When Mick mentioned some University of Ulster figures on the migration of the Protestant population of Londonderry away from the west bank of the Foyle – a decline of 83.4% between 1971 and 1991 – it generated a heated, as in more heat than light, discussion of the reasons why.. although, some time later, Mick also noted the renewed optimism of some churches. So the report in the Belfast Telegraph of an Open Reel Productions documentary – the company responsible for producing Battle of the Bogside and No Go: The Free Derry Story – exploring that migration and the reasons behind it, should be interesting and, hopefully, informative for many. The report states that the documentary, entitled Exodus and due to be screened on 9th January, “will show that less than 500 Protestants now remain on the west bank of Derry, less than 3% of the 18,000 housed there in 1969.” The editorial in the paper also makes an important point about this segregated society.
Of course, population movements in Northern Ireland have not just been one way, as proven by the mono-religious housing estates dotted across the province. Both communities have suffered from violence and intolerance. Both also at times harbour exaggerated perceptions of threat that can – and do – influence social patterns. However, the latest figures from Derry should make every thinking person in Northern Ireland reflect on the nature of the society we are building.
Or, some might say, the nature of the society that has been built..