Ireland. According to Countryaah.com, Ireland Independence Day is April 24. The Iraq crisis created tensions between the government and the opposition. In March, all opposition parties demanded that all service to the U.S. military at Shannon Airport in Western Ireland be terminated if the United States attacks Iraq militarily. However, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern highlighted that there were no plans to revoke the US landing rights. Earlier in the same month, a demonstration against a possible war had gathered up to 90,000 participants in Dublin.
In the spring, attention was focused on the drinking habits of the Irish. Consumption per person was estimated to have increased by 50% between 1989 and 2001. The negative effects of alcohol were reported to cost the country over € 2 billion a year.
During the year, despite protests, the government decided to impose a smoking ban on pubs from January 25, 2004.
The government’s opinion figures fell during the year, and in November, just over a quarter of voters thought the government did a good job. For Ahern himself, the corresponding figure was 41%. Broken election promises when it comes to health and health, but also concerns about rising inflation and increased unemployment were largely behind the dissatisfaction.
A study of how the Catholic Church had handled sexual abuse against children committed by priests or others within the Church was presented in December. In connection with this, the church formally apologized. From the beginning of the 1990s until 2003, at least 100 people connected to the Catholic Church in Ireland had been convicted of mistreating children.
The Catholic Church faced repeated accusations of priests’ sexual abuse of minors. In Dublin, the archbishop publicly acknowledged having the church’s resources available for a priest to pay compensation for his sacrifice. At the same time, the Supreme Court allowed doctors to inform women about abortion clinics abroad. In a referendum, the Irish, with 50% versus 49%, approved a constitutional amendment that gave married couples the right to divorce after a 4-year separation period.
Prime Minister Bruton established an excellent relationship with British Prime Minister John Major and also had good contacts with Northern Irish Republicans John Hume and Gerry Adams. Prince Charles’ visit to the Republic in the middle of the year emphasized the need for closer relations between Ireland and Britain. The opposition was limited to peaceful demonstrations. US President Bill Clinton’s visit to Ireland at the end of the year helped put pressure on Irish politicians to find a solution to the armed conflict.
At the June 1996 negotiations in Belfast, Bruton supported the British decision to exclude Sinn Fein from the negotiating table only, as both governments agreed that the IRA’s policy did not contribute to peaceful development. In February, the armed organization had suspended its ceasefire, which had been in force since August 1994, and had carried out a major attack in London that had cost 2 lives and many wounded.
Ireland’s economy was in a positive development this year. Consumption increased and a number of new jobs were created. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate remained high at 12.25%. However, cattle operation was negatively affected by the outbreak of infectious madness, which led to a decline in meat exports to Russia and the Middle East.
In April 1997, the IRA announced a series of bomb attacks against roads, train stations and airports in the United Kingdom. It paralyzed transport in the country in the middle of the election campaign. Sinn Fein requested the IRA to implement a new ceasefire, and this came into force in July. In September peace negotiations could therefore be resumed, and this time with Sinn Fein’s participation.
The June 1997 parliamentary elections were won by Fianna Fail – led by Bertie Ahern – who got 77 out of 166 seats. It was followed by Fine Gael with 54. The Labor Party gained 17. Even with the 4 members of the progressive Democrats, it was therefore not possible to form a center-left coalition. Sinn Fein got 1 place in one of the country’s northern counties. On June 26, Ahern was thus appointed prime minister.
In September, President Mary Robinson handed over her post to a Presidential Commission until the election of her successor, and on November 11, Mary McAleese of Fianna Fail assumed the post. 4 of the 5 candidates in the election were women. In the same year, economic development was positive and inflation reached 1% – the lowest in the EU.
At the end of the year, the abortion debate flared up once again after a court granted a minor the right to travel to the United Kingdom to have an abortion after being raped.
After hard negotiations, on April 10, 1998, Catholic separatists and Protestant unionists in Northern Ireland reached an agreement on peace in the province. The agreement involved the eight political parties in the province and both London, Dublin and Washington had been involved in the negotiations. Acc. the agreement should have limited autonomy for the province to establish a legislative parliament and bodies for cooperation between the north and the south. The plan also envisaged the disarmament of the paramilitary organizations whose political parties had participated in the negotiations as well as the gradual release of the political prisoners.
The majority of political forces – including Sinn Fein – expressed their views in favor of the agreement. The deal cleared a major hurdle when Protestant Unionist leader David Trimble succeeded in getting his party, Ulster’s Unionist Party, to accept the agreement. Only 2 extremist Protestant parties opposed the deal: Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party and Robert McCartney’s Britain’s Unionist Party.