Understanding the Troubles
Mural Marking Unionist Territory in East Belfast
(Photo credit: Keith Ruffles via Wikimedia Commons)
Spend just a few hours walking around Belfast, and you'll see some striking murals
painted all over the walls of the town. Many commemorate fallen neighbors, battles, or
black-masked militias pointing submachine guns out at the viewer. Even without any
knowledge of the history of Nor-thern Ireland, there's no mistaking the message: this city
was once a battleground, and the scars of communal conflict are still pain-fully visible.
The violence in Northern Ireland (known as “The Troubles”) had its early stages in the
beginnings of the Irish War of Independence, starting around 1914. When English-speak-
ing Protestants realized that their Irish-speaking Catholic neighbors were planning to rise
up against the British government, they formed counter-militias to oppose the revolution.
With the end of the war in 1920, the island was split into an independent Republic of Ire-
land and a country of Northern Ireland that would remain part of the U.K.
Naturally, this outcome was condemned by Nationalists in the north, who had struggled to
create a unified republic in their homeland and were now going to be separated from their