Divide and rule..

BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Panorama, has just aired. This week journalist Declan Lawn returned to both Londonderry and Ballymena, where he grew up, and visited Belfast to look at the physical and mental separation that persists here – and the programme discussed the financial cost that entails. iPLayer has the programme available for the next week. And there’s an online report on the programme here.

So how come, ten years after the Good Friday Agreement, that in some parts of Northern Ireland the sectarian mindsets seem as strong as ever? It is a sobering reality that there are more physical barriers, or so-called peace walls, between communities today than there were ten years ago. Some are now blaming the very political settlement that brought an end to violence. They see the Stormont assembly as a sectarian carve up that doesn’t lessen sectarian divisions so much as it consolidates sectarian divisions. If that analysis is correct, it may be a long time yet before the walls come down.

Which is, in part, what Bertie Ahern was talking about.

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  • Mark McGregor

    Pete,

    While I’d probably be one of the ‘some’ referenced above, I think a serious documentary should go beyond an unnamed ‘some’. We may as well have ‘dogs on the street’ quoted as evidence.

    Who says it? How large is that view? Who rejects it?

    Maybe I shouldn’t expect that kind of detail from an English audience focused programme?

  • percy

    peteb
    did you miss the 1hr programme on Jonathon Powell tonite at 7.pm BBC2?

    The Undercover Diplomat
    Jonathan Powell reveals his unique political role in the Northern Ireland peace process, where he acted in a capacity known to no-one in the Government other than Tony Blair. He reflects on his secret negotiations with Sinn Fein and his personal relationships with the central figures involved in the Good Friday agreement.

    Was it shown in NI?

  • slug

    A good programme.

    I write from north Ballymena where I grew up and spend a lot of my time. The programme reflects my understanding of what has happened here.

    However when the programme said the town centre was divided at a particular point (Broadway) that really only relates to these teenagers who hang around in gangs in terms of territory for going around in football shirts.

    For normal daytime business going to coffee shops etc (and me certainly) this division isn’t there; I am nearly always in the so-called Catholic part and actually its where the real heart of the town is now. The programme did point this out but I think the casual viewer might be left with the impression of greater division than there is. Though in terms of going out at night for teenage males it would be more important.

    It was a good programme which reminds us of the abnnormality of the division here and of the desirability of integration steps and that the politicians aren’t doing any investment now to integrate the society in the future.

  • slug

    “Maybe I shouldn’t expect that kind of detail from an English audience focused programme? ”

    The people who were critical of the politicians were the two protestants from Ballymena (one of whom had numerous tatoos) as well as some of the people interviewed in Derry. I can’t remember if Pete Shirlow and Newton Emerson mentioned this point but they may have.

  • Pete Baker

    Mark

    I’m fairly certain the Alliance Party would fit into that category too. ;o)

    percy

    “Was it shown in NI?” Yes.

    slug

    “For normal daytime business going to coffee shops etc (and me certainly) this division isn’t there; I am nearly always in the so-called Catholic part and actually its where the real heart of the town is now. The programme did point this out but I think the casual viewer might be left with the impression of greater division than there is. Though in terms of going out at night for teenage males it would be more important.”

    Good point.

    And one that the programme didn’t really make forcefully enough.

    Although the accompanying article does point out

    In Ballymena there are no physical barriers between opposing factions – but the ones in their heads are all that’s needed.

  • Dewi

    Interesting – some of the stats – 30,000 community workers – astonishing number. It’s easy to compare Leisure centres on the Falls Road and the Shankill Road however – there must be places were the barriers are fading – or at least not as pronounced. Is the sectarian bus stop thing really true?

  • Norton

    Newton Emerson said on Panorama that he believes new housing estates were a glimmer of hope in the battle against segregation.
    It looked like he was speaking in Glengormley which frankly is a terrible example. Mayfield and basically the whole of the Hightown Road are exclusively Catholic as is basically every recently laid brick between the fork in the road in Glengormley and the Whitewell Road.
    He just needed to be in Mallusk Primary School at the last election and see the mass of Sinn Fein votes from the Hightown Road to see that segregation is well and truly in place, even in ostensibly middle class areas.

