Republicans/Nationalists would see themselves as Irish because they are normally anti-British and typical followers of the Catholic faith. They generally hope for a united Ireland and no longer a British connection, being the six counties in the north belonging to Britain. Unionists/Loyalists want to be identified as British as they want to keep the link with the Empire mainly because of loyalty towards the Queen. They are known for their strong tradition of Protestant followers.
The SDLP and Sinn Fein would be the leading Nationalist/Republican parties. Sinn Fein would be the main Republican group led by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. The SDLP would be a more Nationalist party with major MP’s such as John Hume and Seamus Mallon but the outright leader would be Mark Durkan. The SDLP would stick to democratically, more peaceful methods. They would be willing to set talks with opposing parties and would definitely support decommissioning from the IRA. On the other hand Sinn Fein, although being a political party, have connections with the IRA, INLA and other paramilitary groups. E.g. Martin Mc Guinness now a leader of Sinn Fein did admit to once being apart of the IRA. These paramilitaries are responsible for the cause of most attacks against the Loyalist/Unionist community since the beginning of the troubles. Peace in Northern Ireland would seem far clearer if the IRA would agree to decommission but that has seemed difficult in the past. They have recently planned an agreed cease-fire but the real RIRA are still refusing. We also have to remember that there have been cease-fires in past years but none have been permanent. All these groups within the Republican/Nationalist communities, although together opposed towards most Loyalists/Unionists, disagree with certain things because of their different views E.g. SDLP not happy with Sinn Fein links with the IRA.
The main Unionist parties would be the Ulster Unionist Party, with David Trimble being their main leader, and the Democratic Unionist Party led by Ian Paisley. The UUP are not totally agreeable with Republican/Nationalist parties, but have taken part in peace talks. One member in their party stands out though; David Trimble is totally committed to peace and will almost go to every length to end the disagreements between the Unionists and Nationalists. The DUP are a far more hard-line party, as they were the only leading party that did not take part in the Good Friday Agreement talks. They seem to be very against agreement talks with opposing parties and that can include the UUP. The DUP are suspicious of any Dublin movement including Taoiseach Berty Ahern and they believe that Sinn Fein and the IRA are the one party alone. Because Nationalists, and even the UUP, hold different views the DUP wish to totally ignore them.
The prominent Unionist paramilitaries are the UDA, UDF and the UFF. These would be the loyalist equivalent of the IRA, INLA and the RIRA. These groups have caused the majority of the attacks against the catholic community in the last 30 years. Paramilitaries are one of the main causes of these inner disagreements among the Nationalists/ Republicans, and the Loyalists/Unionists. It is also the paramilitaries who are responsible for all the weaponry being shipped into this small country, and that leads to the controversial issue of decommissioning. The IRA have possessed illegal arm for years now and are showing no signs of weakness. They feel it is alright to have them because they don’t use them and supposedly because of years from discrimination at the hands of Unionists they think they might need them. Most paramilitaries normally find something from the opposition to target. Loyalist paramilitaries like to target GAA games, traditional catholic sports, and like to burn the pavilions belonging to GAA clubs sometimes for example. The Republican paramilitaries tend to abuse the police force. They are known to attack police barracks and army bases.
Marching is another main factor of controversy between the two communities. The Orange Order who wants to walk down the Garvaghy Road, a Nationalist area, is being resisted by their opposition because this is simply provocation. they don’t want them marching because there is no need and eventually violence will occur. The same thing is happening on the other hand as the Ancient Order of Hibernians wishes to stage parades but Loyalists don’t want this happening for the same reasons. Worse still, children who attend the Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast, a Catholic school, are being stirred and intimidated by grown men and women as they walk down a Unionist based road to school everyday. In result these children are left terrorised and frightened. Such acts as these show no sign of peace or fellowship and they split up communities instead of bringing them closer together.
Even sports and flags are a big cause of sectarianism now. Loyalists would generally support Glasgow Rangers from Scotland and Linfield from the North. Whereas Republicans like to support Glasgow Celtic and Cliftonville. These clubs are of course rivals when coming to play each other and get very large crowds. Sometimes the aftermath of the match can get very rowdy and fights can break out. It really brings disgrace to the game. Also Flags now are a big factor in identification. For example in Ballymena some of the main streets there are unsafe to go down wearing a Celtic jersey when the streets are completely dressed in Union Jack flags. In Catholic areas such as Cliftonville the same situation occurs. Even what paper you buy in the shop, e.g. The Irish News and The Newsletter, can signal who you are and where you come from, it seems crazy.
In conclusion I believe that the troubles are not based on Religious views, what a lot of people seem to think although initially it may have been. Actually some people now who say they follow paramilitaries don’t even care about their religion, it is just what they have been taught. Certainly it is now based on political problems because if there were no political parties and differences there would be no fighting.