Civil Rights in Northern Ireland Coursework Essay

1. Study Source A. What can you learn from Source A about the disadvantages faced by Catholics in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s?

Through studying Source A, I can learn that Catholics living in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s faced many disadvantages. They clearly suffered huge discrimination in the area of employment.

The Catholic Population in Belfast was about 30% at this time. Source A shows that only 4% of those employed at the Belfast shipyard, the main source of employment in the area, were Catholic. Although there are many factors to take into consideration, this source uses factual evidence to suggest that discrimination was taking place towards Catholics within the region of employment in Belfast.

This sort of discrimination against Catholics did not only happen in urban areas, it was also apparent in rural places, such as Fermanagh. Source A says that only 13% of those on Fermanagh County Council were Catholic, indicating that discrimination was taking place not only in private companies but that it had also become institutionalised at the level of local governments. The prejudice against Catholics is even clearer in this example as Fermanagh had a Catholic majority, showing that they suffered even in areas that were predominantly Catholic.

Source A also shows that Protestants appear to be favoured over Catholics regarding more appealing jobs, such as school bus drivers, where only 9% in Fermanagh were Catholic. This represents the extent to which Catholics were disadvantaged. From Source A I can infer that due to the employment discrimination they suffered, Catholics faced many disadvantages in Northern Ireland.

2. Study Sources A, B and C. How far does the evidence of Sources A, B and C suggest that there was anti-Catholic prejudice in Northern Ireland?

Sources A, B and C all concur with each other to suggest that there was an extremely high level of anti-Catholic prejudice in Northern Ireland.

Source A, written in 1961, shows evidence of employment discrimination in urban and rural areas; like Belfast and Fermanagh, within private and public organisations; like Belfast Shipyard and the local Education Authority, and concerning the most desirable jobs, for example school bus drivers. Source B, showing wage and employment figures favouring Protestants, demonstrates such a high level of agreement with Source A that I can infer anti-Catholic prejudice was taking place at a national level.

Source B is a report based on the 1971 census, making it a highly reliable source. The reports confirms what Source A leads us to believe, with Protestants being favoured over Catholics in the employment sector; ‘unemployment is experienced at a much higher level by Roman Catholics than by Protestants.’ The source also indicates that those Catholics in employment received generally lower wages, and women suffered even further discrimination. Ten years passed between these two sources, but it appears anti-Catholic prejudice has only got worse.

Source C shows a high level of agreement with sources A and B by using figures of workers in businesses in Northern Ireland to show that there were many more Protestants in employment and that they seemed to be favoured over Catholics in the majority of companies. This suggests discrimination against Catholics, though it is not as reliable as the other sources. In Source C the exact geographic locations of the businesses are not clear; they could be in Protestant areas which would explain the employment figures. The ‘magazine’ for which the article is written for is not defined either. It could be a magazine in favour of a particular political party or religion, using distorted figures to work to its advantage.

Despite the possible unreliability of Source C, the evidence in these sources of discrimination in employment directed at Catholics is strong enough to suggest that there was a very high level of anti-Catholic prejudice in Northern Ireland.

3. Study Sources D and E. How useful are these sources in helping to assess the extent of discrimination against Catholics?

Sources D and E are very useful as their dates show the troubles in Northern Ireland have been taking place for at least 25 years. Indicating the extent of discrimination towards Catholics through a large span of time. This also shows that the Civil Rights Movement has had little effect on reducing the discrimination suffered by Catholics. Both sources indicate discrimination against Catholics.

Source D is useful because it is the honest view of a Billy Sinclair, a Protestant man, criticising himself and people of his own religion about how they discriminate against Catholics. He is condemning a process that he was involved in, making this a highly reliable source because he is not biased and cannot gain from what he is saying.

This source also assesses the extent of the discrimination by showing it at a social and recreational level, not just a political perspective. Illustrating how discrimination against Catholics has now become so institutionalised it affects all people and all areas of life. ‘He kicks with the wrong foot’ is really just a way of saying ‘he is the wrong religion,’ this kind of prejudice against even Catholic children displays the magnitude of discrimination they suffered.

Source D does help to assess the extent of the discrimination because it is such an honest view, but it is important to remember it is just one view from one football club. Linfield is one specific area and does not reflect the view of all Protestants or the whole country.

Source E shows discrimination towards Catholics in a more damaging way. It implies that Protestants are loyal workers and therefore Catholics are not, so Protestants should have preferential treatment regarding employment. Having enough people to establish an organisation with this view, shows that it was easily possible to direct damaging information at Catholics in order to provoke discrimination against them. This provides an indication of discrimination but there is no actual evidence to show that it took place, whether or not Ian Paisley was an influential leader or that the document had any effect, so it is not possible to infer too much from Source E.

