for the Troubles in Ireland? ›

One organization, concludes Kennedy, the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, and their active and passive supporters in the national community rise to the top as mainly responsible for keeping the conflict going for three decades.

Why did Ireland want independence? ›

Resistance to British rule in Ireland had existed for hundreds of years. Irish nationalists, the majority of them Catholic, resisted this rule in a number of peaceful or violent ways up until the start of the First World War. Irish nationalists wanted Ireland to be independent from British control.

Did the Irish want to fight in the Civil War? ›

More than 150,000 Irishmen, most of whom were recent immigrants and many of whom were not yet U.S. citizens, joined the Union Army during the Civil War. Some joined out of loyalty to their new home. Others hoped that such a conspicuous display of patriotism might put a stop to anti-Irish discrimination.

Who was to blame for the Troubles? ›

Set an agenda for future historians who might write about contemporary Ireland, North and South. The conclusion is that the IRA is primarily responsible for the Troubles - they killed more people than all the other participants put together (including Covid 19!)

What was the turning point in the Troubles? ›

The Falls Curfew was a turning point in the Troubles. It is seen as having turned many Catholics/Irish nationalists against the British Army and having boosted support for the IRA.

What were the main events of the Troubles? ›

Key Events of the Northern Ireland Conflict
  • Civil Rights Campaign (1964 to 1972)
  • Derry March (5 October 1968);
  • People's Democracy March (1 January 1969 to 4 January 1969);
  • Deployment of British Troops (14 August 1969 to 31 July 2007);
  • Internment (1971 to 1975)
  • 'Bloody Sunday' (30 January 1972);
Jan 17, 2022

Is Dublin Catholic or Protestant? ›

Ireland is split between the Republic of Ireland (predominantly Catholic) and Northern Ireland (predominantly Protestant).

Is Ireland Protestant or Catholic? ›

Religion. Ireland has two main religious groups. The majority of Irish are Roman Catholic, and a smaller number are Protestant (mostly Anglicans and Presbyterians). However, there is a majority of Protestants in the northern province of Ulster.

How long did Britain rule Ireland? ›

We lived as part of the English, and then British, Empire for over 700 years. The Normans first conquered Ireland in 1169 and aside from a brief decade of independence during the 1640s Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system, until 1922 and the foundation of modern state.

Who did the IRA want independence from? ›

The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army launched the Easter Rising against British rule in 1916, when an Irish Republic was proclaimed. Thereafter they became known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

What did the IRA in Ireland want? ›

The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA (OIRA; Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann) was an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a "workers' republic" encompassing all of Ireland.

Did the IRA target civilians? ›

Generally it may be said that the IRA armed struggle was directed against military targets, although it did produce numerous civilian casualties. And there were periods in its existence when it did target civilians on the grounds of their religious affiliation.

What ethnicity is closest to Irish? ›

If you're Irish , you could have any of these other groups in your DNA:
  • Post-Ice Age Explorers.
  • Bell-Beaker-Culture Peoples.
  • Gaels/Celts (German)
  • Roman (Italian)
  • Vikings (Norwegian/Germanic)
  • French.
  • English.
Dec 18, 2020

Is Belfast British or Irish? ›

Nationality and citizenship

Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

Is Belfast Protestant or Catholic? ›

As you can see, west Belfast is mainly Catholic, in most areas over 90%. For many years, the Catholic population expanded to the southwest, but in recent years it has started expanding around the Shankill and into north Belfast. The east of the city is predominantly Protestant, typically 90% or more.

Who ruled Ireland before the British? ›

The Norse reigned supreme in Ireland until 1014, when the famed high king Brian Boru defeated a Viking force at the Battle of Clontarf.

How did Ireland suffer due to British dominance? ›

Suppression of catholic revolts by the English and forcible incorporation of Ireland took place in 1801. c. As English nation grew in power and influence it tried to suppress Ireland's distinctive culture and also forced them to speak English language.

What was the conflict between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland? ›

Catholics mainly identified as pro-Irish and nationalist; they wanted Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland. Protestants largely called themselves pro-British and unionist; they vehemently opposed leaving the United Kingdom. These disagreements erupted into terrorism.

What was the conflict between Catholic and Protestant? ›

Warfare intensified after the Catholic Church began the Counter-Reformation against the growth of Protestantism in 1545. The conflicts culminated in the Thirty Years' War, which devastated Germany and killed one third of its population, a mortality rate twice that of World War I.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol in simple terms? ›

The NI Protocol

The protocol aims to: avoid a hard border between NI and the ROI. make sure of the integrity of the EU's single market for goods. facilitate unfettered access for NI goods to the GB market, and the inclusion of NI goods in free trade agreements between the UK and third countries.

Is Ireland free from British rule? ›

The Irish state came into being in 1919 as the 32 county Irish Republic. In 1922, having seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it became the Irish Free State.

What is a short summary of the Irish Civil War? ›

The Irish Civil War (Irish: Cogadh Cathartha na hÉireann; 28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923) was a conflict that followed the Irish War of Independence and accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State, an entity independent from the United Kingdom but within the British Empire.

