History of Ireland
Catholicism
Northern Ireland

What was the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland?

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Wiki User
01/07/2014

The original conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland was not truly a matter of religion -- it was a matter of social class.

Put quite briefly, the majority of the population in Ireland, post 1000 A. D., was Catholic. They never underwent the church reform that England did in the 1500s. Thus, by the 1600s, England = Anglican (Protestant), and Ireland = Catholic.

When England began to establish plantations in Ireland and establish themselves as the ruling class, they often did it in a relatively unpleasant and domineering fashion, making themselves unpopular with their new subjects in the manner of America and India.

Hostility arouse between Catholics and Protestants in this way not because the religions themselves bore marked differences, but because these denominations were attached to two very different classes. Intermarriages were frowned upon, not for spiritual reasons, but because the Protestant was marrying below their class.

This hostility between the denominations continued into the present for many of the same reasons. Protestantism represents the continued presence of England in Northern Irish affairs, while Catholicism bears the stigma of being the religion of the poor, the rebels, and the socialists intent on a free Ireland.

I hope this helps answer your question. Tim Pat Coogan has published some very good books on the subject, and many books on the IRA give good, concise histories of earlier conflicts before the IRA.

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Maggie, your answer is more or less correct. However, there is another aspect. British colonial activity in Ireland isn't to be condemned simply because it was executed in such a harsh and murderous manner. It is to be condemned because colonialism is always wrong.

With regard to the harsh nature of the occupation here, the British government used religious difference as a political tool over and over again since inventing it shortly after the 1798 United Irish revolution. It has been used by both sides, to their mutual disgrace.

For those who don't know, the United Irishmen aimed to unite Protestants, Catholics, and Dissenters in a single military force aimed to drive the British out of Ireland. (Not such an unrealistic idea - the population of each country was very similar). This scared the daylights out of the British, who relied on Ireland to feed the less agriculturally productive Britain. They knew that it was only a series of lucky incidents for them, and unlucky ones for the revolutionaries that allowed the British to hold on here. Therefore they had to find a way to divide and conquer. Throughout history, religion has worked nicely in this role. So yet again it was brought into play. One of the first markers of this was the founding of the Orange Order, an organisation dedicated to remembering William of Orange, a King of England of Dutch origin in the early 1700s. A fairly large scale war was fought between William and his rival for the throne - James throughout England, but mostly in Ireland. In reality, this war had little to do with Irish nationalists, as these were two foreigners fighting over what amounted to the throne of England and influence in Europe. Catholics and Protestants fought for both.

After the United Irishmen revolution over 100 years after the Williamite wars, the British founded the Orange Order on the pretext that the Williamite war was fought exclusively by Protestants on one side, and Catholics on the other. It has all sorts of overtones of racial and ethnic bigotry associated with it. In any case, the Orange Order, and related organisations led and nurtured the Protestant Hatred of catholics.

On the other side, the Catholic Church has always been the enemy of popular freedom movements throughout the world. In point of fact, most revolutionaries in Ireland were excommunicated by the church for their activities. It is only after we achieved independence that the church found a sense of nationalism, that had heretofore been undiscovered! Catholicism had been brutally suppressed in Ireland - catholics couldn't own properties, trade in certain circumstances, were subject to tithes to support the established church - (The Church of Ireland - an Anglican church), amongst other repressions. Eventually it was allowed back in. That time of repression allied to the propoganda of the catholic church fomented a misunderstanding of protestantism, and consequently helped to form a deep and abiding bigotry amongst some of the Irish Nationalist catholic populations. I'm sure there's more stupidity involved here too.

In any case, both sides played into the British governments hands. It is easy to divide and conquer when there is already religious tension. This religious card was played over and over again by successive British governments to establish majorities at critical time in mainland British politics. It led to an institutionalised religious intolerance. Over time it has created a society in Northern Ireland that is unbelievably absurd. It is probably the most mollycoddled of places in the world. There is government funding galore, straight out of London, and increasingly Dublin. The political leaders have a world status unimaginably far in excess of what you'd expect when you look at the actual population and territorial limits. One can drive from one end of Northern Ireland to the other in at most a couple of hours. The entire population of Northern Ireland is a good deal less than that of Manchester in England. We don't see the Mayor of Manchester getting broadcast all over the world, and behaving like a spoied child.

The church my girlfriend's family attends gets vandalised from time to time by catholic kids from the council estate nearby. As a person who grew up in a catholic family, it always astonishes me when catholics assume that Protestants are unionist, or perhaps even Orange Order members. I'd go so far as to say that the most prominent of Irish nationalist and revolutionary heroes were protestant. The person who first flew the tricolour was protestant, the leaders of the United Irishmen were protestant, many of the 1916 revolutionaries were protestant.