Both Sources D and E are extremely useful in highlighting that discrimination was suffered by Catholics and aimed directly at them. The extent is not entirely discernible due to the lack of further examples of discrimination in football clubs and not being able to see the influence of Source E, but both sources show discrimination was fairly apparent at a recreational level and within the employment sector.

4. Study Sources F and G. How far do these sources agree about how the Catholic community should be treated?

Source F was produced from a newspaper interview with Basil Brooke, a particularly anti-Catholic Orange Man. In the source he recognises there is a problem of resentment in Northern Ireland and that the problem is to do with the Catholics and Protestants. He believes the problem is completely the Catholics fault because all they want to do is destroy Northern Ireland. His solution to this problem is to repress the Catholics. He uses emotive language such as ‘destroy’ and ‘enemy’ in order to evoke a hostile response towards Catholics. Though this language actually condemns 30% of the population that he is Prime Minister of. He presents all Catholics as aggressive opponents who must be restrained to improve society. He confirms the suspicions of discrimination against Catholics in the workplace by stating that it would be wrong to give them any positions of power or influence.

In Source G, Terence O’Neill agrees with Source F, but only to the extent that he recognises there is a problem of resentment in Northern Ireland and that the problem is between the Catholics and Protestants. He believes the problem is more centred on the inequality between Catholics and Protestants, and he recognises the Protestants are partly at fault with their lack of understanding. His solution does not agree with Brooke’s, he says that the problem would be resolved if Catholics were treated ‘with due consideration and kindness’ and equally to Protestants rather than repressing them further.

O’Neill’s good intentions show that he wants to help the Catholics but his ignorant use of stereotypes indicates a lack of empathy. He alienates Catholics by patronising them and saying that their situation could be improved if they became more like Protestants. Though Source G does make some attempt to appeal to Protestants to treat Catholics like equals, unlike Source F which simply condemns Catholics. Helping Catholics hints at economic strategy, like decreasing the number of people on National Assistance, this differs from source F which is only concerned with demonising all Catholics regardless of the effects on the economy.

Sources F and G only agree that the problem is presented by the Catholic community, the methods used to demonstrate this and the proposed solutions are completely different.

5. Study Sources H, I and J. All of these sources refer to a single city in Northern Ireland. Use the sources, and your knowledge, to explain why this city became a centre of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland.

The three sources all refer the city of Londonderry, also known as Derry. Source H is a photograph of a Catholic family outside their house in Londonderry, a predominantly Catholic city. It was taken in the 1960s but the conditions look pre-WW1. The photograph shows appalling living conditions with very bad sanitary facilities, an external bath with no hot water supply and a poorly built house. This is shocking because, by the sixties, a Welfare State had long been established in Great Britain by the Labour government, which focused on a free NHS, better education and improved housing – but this photo clearly does not reflect those developments. Families like the one in this photograph would resent this because their expectations of these developments would never be reached and the disappointment would drive them to back something like the Civil Rights movement. Derry had a largely Catholic population and the Catholics were greatly discriminated against here, this is one of the reasons the movement had so much support in this area of Northern Ireland.

This shows that the help was not reaching Catholic areas in Ireland because of the corrupt governing system, which favoured Protestants. Of course Catholics suffered from this gerrymandering far more than Protestants which meant that more Catholics supported the Civil Rights movement because they were more desperate for change. Londonderry was the largest city with a Catholic majority so it was the area where most people were attracted to the prospect of change, resulting in it becoming the central location of the movement. The movement itself was partly set up to combat the long-term grievances of people in Londonderry, for example the unfair political system.

There is the possibility that the photograph is unreliable as it could have been staged to generate sympathy for Catholics, and it does only show one house so it doesn’t reflect the whole of the Catholic community in Londonderry – although it does appear to be genuine and realistic.

Source I is a clear and reliable example of the gerrymandering within the elections in Londonderry. It is the results of the 1966 local elections and shows how the majority of Catholics have been pushed into one district, allowing the Protestants to dominate two districts. As a result the number of Protestant councillors always outnumbered the number of Catholic councillors, even though 60% of the population of Derry was Catholic. This meant that their was an unfair distribution of power to the Protestant minority and extreme anti-Catholic discrimination; council houses and more favourable jobs always went to Protestants and the Mayor was always Protestant.

This unfair distribution of power gave the Catholics nowhere to turn to, as they couldn’t escape the unfair situation because they had no influence. The Civil Rights movement was established one year after this as an effort to stop unfair practises like gerrymandering and promote equality for both communities. More and more Catholics in Derry turned to the movement for help and the movement was attracted to Londonderry because of the vastly corrupt system there, which was in need of change.

The Apprentice Boy’s March is an important Protestant march, which takes place in Derry, commemorating a victory over the Catholics. Whilst it is a celebration for Protestants it also causes huge problems between the two communities because the march takes place along a route overlooking the Catholic district. This frequently resulted in violence, especially in 1969 when the violence led to The Battle of the Bogside, consequentially creating more demand for peace and the objectives of the Civil Rights movement in Derry.