  • Norton

    I correct myself – my evidence for my last post comes from anecdotal evidence of the opening of the boxes and the early tallys. But my point stands – despite being relatively wealthy, for example having some of the highest house prices in Northern Ireland outside of the Belfast City Council area, Glengormley is a massively more sectarian place than it was in, for example, 1985.

  • Dewi

    Norton – is that just a consequence of the growing “Catholic” population ? Or is there visible evidence of territory claiming in these areas?

  • Norton

    Dewi – there is a great deal more territorial marking than there would have been twenty five years ago. In the past two or three years, I have noted union flags and GAA flags posted on roads where there would have been none in 1983. Neither are particularly offensive to me per se but it goes some way to reinforcing the point I am trying to make.
    Back then, Protestants and Catholics freely lived among each other in both ends of Glengormley whereas now that seems to be much less the case. The Elmfield/Collinbridge/Hightown areas are practically exclusively Catholic while Swanston, Sandyknowes, Carnmoney Road, and Ballyhenry Roads are quite significantly Protestant.
    There are certainly more young middle-class Catholics and not simply because working-class-done-goods from north Belfast have moved there.
    One of the things that is rarely mentioned in all these discussions about sectarianism and demographics is the number of young middle-class Protestants who would not dream of going to QUB or UUJ because of the perceived nationalist dominance and go instead to universities in GB, particularly in Scotland, and, long after they have graduated, only ever come back to Northern Ireland to see their family.

  • Norton

    If we’re discussing the cost of sectarianism and political strife, it would be interesting to compare what percentage of its graduates the southern state manages to retain compared with the percentage of graduates from Northern Ireland who working here five years after they get letters after their name. I do not buy the idea that the difference is only because of the contrast in the respective economies. It is also because of the lingering scent of sectarianism that pervades our northern nostrils.

  • The Raven

    Norton wrote: One of the things that is rarely mentioned in all these discussions about sectarianism and demographics is the number of young middle-class Protestants who would not dream of going to QUB or UUJ because of the perceived nationalist dominance and go instead to universities in GB, particularly in Scotland, and, long after they have graduated, only ever come back to Northern Ireland to see their family.

    There was a study done recently on this. I can’t remember which of the universities undertook it – Queen’s perhaps.

    I know only from my own experience that only six lads stayed in NI for University purposes from my leaving year in 1990. Now, I have discovered facebook – and would you believe, it’s as good a place as any to start – NONE of the lads who I’ve found/got in touch with me returned here. And now that for some of them, parents have long since shuffled off this mortal coil, there isn’t even that reason to return.

    It’s easy to say “would you blame them?”. But while some may jump for joy at this exodus of people from a P/U/L background, what chance does this region (and indeed the whole island) have, I say, if we lose the best and brightest to the Mainland?

    By the way, Norton, just an observation – we weren’t all middle class. This transcended social class. Good post, btw.

  • aquifer

    “I have noted union flags and GAA flags posted on roads where there would have been none in 1983.”

    Yep. Take all the territorial markers down from the public lampposts, they are often just there to scare us. Surely the security budget could stretch to one roving cherrypicker?

  • Norton

    aquifer – I would be quite content to be the driver. Mind you, I think I’d need to be surrounded by a pane of popemobile proportions.

  • majordolittle

    Newton
    Where was that housing development?

    Glengormley, Waringstown, Crossgar.

    Wonder why it wasn’t named.

    Good point about the “community worker” empire, building up alongside the civil service. Shit pensions though, i imagine.

  • PaddyReilly

    What chance does this region (and indeed the whole island) have, I say, if we lose the best and brightest to the Mainland?

    Well for those who have a non resident mainland, the problem is that mainlands always reserve to themselves the best jobs and industries etc. As our contributor Turgon has pointed out, a degree from Oxford and Cambridge sets you up for life: one from QUB dooms you to relative obscurity in this provincial backwater.

    The Irish Republic was set up to counter this tendency, and has partially succeeded: it would be an exaggeration to say no Irish people from Southern regions make their way to England, but the number is decreasing, and many these days are making their way back.

