Making Connections to the History of Ireland

Before visiting Ireland, it is important to read up on its history. Before coming to Dublin, I was not aware of the political tensions between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In my Irish Culture and Society class, we have learned so much about the lasting effects of the Troubles and how it influences Irish people to this day. 

Tensions rose between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Troubles lasted nearly 30 years. In the end, almost 3,500 people died. Northern Ireland’s existence began in 1920 and was apart of the United Kingdom. People were divided by nationality and religion; Protestants being primarily loyalists and Catholics being nationalists. Northern Ireland was a place of tension and division. Unionists and Nationalists were separated. The Irish Republican Party (IRA) was created to fight against the British rule in Northern Ireland and unite the entirety of Ireland. In Derry on January 30th of 1972 British troops killed 14 civilians who were protesting peacefully. This came to be called Bloody Sunday. This enraged not only the people of Ireland, but the entire world. 

Many Irish Republican Army members were taken as prisoners of war by the British Army. These prisoners of war in Belfast decided to protest in the form of a hunger strike. The first hunger strike, lasting for 53 days, started in 1981 and was started by 7 people. Prisoners were tortured and force fed food. Some prisoners refused to wash themselves, and even went to drastic lengths by smearing their feces over their cell walls.

The Good Friday Agreement (or also referred to as the Belfast Agreement) was a peace agreement between the Irish and British government and the political parties in Northern Ireland on April 10th of 1998. Prisoners were released and Northern Ireland was established to still be apart of the United Kingdom. For a class trip, we traveled to Belfast to visit memorials of the Troubles.

Peace Wall in Belfast

Learning about the Troubles in Ireland took me back to learning about my own country’s (Bangladesh) version of the Troubles that occurred at the same time. Pakistan was once called West Pakistan, and controlled the region of East Pakistan (what is known as Bangladesh today). West Pakistan discriminated East Pakistan in terms of ethnicity, economics, and power. In 1970, Pakistan was in turmoil due to the turmoil from the ongoing election at the time for Prime Minister. A candidate from East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was gaining many votes from all of the East Pakistan population, which angered West Pakistan. Rahman was imprisoned by West Pakistan which angered the people of East Pakistan. Thus, the people of East Pakistan decided to protest the way West Pakistan treated them and revolted by starring the Bangladesh Liberation War. Though the war only lasted less than a year (March 26, 1971 – December 16, 1971), the Liberation War has the reputation for being one of the goriest battles in history. In the end, 3 million people were killed, including many family members of mine. 

Both Bangladesh and The Republic of Ireland are still feeling the lasting effect of these wars. Bengalis are still looked down upon by Pakistanis and Irish Catholics are still physically separated from Protestant British people by a ‘peace’ wall. It amazed me to read about the similarities that Irish people went through compared to Bengali people. It shows how many countries go through similar phases in the process of actually becoming a country.