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The Northern Ireland conflict appears to be flaring up again. The matter seems all too clear: Catholic Irish versus Protestant English. That's how it is at the very end - but also much more complicated. The backgrounds.

Can there actually be such a thing as "peace walls"? The gates of the so-called Peace Walls of Belfast are still closed in the evening to separate Catholic and Protestant problem areas. And there are still the martial paintings on private houses, which glorify the supposed martyrs of the civil war and their weapons in bright colors.

Since the so-called Good Friday Agreement of Belfast a good 20 years ago, peace has finally reigned in Northern Ireland. But there was not peace for everyone. In some, the hatred from then lives on; and in light of the latest images of rioting by angry Protestant loyalists and young rioters, there is reason to fear that Britain's exit from the EU will endanger the fragile social reconciliation - and that the upheavals of yesteryear could re-open.

Long series of conflicts

The Northern Ireland issue is the most politically sensitive aspect of Brexit. The cause of the conflict goes back a long time. Since the beginning of the 17th century, Protestant English and Scots settled in the province of Ulster in north-east Ireland; In 1801 Ireland came completely under English rule.

The 20th century was characterized by resistance and partisan war: Easter Rising in 1916, civil war, from 1948 an independent Republic of Ireland - with the north-east remaining under English trustees as part of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

Bloody conflicts since the 1966

The Irish Republic has always insisted on the North being surrendered - in the rural and poorer regions of which the Catholic Irish were in the majority. In the cities, the building policy of the Protestants ensured that Catholics could not get any political majorities in their constituencies.

The conflict has turned bloody since 1966, when Protestant militants were assassinated and incited Catholic resentment against official discrimination. In October 1968, Catholic civil rights activists took to the streets for the first time and were beaten by the police. The anger spread.

Riots and street battles

Violent clashes broke out again in August 1969 when Protestants stormed the Catholic neighborhood of Bogside on the outskirts of Derry. Northern Ireland police - the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) - failed to bring the situation under control for three days. Then the British Army violently put down the uprising.

As a result, there were riots and street battles across Northern Ireland. Eight people were shot dead and more than 130 others injured. Protestant loyalists set fire to homes in Republican Catholic areas. Violence by the radical Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) was met with counter-violence and retaliation.

"Bloody Sunday"

The British Army, summoned to calm the situation, lost its initial neutrality and became a party itself. The term "Troubles" was born. After "Bloody Sunday", when 13 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by English paratroopers in Derry in January 1972, the situation escalated further. London took control and disempowered the Northern Irish Parliament.

Northern Irish on both sides felt that their respective home fronts did not support them enough. Militias radicalized and split; Spy systems were established. The situation became completely confusing.

Thousands of dead

Around 3,500 people died in the Northern Ireland conflict, around half of them civilians. It was only a small minority that advocated and pursued armed struggle. But the division in society was facilitated by the strictly denominational school system on which the respective church leaders had insisted.

To this day there are neighborhoods in Belfast in which almost exclusively Catholics or Protestants live. It was not until the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, sealed by Ireland, Great Britain and the most important Northern Irish conflict parties, that the liberation succeeded.

The conflict exists

Dublin swore to reunite Ireland. In return, London agreed to involve the Republican party Sinn Fein more in the administration of Northern Ireland and to reform the police. The conflict continues to smolder today.

The Catholic population has grown continuously over the past few decades. It is estimated that Catholics could soon become the majority again in Northern Ireland. There are setbacks, irreconcilable attitudes, difficult government formations, and in isolated cases even bomb explosions. But at least until Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was able to guarantee peace.