    Of course, when Dublin finally becomes the centre of attraction, it will take the brightest and best from Belfast still, but hopefully by then communications will have improved to the extent that daily commuting will be possible.

  • Norton

    The Raven – I take your correction with grace. However, regrettable as it is, I understand that the proportion of working class Protestants going to university is pitifully low. And, I feel quite confident in saying that children of graduates are more likely to be graduates than those of non-graduates. Assuming that many of the Protestant graduates have left these shores, where is the next generation coming from?
    It seems quite clear to me that when Sinn Fein successfully gaelicized the SU at QUB it was part of a long-term strategic plot rather than just a ploy to wind up unionists. More fool them. There’s a very strong argument to say that the economic divergence of north and south, which in my opinion looks set to be the norm for generations, actually makes Irish unity less likely.
    It is easier for the British to cut loose an economically prosperous Northern Ireland and more palatable for Southerners to agree to reunification. As it is, the British have no choice other than to keep paying for the economic basket case of western Europe while Southerners steer well clear of giving up much more than a small percentage of the money from the National Development Plan.

  • Norton

    Pete – the program DID focus slightly unduly on the experiences of football-shirt wearing youths in Ballymena. However, it would also be fair to say that many of these youths were little more than toddlers when the GFA was signed and therefore it may be reasonable to expect that we would be a little further down the road in how they would get on with their mirror image from the other community. Therefore while I feel the programme could perhaps have couched that more explicitly, it was worth pointing out to UK audiences that some communities, identifiable by their youths, have made little progress – despite all their community workers 🙂

  • The Raven

    Someone should point me in the direction of some figures supporting this influx of returning migrants that Paddy Reilly mentions…I always thought it was just a tad overstated (by the way, that isn’t a pop at someone – I’d genuinely love to see some figures on this)

    By the way, I believe that Derry Shitty Council undertook, or is undertaking a diaspora project. One wonders at what success, if any, it will have. It will certainly be the most cross-community project they’ve undertaken (he jibed with tongue requiring surgical removal from cheek).

  • heck

    PETE YOUR QUOTE CAN BE JUST AS VALID WITH ONLY MINOR EDITING

    So how come, 90 years after PARTITION, that in some parts of Northern Ireland the sectarian mindsets seem as strong as ever? It is a sobering reality that there are more physical barriers, or so-called peace walls, between communities today than there were 90 years ago. Some are now blaming the very political settlement that brought an end to THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE. They see the Stormont assembly as a sectarian INSTITUTION that doesn’t lessen sectarian divisions so much as it consolidates sectarian divisions. If that analysis is correct, it may be a long time yet (NEVER) before NORTHERN IRELAND WORKS

  • Steve

    Damn norton you almost had me fooled into thinking you were a reasonable and inteligent poster but you just had to keep talking

  • Ben

    Bastids at the Beeb make Panorama available on the web only in the UK (or so they say, an IP in the ROI isn’t kosher for them?). Is there any way to post it in here? Ben

  • slug

    Raven

    “I know only from my own experience that only six lads stayed in NI for University purposes from my leaving year in 1990. Now, I have discovered facebook – and would you believe, it’s as good a place as any to start – NONE of the lads who I’ve found/got in touch with me returned here. And now that for some of them, parents have long since shuffled off this mortal coil, there isn’t even that reason to return”

    1990 was 18 years ago and I suspect that some of these points are not as strong today. The Students Union is more neutral looking and QUB does not appear “nationalist dominated”. I have been looking at the UCAS numbers. These show a declining interest in Scotland for people applying to University though England is still popular. I suspect that the NI universities are not so unattractive to protestants now. However for many going to university in GB just that bit more exciting than Belfast; its not all about the troubles).

    As for migration. Yes, there are lots of people going away to study but the total numbers over the last 8 years show more people coming from GB than leaving.

    From my personal experience there are a lot of people who left who come back and others who want to come back but the jobs are not too exciting here…

    All of this suggests that economics is at least important as the wierd nature of society here.