The Civil Rights movement had a lot of presence in Londonderry right from the start, the city remained a source of unrest and demands for reform. After a series of violent demonstrations in Derry, notably the 1969 civil rights march from Belfast to Derry, which was ambushed at Burntollet Bridge, the civil rights movement was triggered to centre their demonstrations there.

Many Catholics in Derry felt that the police offered them no protection from sectarian violence, and even felt them more of a threat at times. They turned to the movement, which was predominantly Catholic, for a sense of safety. Derry also became a city centrally related with the Civil Rights movement because of Bloody Sunday in 1972, when the British Army opened fire on unarmed civil rights protestors in Derry, killing thirteen civilians, all of them Catholic. Catholics deeply resented how the police authorities handled this incident and it pushed them even further towards the sanctuary of the movement.

Source J is a map definition of Source I, it illustrates how segregated the two communities were. The complete lack of integration between the Protestants and Catholics shows that the long-term division means the two sides are never going to be able to understand each other. Londonderry became a centre of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland because it was the city most in need of peace and greater equality and, due to the largely Catholic population, it was an area with a huge amount of support for the movement. . There was a similar, or even greater, degree of Catholic discrimination in Belfast but without the large Catholic population that Derry had to fight raise as much support for the movement.

The inequality and discrimination suffered by Catholics in Derry meant that there was an enormous amount of support for the movement there. The violence, which triggered action for the movement in Londonderry and the events related to the movement that occurred within Derry meant that it became the centre of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland.

6. Study Sources K, L and M. Do Sources L and M support Rev Ian Paisley’s view of the Civil Rights movement given in Source K? Explain your answer by reference to all three Sources.

In Source K, Ian Paisley, a leading Ulster Unionist, claims that the IRA and its supporters were behind the Civil Rights movement. He does not differentiate between the aims of the IRA and the NICRA.

In Source L, speaking on the same program, Michael Farrell supports Paisley’s view but only so far as to recognise that the numbers of Republicans involved in the movement varied. He never acknowledges them as members of the IRA, although he does make concessions in admitting the Republicans may have gained control over the movement in later stages. There is no evidence of IRA participation but it was inevitable because both groups wanted to achieve change from the existing situation.

There would have been significant Republican support for the NICRA because it criticised how the people of Northern Ireland were treated under the control of the British Government and Republicans would agree with these criticisms in order to gain more support for a united Ireland. The aims of the IRA were primarily to unite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland where-as the NICRA wanted to achieve equal civil rights for the people of Northern Ireland. The IRA could therefore use the NICRA to gain support from the people who were being discriminated against in Northern Ireland, but this does not prove that they were behind the movement.

Source M recognises political variation within the movement and a ‘close interest’ from the IRA, but this is to be expected because the idea of a Civil Rights movement is that anybody can take part in it. If the movement had said members of the IRA could not join, they would have contradicted their philosophy, so there is a possible grain of truth is Paisley’s words. It would have been beneficial for IRA members to participate in the NICRA, because it would be a peaceful way of working towards making Ireland and Northern Ireland more united. Although the IRA could also have used the movement to gain support from people with similar views and potentially as a front for IRA terrorist action. Despite this, Source I never agrees that the IRA controlled the movement.

Source K is the biased view of Ian Paisley, he is saying the movement was controlled by a terrorist organisation, possibly just to discredit it because, although it was non-partisan, it was still viewed as a Catholic movement and a threat to Protestant supremacy. Paisley’s view is politically motivated so it could be false, explaining why Source L and M do not entirely support it. Source L is biased in another way because it is the words of a founder member of the Civil Rights movement, and he would not want to admit terrorists where behind his movement.

Here, Farrell indicates the Republicans were actually helping, rather than causing trouble, by co-operating with the police. The NICRA was set up as a peaceful strategy to combat the troubles so most people would co-operate with the police. The Sources agree on a certain level, regarding significant Republican control but they disagree on the amount. Paisley believes the IRA controlled the entire movement and Farrell argues that the Republicans may have taken control of the movement later on, but never includes the IRA in this.

Source M is more reliable because it is a private report, which are usually more truthful then public reports or broadcasts. It agrees with Source K in recognising IRA interest and participation, but shows that they were not in control by highlighting that the Republican tricolour, nor any other IRA symbolism, was ever shown at Civil Rights demonstrations. If the IRA were in control then they would easily have had the power to do this, and would have, to increase awareness of their organisation and to try and gain support for it.

Sources L and M support Rev Ian Paisley’s View of the Civil Rights movement as far as to say there was IRA interest in the movement but they do not agree that the IRA were in any way in control of it.

