Introduction - Looking Back from the Millennium

Today we can turn on our televisions or pick up a newspaper to follow the latest developments, or shortfalls and stumbling blocks, in the peace process in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. We have grown up with reports of retaliatory sectarian violence in the cities of Northern Ireland and IRA terrorist bombing campaigns in mainland Britain, images of armed British soldiers patrolling the streets, the marching season, the slogans and emblems symbolising the sectarian divide that adorn the walls of Belfast and Londonderry, or the devastation and murder caused by atrocities, at home and in the Province.

Many of us will have accessed Irish attitudes to the long and arguably disruptive English presence in Ireland through the writings of prominent literary figures such as George Bernard Shaw or W.B. Yeats perhaps. It is the intention of this study guide to provide a brief insight into the long and bloody history of this situation, to go towards an explanation of why the current peace process is so complex and ridden with so many difficulties.

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