  • Diluted Orange

    Norton

    [i]One of the things that is rarely mentioned in all these discussions about sectarianism and demographics is the number of young middle-class Protestants who would not dream of going to QUB or UUJ because of the perceived nationalist dominance and go instead to universities in GB, particularly in Scotland, and, long after they have graduated, only ever come back to Northern Ireland to see their family. [/i]

    I agree with pretty much every single one of your points. I am one of these university ex-pats you speak about and I’m far from unique – I would say that in my school of year of about 150 around 90, or more, currently live across the water. I live in Edinburgh and the place is practically swarming with Northern Irish, not all Protestant mind you. Why would anyone educated in a British University with half a brain want to come back to the increasingly sectarian cesspit of NI to raise their children or go and work in the dizzy heights of the civil service?

    This is an issue that Unionist politicians have been either too lazy, naive or plain stupid to want to deal with and if a UI is eventually decided by raw demographics alone then for me this will be the prime reason. If and when a UI does come it will be no better than the status quo, you’ll still have entrenched divisions – only the Irish government will have to pick up the tab. However beefore we even get there I believe that if the intolerance and intransigence continues at its current pace we’ll probably have another bout of mass civil conflict. IMO NI is a much more bigotted place than it was 10 years ago.

  • Paul

    I take strong issue with the asertion that Glengormley is a more sectarian area than in 1985, as a life-long resident i have seen the nationalist population grow and certain areas greening but community relations are quite good, except in the Harmin Estate where Loyalist ethnic cleansing has soured the once good estate.

  • King Rollo

    Taken from “The Wall Jumper” by Peter Schneider;

    “Berlin before the fall of the Wall is a city divided, yet its ordinary residents find ways to live and survive on both sides. There is Robert, teller of barroom anecdotes over beer and vodka, adjusting to a new life in the west; Pommerer, trying to outwit the system in the east; the unnamed narrator, who ‘escapes’ back-and-forth to collect stories; his beguiling, exiled lover Lena; the three boys who defect to watch Hollywood films; and the man who leaps across the Wall again and again – simply because he cannot help himself. All are, in their different ways, wall jumpers, trying to lose themselves but still trapped wherever they go. Ultimately, the walls inside their heads prove to be more powerful than any man-made barrier!”

    The whole thing has got nothing to do with brick walls. I have seen at first hand catholics from Dundalk live side by side with Protestants from the Shankill. Quite frankly, the divisions exist because it has suited and does suit the personal interests of those that supposedly rule us.

    Stone age religious apartheid, co-mingled with sprinklings of abject poverty, keeps the peasants in their place, and keeps the votes coming in.

  • Norton

    Paul – I want to throw this musing open to the floor and hopefully others will give me their view. I wonder if it is possible to have good and indeed better community relations, while at the same time actually becoming more sectarian.
    I know, on the face of it, that seems like a contradiction, but is there a possibility, and Glengormley might be a good example, of two homogenised, separate communities getting on well with each other, rather than everyone being part of one community?
    Is it not the case that sectarianism can only end when we don’t talk in terms of two communities getting on with each other and instead talk about a single homogenised community?

  • Paul

    Norton, there are differences everywhere, the black community, the asian community, the gay community, I dont think it is unhelpful to ascribe people to a community , mutual respect or even toleration is what keeps good relations. I don’t think one sanatised or homogenised community is really ideal,…. maybe in Stepford land.

  • Norton

    Paul – hmmm, that goes back to the original point about people living in separate areas. Does the black community have to live apart from the white community or the Asian community? If we do have to, or want to, live apart, can we say that sectarianism is disappearing?

  • Norton

    Steve – perhaps you can refer me to the actual point you disagreed with rather than just dismissing me? There’s a rule, I understand, that one must play the ball and not the man and your own last post can, at best, be described as one where you went for the ball but missed 🙂

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Norton

    “Glengormley is a massively more sectarian place than it was in, for example, 1985.”

    I can’t claim any particular knowledge of Glengormley, but isn’t it the case that “sectarianism” only really becomes apparent where there is rivalry between the “sects”?

    I hate to say it, I hate the fact that I think it’s true, but in towns across the north, the outward instances of sectarianism are least apparent where one or the other community is overwhelmingly dominant. (Larne and certain villages in Co Antrim are the exceptions.)