7. Study Source N. Do you agree with this portrayal of the reasons why the troubles continued into the 1990s? Explain your answer using the sources and your own knowledge.

Source N is a Penrose Diagram illustrating the seemingly never-ending troubles of Northern Ireland. I agree with a lot of what the cartoon drawing represents because it covers many of the different aspects of the troubles. The use of this diagram shows that, with the way things are, Northern Ireland can never make real progress, only occasional illusions of progress and continuous walking in circles.

In one corner is a priest or minister representing the religious aspect of the problem. I agree that at the core of the problem is the long-term religious differences between the Catholic and Protestant communities. The priest or minister seems to be stepping cautiously up, showing that even he is too frightened to condemn the violence committed by members of the community he lives in for fear of people thinking he is against them and the possible violent repercussions upon himself. I agree with the way this highlights how difficult it is to move forward and how slow progress can be meaning that the troubles have continued into the 1990s.

Along one side a politician stumbles blindly forwards, he signifies the political aspect of the troubles. The way he is striding along, regardless of what is happening around him represents the inability for people to reach compromise and also shows how politicians have done little to help with weak leadership and a corrupt system, resulting in the Civil Rights movement and eventually leading to violence. I agree with this but I think the diagram is a little severe because there are many fair politicians who want to resolve the troubles peacefully and are working hard to do so, even though the troubles are still continuing to the present day. David Trimble is an example of a Unionist politician who is currently trying to bring about a peaceful situation but is also willing to compromise and talk to members of the IRA.

There is a worker on one side of the diagram, representing the social and economic factor of the troubles, like employment. This highlights the economic disadvantage faced by the people of Northern Ireland for so many years, the frustration of this resulting in violence. Many discouraged Catholic workers, who received the worst jobs with the lowest wages turned to violent organisations in hope of gaining equality.

Nearby there is a frightened woman clutching her child, this signifies how everybody is touched by the troubles, no matter who you are or how old you are, there is no escape. She is also turning to look at the terrorist behind her showing how people sometimes have to turn to terrorist organisations out of fear for protection because they cannot trust the authorities to protect them and they’d rather be with the terrorists than against them. This also shows how little progress can ever be made when the grievances are passed down from generation to generation. I agree with this because it is impossible to escape the troubles as they dictate so much of peoples’ lives in Northern Ireland. If the troubles continue, then the divisions will grow even more, this is why they have carried on through the 1990s.

The final character in the cartoon is a terrorist; he is holding a gun and walking in the opposite direction to the other characters. He represents the violent aspect of the problems, like bombings and sectarian shootings, and shows that he is taking backward steps rather then steps towards progress like everybody else. The shape of the diagram shows that he will eventually collide into everybody, demonstrating how everyone is affected by this violence. I agree with this characterisation of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland because killing people can only make the troubles worse, by intensifying resentment and therefore increasing divisions, and prolonging them as they have been throughout the 1990s with murders and bombings. It also displays how terrorism can affect even the most innocent people in society, like the children killed in the Omagh bombing in August 1998.

The walls that the cartoon is set out on represent the walls built between Catholic and Protestant communities. The divisions and lack of understanding and integration between the two groups is one of the main reasons the troubles have continued beyond the 1990s. The writing and graffiti on the walls is also significant in portraying the reasons why the troubles continued into the 1990s.

One side has ‘REM 1690’ scrawled across it to remind Protestants of when William of Orange defeated the last Catholic British King and to remind Catholics of their defeat. It was from 1690 onwards that discrimination against Catholics became part of the law; no Catholic could be the British monarch, no Catholic could own land and no Catholic could hold an important military or political position. This is continually reiterated to the Catholics through Protestant Orange Marches in Catholic towns, often resulting in violence and causing more trouble.

The graffiti says ‘Ulster Says No,’ a well-known Unionist slogan, which portrays an aggressive, siege mentality, contributing to the divisions already faced by people. These historic differences are still continued today by this sort of graffiti and other displays like political murals. I agree with what the cartoon is saying about how, if people cannot leave their historic differences in the past, then little progress will ever be made.

On the other side of the wall ‘1916’ is written to remind Catholics of the Easter Rising, where, for a short time, the Catholics overcame the British troops and declared their proclamation of an independent Irish republic. It also reminds them of the brutality of the British Government who shot the leaders of the rising, increasing the animosity between the two sides and making Catholic martyrs. The significance of this is similar to the other graffiti; if people cannot try to put their differences behind them, then the troubles will continue for a long time to come.

Putting all these different people into the same circle indicates that they are all related to one another actions; political changes can cause paramilitary unrest, paramilitary violence can affect innocent children. I agree with this interpretation of the reasons why the problems in Northern Ireland have continued for so long, it shows how the troubles have become so much part of society that they will take a long, long time and many changes to cease.