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CultureShock! Ireland by Patricia Levy

By Patricia Levy

Publication by way of Levy, Patricia

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The speechmaker for the US president expressed the mood in more flowery language when Clinton declared that “after a 30-year winter of sectarian violence, Northern Ireland has the OVERVIEW OF LAND AND HISTORY 41 This memorial marks the place where in 1972, 13 Catholic demostrators were killed during a violent exchange with British soldiers. Another demostrator died later from injuries sustained on what has become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. 42 CULTURESHOCK! ” There were still unresolved problems, including the decommissioning of weapons held by the IRA and the triumphalist Protestant marches through Catholic neighbourhoods, but these were finally ironed out in further lengthy talks in 1999, and there is general agreement that the prospects for peace in Northern Ireland are now firmly secured.

Gradually the number of Catholics owning land fell until by 1778, only 5 per cent of land was Catholic owned. It is debatable whether the very real economic supremacy enjoyed by Protestants, while undoubtedly detrimental to Catholic men of property, made the life of Irish peasants much poorer or deprived than it would have been under Catholic landlords. But the ‘mythologising’ and at times masochistic gloss that is given to Irish history has encouraged a simplistic picture to be drawn of the poor Catholic peasant downtrodden by the nasty Protestants.

Most large towns and all the cities had Catholic chapels, small primitive structures but nonetheless there for all to see. It remained in the interests of the Protestant minority to keep the peasants as Catholics, otherwise what ground could they have for keeping them in a state of poverty? Indeed, nonconformist Protestant groups got no kinder treatment from the established Protestant ruling classes than did the Catholics. It was less a question of religious belief and more an economic and class issue.

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