Case Study: Northern Ireland

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Case Study: Northern Ireland

Case Study: Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland

The four options for settling the decades-old civil war in Northern Ireland (Ulster) are

· (1)reunification of Ulster with Ireland,

· (2)independence from Britain,

· (3)devolution (home rule), or

· (4)integration with Britain.

Before a 1994 cease-fire, the provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks in an effort to force the British from Northern Ireland and made bold attempts to assassinate both Thatcher and Major. By the time of the cease-fire, some three thousand people had been killed on both sides—Catholic and Protestant.

In January 2013, news of loyalist youths “fighting street battles with police on an almost nightly basis over the last six weeks” shattered any illusions about an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Scottish Independence

Scotland’s independence vote was one of the biggest stories in 2014. Polls indicated that it would be a close vote. Money poured in; celebrities weighed in; the world looked in; the suspense mounted. When the results were announced on the morning after the September election, British loyalists had reason to rejoice: Scotland had voted to stay in.

“English Votes on English Laws”

On the morning after the Scottish independence vote, the Economist stated that David Cameron had “triggered a new constitutional crisis.” Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, he pointed out, have their own assemblies, but England continues to be run from Westminster (Parliament), where they all have representation and can vote on all bills, including ones that only affect England. This, he said, has to change. One proposal is for a double majority system in Parliament whereby measures solely affecting England would have to be passed by a majority of the whole House of Commons and a majority of English MPs.

The European Union

The United Kingdom joined the European Union (EU) in 1973. However, its policy toward the EU has been characterized by continuing ambivalence. In the 1990s, when adoption of the euro went into effect, British popular opinion was strongly against a common currency, and London opted out. In the minds of most British voters, the euro crisis has vindicated the UK’s decision not to join the euro zone.


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