    You hardly ever hear of Protestants being attacked in Newry or Strabane, or Catholics being attacked in Bangor or Carrickfergus. Outside Belfast, where are you most likely to see sectarian attacks? It’s places like Ballymena (one third Catholic), Derry (one third Protestant), Portadown (two fifths Catholic), Lurgan (almost exactly 50/50).

    So if you say Glengormley is now “overwhelmingly more sectarian” than it was twenty years ago, I’m going to hazard a guess that this isn’t so – it’s just that changed circumstances on the ground have turned latent sectarianism into active sectarianism.

    I mean, say over the next few years the Protestant population of Newry grew from a few hundred to eight or nine thousand – do you think there’s a good chance we’d see a rise in sectarian attacks in Newry?

    Would this be because of newfound sectarian attitudes, or simply because the sectarianism was always there, but was fairly academic when there weren’t many of themmuns around?

  • willowfield

    Billy’s probably got a point.

  • PaddyReilly

    BP’s general idea is ok but figures are seriously askew: see

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/lgderry.htm

    for Derry, for example. Protestant 23.20%, not one third.

  • slug

    There’s something in Billy’s point. Its also to do with prosperity. In Ballymena the middle class Catholic community was always quite large. More recently what has grown is the working class catholic community and this has got to critical mass where there is now this kind of rivalry. (25% Catholic not 33% as Billy says.) And the housing estates are where these identities seem to matter more. I have always lived in religiously mixed neighbourhoods where it wasn’t an issue.

    As for whether NI is now more sectarian than 10 or 20 years ago.

    20 years ago there were sectarian attitudes but not as much marking of territory through flags.

    10 years ago it seemed awful – flags everywhere including nasty ones and tensions surrounging parades and Harryville.

    Today there are noticibly fewer flags. There was a terrible murder of McIlveen. However despite this the look and feel of the town today seems less sectarian than 10 years ago and economically things seem more lively as well as the ethnic mix being more diverse. It does feel better than 10 years ago.

    But I do think that we need to try to make public investments that desegregate whether this is housing or schools or other things.

  • slug

    Correction…

    My coments in 11:22 are whether Ballymena (not NI) is now more sectarian than 10 years ago. To repeat my impression is we are less sectarian in attitudes – more cognisant of the other community – than 20 years ago. 10 years ago things seemed very confrontational with flags everywhere. But today there are not as many flags and the look and feel is less sectarian than before.

  • George

    Raven,
    “Someone should point me in the direction of some figures supporting this influx of returning migrants that Paddy Reilly mentions”

    The numbers of those born in the Republic but living in the UK has dropped by 100,000 in the last decade (16% of total Irish-born population in UK). Granted death is involved there too as the big wave was in the 1950s.

    Emigrant Advice estimated that 20,000 Irish emigrants returned home in 2006 (worldwide not just UK) and that between 2002 and 2004 more than 61,000 Irish emigrants returned to live in Ireland.

  • slug

    There are more people moving to NI than before in recent history.

    Previously in the 1990s 25% of folks going to GB universities returned on graduation. After 1998 this figure rose to 33% and has stayed constant at this level. The total % that return will be higher than this as some people return after a few years in the GB workforce.

    The propostion staying to study at NI institutions has increased but only slightly though the absolute numbers have increased greatly. Belfast is now a more exciting city than before but I think as the image of Belfast and QUB improves this will attract more people there. Still, those who get the grades will always get a better education at Oxford.

    Surprisingly few people from NI go to ROI universiies.

    Internal UK migration: Since about 2000 the total numbers (not just students) migrating from NI to GB have fellen while the numbers in the opposite direction have risen. Such that, for the last 5 years, more have moved from GB to NI than from NI to GB.

    The age breakdown from the census indicates people who leave are aged 18-23 and those going from GB to NI are in all the older age groups.

    This includes Scotland where fewer are going to university, possibly because of 4 year degrees in an era where people have to pay their own education. In all age groups, more people now move from Scotland to NI each year than vice versa.

