The Church of Irelands Hard Gospel project has released a report on the experiences of border Protestants during the troubles. The report has been funded by the Irish government and the International Fund for Ireland. (PDF file here).
It is an extensive report but as always with these things a few parts seem to be attracting most media attention:
The question of whether or not there had been a concerted campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Border regions was for most interviewees an accepted fact,” the report has found.
“Many people were able to articulate various detailed accounts of how this occurred in practice, identifying the individuals and families directly affected and in some cases going further and identifying those they believed – often citing this as ‘common knowledge’ – had carried out the acts of violent terrorism.”
The report adds: “What was in no doubt was the vicious finality and painful legacy visited upon the few and observed from a distance by the many.
One person was unequivocal: ”It wasn’t ‘the Troubles’, it was violence!’
Another commented: ”When you reflect on what happened to the Border Protestant people during the Troubles it’s amazing that the population remained as settled as it did.
The election of Bobby Sands as MP for Fermanagh / South Tyrone remained a very significant issue:
“Many Protestants and unionists saw it, both then and now, as a clear and unambiguous vote of support for the retention of the ‘armed struggle’ and the purging of Protestants from the land,” the report said.
“They couldn’t understand it then and they still can’t. The collective ‘nailing of the colours to the mast’ was stark and shocking, but made things very clear – whatever about our previous neighbourliness, whatever about our friendly and co-operative arrangements, all of that is now over.”
The report revealed a complex picture where personal grief and anger have become intertwined with the history of the Troubles.
Equally, however, “A number of lay people reported that they had a strong sense that their Roman Catholic neighbours did not approve of or support the campaign of terror and violence that the IRA waged against the border Protestant people but that they suspected that their neighbours were unable to communicate as much or reach out a hand of friendship for fear of possible repercussions.”