Needless to say, the whole thing is stupid, stupid, stupid.

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What do you mean by colonialism in proper? Ireland was a part of the realm after the Union of Kingdoms (1603)? And part of the British state by the Act of Union? Do you imply British imperialism with colonialism?

And a counterfactual question: If reformation has succeeded, wouldn't have been an Irish question?

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living here in northern Ireland the simple answer is that most protestant are proud to be british and wish to remain so . the majority of the roman catholics want a united Ireland some have used force to try and achieve this whilst the protestants have used force to oppose this . hope this is of some help to you all

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PAULAall the answer is really, that prodestants wanted to take over Ireland, and Ireland wanted to be free and they went about this in a number of ways leading to some sad in murderous ways to get what they wanted. and this shaped many different views!

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Plenty of good answers here. It's complex and simple at the same time. All in all, it's the british ace in the hole. Find differances, exploit them, and fuel the fire. Divide and conquer. Draw attention away from themselves and rule through their puppet. In the colony of N.Ireland their puppet was fanatical Relgious Scots who gave up their independance. Their reward was land in Ireland, military protection, the privilage of swearing alligiance to a foreign queen, loss of the true Scotish Identity (a very Proud and distinctly different one from that of britons), and of course, they could also call themselves british. What a treat. We can see this same technque "the relgious confict card" as I will label it. In other places the british did'NT accidently find themselves. In India, after they had robbed that country blind via a network of hired mercernaries, all of course directed and assisted by the british. They used the tatic as an exit stradegy. So, they rallied to the cause of fundamentalist religious fervor and divided the people of India. Hinduism was the dominant religion, some though were Muslim. They expoited the difference by carving out of India and new country...Pakistan. Complete with a divided and now disputed capital of Kasmir. Same ploy as in Ireland but for a slightly differant reason, was it employed. They, the british were overstreatched (like the Romans once found themselves)and the natives of either religion found common ground (Freedom). The difference though was that they left India. They were able to steal enough ( apperently enough to satisfy even the Devil) that they actually left. Ireland though, is too close to home. It was the first colony outside their home island. Plus their is a deep rooted racism against the Irish in british history and culture. They just can't accept the spirt of freedom in other people. People outside their own violent and racist sense of nationalism. Finally, The question should be "What IS the conflict. Not "what WAS the conflict", as there still IS the british colony of N.Ireland. Pherhaps altogether the best question should be..."What role is the british government resposible for in the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland?"

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The reason why the British continue to remain in Northern Ireland is to protect the majority that wish to remain a part of Great Britain. The IRA are a band of communists that do not give one iota for democracy nor the rights of the individual; the Irish included. What they aim for is a socialist republic along the lines of the former Soviet Union. This is evident in everything they say and do and they arn't fooling anyone. Yes, Great Britain was a colonial power and their model of government is the basis of Western democracy; including the United States. What we have seen in the last 5 hundred years is an improvement in the standard of living and wealth anywhere the British model of government has been established. Where it met resistance was from peoples like the IRA who didn't give a tinker's hoot about their own populations but attempted to maintain their own little fiefdoms "by any means necessary". Why was Great Britain a colonial power? The short answer is they had to. The old eastern trade routes were cut off by the Islamic empires and every European power had to find new sources of trade. Couple this with the fact that Great Britain itself was the most invaded country in history and you can imagine the attitude that might develop over the ages. Great Britain has nothing to apologize for. Are they perfect? Certainly not. But at least they had the stones to go out and stake their claim - which is more than I can say about the Irish. It should be duly noted that with all their bleating about how bad the British have been and that colonialism is so horrid, the Irish represent the largest demographic in North America and they seem to have exploited the very land that they claim shouldn't have been invaded - very well indeed. Maybe if Ireland actually pried its head out of its behind it may see that the British have been instrumental in the moving forward of mankind. How would you like to join instead of crying like a baby.