    International migration to NI is up with a net inflow from many parts of the world and strongly from the new eastern EU countries.

    Birth rates are also increasing partly due to foreign mothers but also a higher birth rate of women in their 30s.

    These trends are increasing the population so it is not a case of NI dwindling.

    But a constraint on people coming back to work (including myself, I work as an academic in a top GB university) there still is a problem of not enough good jobs. Though the export related industries should benefit from the current exchange rate and NI’s lower cost base.

    The NI expats are a huge potential boost to NI’s skill base and getting investment and high paid jobs in NI will in my view bring a lot of people back (I believe most people left for economic backwardness reasons rather then the social backwardness factors though the two are intertwined so hard to separate).

  • slug

    The following is the proportion of NI students at GB universities returning to NI in the 6 months after their course ends:

    1997 26%
    1998 29%
    1999 29%
    2000 27%
    2001 29%
    2002 28%
    2003 38%
    2004 36%
    2005 36%
    2006 36% [published Aug 2007]

    This seems to have risen suddenly from 28% in 2003 and held at about 36% since then. A step change of 10% rather than a trend.

    The following figures give the number of NI pupils going on to NI and GB institutions respectively, in each year:

    1997: 4286 NI, 2189 GB
    1998: 4729 NI, 2562 GB
    1999: 4730 NI, 2691 GB
    2000: 4741 NI, 2661 GB
    2001: 4989 NI, 2722 GB
    2002: 5243 NI, 2666 GB
    2003: 5500 NI, 2465 GB
    2004: 5645 NI, 2405 GB
    2005 [to do]
    2006 8795 NI, 3900GB

    The above figures can be used to compute the proportion of NI’s pupils staying in NI for university:

    1997: 66%
    1998: 65%
    1999: 64%
    2000: 64%
    2001: 65%
    2002: 66%
    2003: 69%
    2004: 70%
    ..
    2006: 69%

    There has been (between 2000 and 2003) an increase in the proportion staying at home (but this increase has stopped in 2003)

    Turning to migration, each year UK statistics publishes internal migration data.Figures in 1000s for 12 months to December:

    1997: inflow: 11.2; outflow: 12.6 (i.e. 1.4 leave NI for GB)
    1998 inflow: 11.7 outflow: 12.4
    1999 inflow: 11.6 outflow: 12.5
    2000 inflow: 11.2 outflow: 11.9
    2001 inflow: 12.7 outflow: 11.1
    2002 inflow: 10.8 outflow: 11.1
    2003 inflow: 12.1 outflow: 11.7
    2004 inflow: 12.5 outflow: 10.2 (i.e. 2.3 leave GB for NI)
    2005 inflow: 12.2 outflow:12.7
    2006 inflow: 13.0 outflow:11.1
    2007 inflow: 12.8 outflow: 11.1 [12 montsh to june 2007]

    The figures show that up to 2000 the outflow exceeded the inflow. But after that there has generally been a net inflow to NI.

  • Diluted Orange

    Billy

    How about Lisburn? Approx. 25% Catholic and you don’t hear about many sectarian attacks there. I would say levels of sectarianism are more to do with the level of integration between the 2 communities in a town rather than pure percentage figures. Ballymena, for instance, has a large overwhelmingly Catholic estate, Dunclug – Lisburn has no such area and is much more integrated.

  • willowfield

    Fascinating data, slug – what is your source?

  • slug

    Willowfield

    I have got these all from government sources. The sources are: for migration the UK National Statistics extrapolating from NHS re-registerings; for student destinations after graduation it comes from an annual survey pulished on the DELNI website; for where people go to university this comes from published UCAS data, again on the DELNI website.

    I have a little blog href=”http://nisenews.blogspot.com/”NI Stat Blog that updates this periodically-about once every year-entirely for my own use.

  • PaddyReilly

    How about Lisburn? Approx. 25% Catholic

    Here again, figures seriously askew, but general idea is o.k. The fact is that sectarian strife is liable to take place when the religious/political balance of an area is undergoing change.

    The NI problem as a whole is largely confined to the period in time in which the Catholic population of the province changed from just 33% to potentially over 50%. Londonderry was a Unionist controlled entity, which (after Bloody Sunday) turned in Nationalist Derry.