When did Ireland gain independence from England? ›

In 1922, after the Irish War of Independence most of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom to become the independent Irish Free State but under the Anglo-Irish Treaty the six northeastern counties, known as Northern Ireland, remained within the United Kingdom, creating the partition of Ireland.

Who lived in Ireland before the Celts? ›

They are the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”) – mystical fairy-like people who supposedly inhabited Ireland prior to the arrival of the Celts (the Milesians).

What did Ireland used to be called? ›

Hibernia, in ancient geography, one of the names by which Ireland was known to Greek and Roman writers. Other names were Ierne, Iouernia and (H)iberio. All these are adaptations of a stem from which Erin and Eire are also derived.

What part of Ireland is under British rule? ›

Initially formed as a Dominion called the Irish Free State in 1922, the Republic of Ireland became a fully independent republic following the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act in 1949. Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom as a constituent country.

Who ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland? ›

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), or Belfast Agreement (Irish: Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta or Comhaontú Bhéal Feirste; Ulster-Scots: Guid Friday Greeance or Bilfawst Greeance), is a pair of agreements signed on 10 April 1998 that ended most of the violence of the Troubles, a political conflict in Northern Ireland that ...

Who helped the Protestant of Ireland? ›

The English helped the Protestants of Ireland to impose their dominance over a largely Catholics country. Catholics revolts against British dominance were suppressed.

What percentage of Northern Ireland is Catholic? ›

Religions broken down by place of birth in the 2011 census.
Place of birthCatholicProtestant and other Christian
Northern Ireland88.7%92.9%
4 more rows

Why did Ireland move to America? ›

Between 1845 and 1855 more than 1.5 million adults and children left Ireland to seek refuge in America. Most were desperately poor, and many were suffering from starvation and disease. They left because disease had devastated Ireland's potato crops, leaving millions without food.

How many Irish were killed by the British? ›

One modern estimate estimated that at least 200,000 were killed out of a population of allegedly 2 million.

Why is Northern Ireland not part of Great Britain? ›

Northern Ireland has been a member of the United Kingdom since 1922, however, the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state. When the Irish Free State (later renamed Ireland, 1937) became a free state in 1922, Northern Ireland exercised its right to stay within the UK. In 1949, Ireland declared itself as a Republic.

Did any Irish fight for the Confederacy? ›

It is estimated that 20,000 Irish soldiers fought for the Confederate Army and 160,000 fought in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Why did some Irish fight for the Confederacy? ›

About 20,000 Irishmen would serve in the Confederate armed forces. Rhetoric and images comparing the South's struggle with the North to that of Ireland with Great Britain were powerful motivators for joining up, more so than defense of slavery or the dire economic need of steady work in tough economic times.

How many Irish men died in the American Civil War? ›

An estimated 20% or 23,600 of the Union navy were Irish-born. We don't yet have comparable figures for the smaller Confederate navy. The total number of the Irishmen who died in this conflict has been estimated at 30,000.

Are the IRA still active? ›

This new entity was named the New IRA (NIRA) by the media but members continue to identify themselves as simply "the Irish Republican Army". Small pockets of the Real IRA that did not merge with the New IRA continue to have a presence in the Republic of Ireland, particularly in Cork and to a lesser extent in Dublin.

How did the IRA start? ›

The original Irish Republican Army (1919–1922), often now referred to as the "old IRA", was raised in 1917 from members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army later reinforced by Irishmen formerly in the British Army in World War I, who returned to Ireland to fight against Britain in the Irish War of ...

Is it safe to go to Northern Ireland? ›

Northern Ireland is extremely safe for tourists to visit. In fact, it has one of the lowest crime rates among industrialised countries. According to statistics from the U.N. International Crime Victimisation Survey, Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe.

Is the IRA Protestant or Catholic? ›

This led to violence with the involvement of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on the Catholic side and the Ulster Defence Force (UDF) on the Protestant side.

Does Northern Ireland want to leave the UK? ›

In a referendum in June 2016, England and Wales voted to leave the European Union. The majority of those voting in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, however, voted for the UK to remain.

What was the IRA main goal? ›

The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA (OIRA; Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann) was an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a "workers' republic" encompassing all of Ireland.

Why are the Irish called Fenians? ›

The name originated with the Fianna of Irish mythology—groups of legendary warrior-bands associated with Fionn mac Cumhail. Mythological tales of the Fianna became known as the Fenian Cycle.


1. How The Troubles Began In Northern Ireland
(Ger Kelly)
2. The Northern Irish troubles | British Army | Northern Ireland | This Week| 1972
3. The Troubles and the Agreement Generation - BBC News NI
(BBC News NI)
4. The Landscape of War with Don McCullin & Muhammed Muheisen
5. The Troubles | Northern Ireland | The British Army | This week | 1969
6. Northern Ireland's Invisible Border (Part 1/2)
(VICE News)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 10/30/2023

Views: 5730

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.