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The country of Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kingdom, was created in 1920 under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act. The country shares a border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland. Its capital is Belfast.

In 1921, when Northern Ireland was established, Ireland was partitioned between Northern and Southern Ireland as a result of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The south is now called the Republic of Ireland, while the north is called Northern Ireland.

Ireland was one of England's first colonies, and almost from the beginning, the Irish rebelled against England, who they saw as their oppressors.

By the late 1960s, the violence was frequent and obvious. This long-term conflict lasted for almost 30 years and was commonly called "The Troubles." Literally thousands of people on both sides of the conflict were killed by bullets or bombs, and an estimated 50,00 people were physically maimed or injured. And who can measure how many psychological damage, like PTSD?

In 1968, British troops were sent to Northern Ireland in order to protect the republicans, but before long, they were fighting the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary group created to fight for a united Ireland as well as other guerrilla and paramilitary groups.

There were two main sides to the conflicts which defined Northern Ireland for decades:

Republicans or nationalists, most of whom were Catholic, believed that Northern Ireland should join a united and independent Ireland.

Unionists or loyalists, who were overwhelmingly Protestant, believed that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom.

The autonomous Northern Ireland is comprised of six of the nine counties in Ulster, and the breakdown is four counties with unionist majorities (Antrim, Armagh, Down, and Londonderry) and two counties with small Irish republican majorities (Fermanagh and Tyrone).

Operation Demetrius, a British army operation on August 9 and 10 of 1971, involved the arrest and mass internment of 342 people who were suspected of involvement with the Irish Republican Army. Armed British soldiers launched awn raids all over Northern Ireland, causing four days of violence in which 20 civilians, two IRA members, and two British soldiers were killed. All of the people arrested were Irish nationalists. While all this was going on, more than 7,000 people either fled or were forced out of their homes. The policy of internment continued until December of 1975. During those years, 1,981 people were interned. Of those, 1,874 were nationalist and 107 were loyalist. The first loyalist detainees were not interned until February of 1973.

On Sunday morning, January 30, 1972, several thousand people congregated in Londonderry for a civil rights march, specifically protesting internment. Concerned about such a large crowd, the British army sealed off the original route. March organizers led the demonstrators led the march toward Free Derry Corner, where they intended to hold the rally. But some of the people split off from the march and the rerouted route and began to throw rocks at British soldiers who were manning the barriers. The soldiers fired rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the unruly crowd. According to onlookers, the rioting was not intense.

A few people in the crowd noticed some paratroopers hiding in an empty building, and they began to throw rocks at the windows. At 3:55 pm, the paratroopers opened fire on the crowd. When it was all said and done, 26 people were shot by the paratroopers. Thirteen died that day, and another one died four months later of his injuries. Six of the dead were 17 years old. The oldest, John Johnston, was 59 years old. He was shot while on the way to visit a friend.

In response to Bloody Sunday, the British suspended the parliament in Northern Ireland and imposed direct rule from London.

In 1998, after nearly 30 years of violence, the Good Friday Agreement, also called the Belfast Agreement, was signed and was greeted by much of the world with hope. The agreement is considered to have been the end of the Troubles, though violence continues sporadically.







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