The Hiatus (Part 3 of 5)
The North established their own parliament at Stormont in June 1921 and any sense of this arrangement being temporary quickly faded. Over a million Protestants ruled over 400,000 Catholics, as they had intended. Thanks to a long industrial development of Belfast and the Laggan Valley, they were blessed with a balanced budget. As well as in Stormont, Protestants dominated the best jobs in the civil service, the professionals and industry, with active and open discrimination against Catholics. Many left, some to Britain and the USA; most to Eire.
Meantime, unrest continued—not in the North, but in Eire, where nationalist factions had fallen out over policies even before independence happened. There was effectively a civil war that did not die down until the summer of 1922. Left with mostly an agrarian economy, Eire did not prosper and balancing budgets, let aloe growing the economy, was difficult. Those in power resented both Britain and the more prosperous North. Those Protestants in the 26 counties tended to remain, as many had professional jobs or secure employment, so their exodus was much smaller than that on the North. However, little sympathy with the difficulties of those Republicans left in the North was weak, as was any aid provided to them. Understandably, they felt abandoned. In asserting its sense of identity Eire gave prominence to both the Catholic Church ad the Irish language. Though the latter made little headway outside its heartlands, the church dominated Irish life and gave further misgivings in the North about any sense f common culture or identity.
At first, this mutual enmity made little difference to trade or traffic across the new border. There was little geographic sense to this border, deriving as it did from counties set up I the 17th ©. It snaked 224 miles across farmland, along roads, round hills and, being crossed by over 200 roads and tracks, made little sense. Efforts to simplify it by shifting settlements foundered on increasing hostility between Stormont and the Dail and increasing British disinterest in the issue. The spat was not helped by the Dail’s refusal to accept partition and to claim, in their constitution, sovereignty over the whole island.
Goods from the more developed North flooded into the South triggering a tariff war, which further undermined relations and made control of the border an urgent issue to regulate trade. This led to smuggling of everything from cattle to cigarettes, further undermining the still-struggling Irish economy. Matters were not helped when Eire stayed neutral during the Second World War, despite Churchill pressuring for use of former naval bases at Cork and Queenstown. As a precaution, conscription was never introduced in Ulster and the 36th Division based there never left the province.
Post-war relations continued poor as Eire chose to leave the Commonwealth and become the Republic of Ireland in 1948, without consulting the British. And with the post-war decline of industrial Britain social pressures in places like Clydeside or Liverpool fractured the already divided society in Ulster even further. As Catholics became restless at their financial and social repression, Protestant reaction to contain this added fuel to what became the conflagration of The Troubles. The two communities went to war with each other and the British Army, sent in the pacify things, merely became a third and alien faction, a target for both sides, neither trained, nor equipped to deal with what was a guerrilla war. Atrocities were commonplace and neither side came out of it looking good. When it flickered out in the seventies, nothing much had been resolved.
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