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Wow !!! ... The last answer was racism and apologetics all wrapped up in the union jack like a big fish supper swimming in vinegar !!! A living testament to the definition of ignorance and (not very) subtle hate. Firstly, the author goes straight to the question of majority. The problem though, is that he failed to clarify what his idea of majority is... To this person, the majority of Irish people only pertains to the majority of 6 out of 32 counties which constitute Ireland ... Ireland being the island where Irish come from, thus making anyone born there "Irish". So, the Irish majority, in a democracy, would have to include the majority of counties that constitute Ireland and the Irish. These would be the 26 counties in the south. They actually constitute a majority that is not counted by the author above or the british government. The reason being that: if the majority of Irish were given the democratic right of Irish people to determine their own fate - they would most likely vote for complete independence from the savages that have murdered and stolen so much from them - just like many of the other victims of british colonial terrorism have chosen. Ireland was divided by the british under threat of an "immediate and terrible war" in order to cause a civil war between the Irish - a tactic they have perfected in many other countries. The reason they chose the area known as "Northern Ireland" is because they had a concentration of people loyal to them. People whose ancestors were enticed by the british to settle there in order to upset the majority of native Irish people. They were given free land and money by the british with the strict provision that they would not rent land to the native Irish in the area. Nor were they to hire native Irish to work for them. Thus, creating an artificial pro-british majority in that area. The area that was centuries later to become N.Ireland under threat of an "immediate and terrible war"... On top of all of that - N.Ireland house of government was considered (using the words from a statue in front of the building which housed the british "law " makers)... A Protestant parliament for a Protestant people". The above author failed to remember this glaringly obvious fact. I would hope he just didn't know any better. But I feel that he is unable to understand what a democracy is. Unlike the author above, I feel that it is not possible to have a democracy in a colony. Imagine if here in America the senate in New Yorkd declared the senate to be a "White Parliament for a White people"!!! Would Democracy be possible then? Well, according to the author above, we would have to say... Yes! Then,like a script being read we're subject to some conspiracy theories of communism to distract the reader. Imagine that... The communist union in Russia were not socialists. If you consider the definition of socialism. They were a military dictatorship. A workers union, is one form of actual socialism. The people who labor, control themselves. Through a democratic system of electing people to represent them for a short period of time. Until the next democratic election of representatives is chosen. Repeating that process, over and over again. The first thing communist Russia did was to dismantle these unions that began to form. During the time Russia was going through a civil war. Which the communist force won. Once the communists won - all elements of socialism were brutally dismantled. The only connection to socialism, by definition, is that they lied to their people and convinced them that they were a socialist gov., in name, and were there to serve them. That they should unite together under the communist dictators. In socialsm there is no room for a military dictatorship due to the fact that the people determine their own fate through constant elections and democracy. To ensure the wealth created by the workers. is equally and fairly distributed. ... Back to the people who created the wealth. The author's only credible argument is that the now defunct "Official I.R.A." considered themselves communist. He fails to mention the fact that the "P.I.R.A." split from the "Officials" because of the officials identification towards communism. His failure to mention this can be described as " selective amnesia ". ... Then we begin to get into the most deplorable part of the exhortation ... That Britain had to go around the world to murder, rape and steal from every country imaginable, just because they "had to". As is so eloquently explained under this form of idealogy. One could even use it to argue that the " son of sam killer" simply had no choice because the neighbor's dog's told him to do it. He "had to" kill people. What choice did he have ??? He had to !!! We also learn that Britain "was the most invaded country in history" (Vietnam ?) though we are not given the slightest example of evidence - which is a serious problem. Mainly, because the author above probably includes colonies invaded and held by "great Britain"... Colonies kept through brutal terrorism. Thus, in this senario, any victim of "great Britain" could be considered an enemy. Who is an "invader" ??? Despite the fact that they are the natives, when they take up arms to protect their homeland from british colonial terrorism, in their own land, which the british consider to be a part of "great Britain." Despite the feeling of unity with "great Britain" ... the non-british people in their country who found themselves imprisoned in a artificial entity called "great Britain". The author then informs us as to the attitude that they ,(the british) " might develop over the ages." This is true. People that are serial criminals and murderers develop,over a period of time, an attitude towards their victims... A very twisted and sadistic attitude in which they have nothing "to apologise for"... As the above author clearly informs us. Then we are told that the british "atleast had the stones to go out and stake their claim." Which claim is this ? Is it the gold rush ? Is it the claim to inventing a game that you regularly and embarrassingly get defeated at ? ... Is it the claim to having a large body and a small head ? Is it an insurance claim for your dimwit girlfriends lost camera in the English colony of Ibiza ???... Or is it for the salty tears that now run down your face for the loss of your capital city to all of the people that you have taken the piss out of for so long ??? Why don't you just go and invade the Wembley pitch when it's ready ... in the meantime .... ha ha !!

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The British government has used religion to divide Ireland for centuries. They have brutishly executed Irish rebels. While I am on that point they have also wiped out the Scottish Highlanders who oppossed British rule. They have nealy destroyed the Gealic languages of Scotland and Ireland. The Ulster plantations effectivly cut off the Scottish geal from his Irish brother. The Scottish Presbiterian population of Ulster are now bitter enemies with the Irish Catholics. They are separated not by RELIGION, but by a identity of being truly BRITISH or IRISH! The hatred will only end if there is a sense of unity between the two. anyway, we are both from the same gealic clan! We are the same people!