    Glengormley is a formerly wholly Protestant area which is now becoming overwhelmingly Catholic. Stoneyford, though tiny, is now more Catholic than it used to be. Ballymena and Antrim are also changing because of Belfast overflow. Michael McIlveen deceased (“Micky Bo”) was a child of this migration.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Diluted Orange

    I would have thought the vast majority of Catholics in “Lisburn” are actually in places like Poleglass, that are generally regarded as being more west Belfast than Lisburn? But perhaps my figures are mistaken – as you can see from my earlier post, I didn’t check the figures and went with very broad estimates.

    I suppose there will be exceptions, and indeed cases where the sectarian rivalry in a collective space is manifested differently – for example, Armagh city (town proper is 70% Catholic, draw a five mile radius from Market Square and it’s 50/50, almost to a man) is a place in which one rarely hears of sectarian attacks or violence. However the 50/50 split in the area has arguably created stasis, a sterile stalemate. If nothing really bad happens in the town, it’s because very little happens at all.

    It’s better than people dying on our streets, but is this really the best we can hope for?

  • willowfield

    Thanks, slug

  • Niall

    It seems a large negotiation of public space, or marking out of territory, started once the paramilitaries called their ceasefires and this manifested itself in Drumcree, Harryville, Holy Cross, Whiterock riots etc.

    Thinking out loud, I wonder how much of this activity would have been risked during the Troubles when the possibility of being victim of a bomb attack or shooting was much greater.

    The war created, perhaps, a strange kind of stasis where people confined themselves largely to their homes and their communities. Psychologically, maybe the presence of the paramilitaries fulfilled the need for tribal identifiers. They represented a kind of certainty, no matter how insane.

  • Diluted Orange

    Billy,

    Sorry for the late reply:

    http://sammymorse.livejournal.com/18156.html

    Not sure if this includes Poleglass or not but there are certainly quite a few areas in Lisburn town itself where many Catholics live side by side with Protestants in pretty normalised surroundings. Tonagh, Knockmore and even perceived staunchly loyalist areas like Hilden and Old Warren have significant Catholic populations.

    I’m not saying Lisburn is a model by any stretch of the imagination of what integrated working class communities should ultimately aspire to resemble in the future. It has its problems like anywhere else. However, on balance, it would seem that a much lower level of sectarian friction exists on the ground in Lisburn than in other large urban areas, like Ballymena or Derry. I would suggest that a major reason for this is that Lisburn has not been ghetto-ised in the same extensive manner that Ballymena and Derry have been.

  • LURIG

    Just watched Spotlight and it confirms everything I feared. Sectarianism in the North is as bad as ever and it is a virtually apartheid society. We are living in parallel worlds that rarely converge and those who DO take part in cross community work are still very much in a minority. Effectively the two communities still hate each other as much as they EVER did and I see this on a daily basis witnessing youngsters shouting the vilest most hateful bigotry over the peacelines. Let no one be under ANY illusions that we are in a peaceful utopia as I always feel we are sitting on a dormant volcano that could errupt at any time. Sectarianism if anything is increasing in the North and tensions are always just bubbling below the surface. This Peace Process has delivered NOTHING for many in both communities AND the Stormont Assembly & housing/building boom means nothing to them. North Belfast particularly is like 2 Battle camps on both sides of a valley looking at each other with contempt and as the Holy Cross dispute and Orange Order 2005 Springfield Rd riots showed it doesn’t take a lot to spark it off. If the MLA’s and British & Irish governments think that the Good Friday Agreement solved it all and they ALL can sail into the sunset they need to get real.

  • Dewi

    Lurig – “This Peace Process has delivered NOTHING for many in both communities”

    Quite a lot less people being killed is a start surely.

    “North Belfast particularly is like 2 Battle camps on both sides of a valley looking at each other with contempt and as the Holy Cross dispute and Orange Order 2005 Springfield Rd riots showed it doesn’t take a lot to spark it off”

    Worth reading Powell book to see how G Kelly and Sinn fein tried to diffuse.