A Conversation for A Brief History of Northern Ireland

Good Summary

Post 1


I like this article. Concise but factual and covering the main points I think. Without intending to start a major political row, isn't it a bit misleading to say the Easter Rising of 1916 was started by the "Catholic Majority" rather than by the "Nationalist Majority"?

Good Summary

Post 2

Demon Drawer

Well I suppose that was one slip I made in getting the article through the Sub too quickly as this was the final additional footnote.

Good Summary

Post 3

Max Conrad

The use of "Catholic" in place of "Nationalist" is a very minor point. Incidentally, "Nationalist" is generally used to refer to the main political party in Ireland at the time, while "nationalist" refers to all nationalists, even non-catholic ones [very rare after 1840's but the Home Government Association was founded in 1870 by disgruntled Anglicans, who were a bit miffed because the C of I had just been disestablished].

It is misleading to say that the Civil Rights Association campaigned to end discrimination against Catholics in housing and voting rights: it had a fairly wide agenda until it turned into a puppet of the Provisional IRA (without the NICRA leadership being aware of this).

The only genuine complaint that nationalists had about voting was that the LOCAL GOVERNMENT electoral rolls were maintained on the same basis as they had been in England and Wales until around 1948. [Northern Ireland is the most backward part of the UK, in most respects, so why should elections be any different.]

The result was that a section of Society, mostly those who lived in private-sector, rented accomodation, could not vote in council elections. In around 1970, when the Local Government Register of Electors was brought into line with the Parliamentary Register, analysis of the additions showed that around 59% of the "new" local government electors were unionist and election results were not hugely different post-1970, compared with pre-1970.

Reform did allow smaller parties to emerge and, at one time, the Alliance Party had around 15% of the vote.

It is utterly illogical to suggest, as so many historians have done, that the main aim of Unionist governments at Stormont was to stop Nationalists doing well in elections. Fewer Nationalists would have made the unionist electorate more complacent and less likely to vote Unionist and, more importantly, unionist voters were not- in a million years- going to be tempted to vote for the Nationalist Party but some moderate unionists might, in the right circumstances, have voted for "Labour" or independent candidates. Therefore, when the STV was replaced with FPTP in 1928, James Craig (NI's Prime Minister) had a secret meeting with the Nationalist leader, in which they agreed the (gerrymandered) boundaries of the new constituencies, so that Nationalists and Unionists would squeeze out any other candidates. THat is basically what happened, although rising prosperity induced skilled workers and middle-class unionists to vote for the Northern Ireland Labour Party (no relation to its British namesake) in the 1950's and 1960's.

As for housing, the myth that Catholics were denied housing on a Northern-Ireland-wide basis was demolished by the work of Richard Rose, an American sociologist, who carried out extensive research in the period 1964- 68. In fact, even allowing for lower average incomes, Catholics were significantly OVER represented in the allocation of public housing.

The well-known disputes in Derry arose because the Londonderry Corporation wouldn't allow nationalists to live a the "mixed" North Ward of the city and sent them all to the nationlist South Ward, in an attempt to retain control of the city. Their behaviour cannot be excused but it didn't mean that Catholics were denied council houses, merely that they were denied council houses in a particular part of the city.

In the way that they have run Derry since the 1970's, nationalists haven't exactly proved unionists wrong and most unionists have fled to the Waterside or further afield.

The celebrated case in Caledon, near Dungannon, supposedly involved a Catholic family, whose house had been given to a sinlge Protestant woman. In actual fact, it had been allocated to a family, which had been intimidated out of the Republic of Ireland but this wasn't immediately apparent to people with tabloid minds.

Recent surveys have shown that Protestants live in much older houses(and often in poor conditions, by today's standards) than Catholics. Fifty percent of Northern Ireland's housing stock was built after 1970 adn most of that is in the public sector, where a sizeable majority of tenants are Catholic.

It just goes to show that nothing is ever black and white. In Northern Ireland, both sides are contemptible but nationalists have always had effective propaganda machines, whereas unionists are slightly dim-witted.

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