Northern Ireland

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Describe the Disadvantages faced by Catholics in Northern Ireland in the mid-1960s

Northern Ireland in the mid-1960s was a divided society. The Protestants and Catholics were segregated. Examples of this segregation are in education where Protestant children went to Protestant schools and Catholic children went to Catholic schools. Through this segregated schooling religious divisions between Protestants and Catholics were passed from one generation to the other. Housing was another example of segregation. Protestants lived near other Protestants and Catholics lived near other Catholics. Employment was also segregated. Many businesses and industries employed only Protestant or Catholics, for example the Bushmills whiskey distillery in County Antrim employed nearly all Protestants.

Catholics were disadvantaged by being treated unfairly in employment, Catholics always suspected anti-Catholic prejudice. Harland and Wolf shipyard in Belfast employed 10,000 workers, the biggest source of employment in the city, just 400 were Catholic. Fermanagh County Council employed 370 people, 322 jobs including the top ones were filled by Protestants. In Fermanagh there were 75 schools bus drivers and only 7 of them were Catholic. The total population of Fermanagh was more than half Catholic. In sport there was also segregation, for example at Linfield FC, a football club in Northern Ireland. If a Linfield scout saw a good player, he would ask him which school he goes to. If it was saint something then he now kicked with the wrong foot. This means that if he was a good player but was Catholic he would have no chance of being selected by a scout.

The unfair treatment of Catholics was maintained through vote-fixing by the Protestants to keep political power. Londonderry town council elections were organised so 2 of the 3 wards had a majority of Protestants (North Ward and Waterside Ward). This meant the North Ward would have 8 Unionist/ Protestant councillors. The Waterside Ward would have 4 Unionist/Protestant councillors. The third (south ward) had a vast majority of Catholics. This meant that South Ward would have 8 Nationalist/Catholic councillors. This altogether meant that Londonderry would have 12 Protestant councillors and 8 Catholic councillors. The Protestants would therefore keep political power. This organisation of the Londonderry election was known as gerrymandering which means the voting was fixed/rigged to guarantee Protestant Control. Even though Northern was part of Britain it was given a lot of power to rule itself. This meant that to a large extent it had its own government which was located at Stormont, near Belfast. Because of this Northern Ireland’s government was simply known as Stormont.

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The disadvantages faced by Northern Ireland’s Catholics in the 1960s were rooted in the nature of the 1921 partition which was drawn carefully to cut out those parts of Ulster which had large numbers of Catholics. This meant that Catholics were a minority in a majority Protestant state. This was done to maintain Protestant power and control.

How did the protestant politicians explain the social, economic, and political differences between Catholics and Protestants?

Captain Terence O’Neill was Northern Ireland’s prime minister from 1963 to 1969. He believed that Catholics should be equal partners in Northern Ireland. O’Neill ...

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