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Text: Andrew Hamilton, Clem McCartney, Tony Anderson and Ann Finn
Page Design: John Hughes

Violence and Communities frontispiece

Violence and Communities

by Andrew Hamilton, Clem McCartney, Tony Anderson and Ann Finn
Published by the University of Ulster, Coleraine 1990
ISBN 1 87120 676 6
Paperback 81 pp £??

Out of Print

This material is copyright of the Centre for the Study of Conflict and the author(s) and is included on the CAIN web site with the permission of the publisher. Reproduction or redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Violence and Communities

by Andrew Hamilton, Clem McCartney, Tony Anderson and Ann Finn

Centre for the Study of Conflict
University of Ulster



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six



Research for the Violence and Communities Report was carried out between 1985 and 1989. It involved three researchers from different disciplinery backgrounds, located in three different regions of Northern Ireland. Consequently it presented interesting challenges and opportunifies to the conduct of the research.

The Centre wishes to record its appreciation to:

The Policy Planning & Research Unit, which funded the project.
Mr Andrew Hamilton, Project Director.
Mr Clements McCartney, Research Officer.
Mr Anthony Anderson, Post-graduate Research Student.
Mrs Ann Finn, Post-graduate Research Student.
Dr Jeremy Harbison, PPRU, Liaison Committee.
Dr Michael Poole, Adviser & guide on research methodology.

Before publishing a research report, the Centre for the Study of Conflict submits it to members of a panel of external referees. It is the Centre's custom to consult at least three panel members.

At the time of submitting the report the Editorial Advisory Board comprised:

Dr. Halla Beloff, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh
Dr. Paul Brennan, UER Des Pays Anglophones, University of Paris III
Professor Ronnie Buchanan, Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University Belfast
Professor Kevin Boyle, Faculty of Law, University of Essex
Professor John Fulton, Faculty of Educafion, Queen's University, Belfast
Dr. Richard Jenkins, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Swansea
Dr. Dominic Murray, Department of Education, University College, Cork
Professor James OConnell, Peace Studies, University of Bradford
Professor John Rex, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick
Professor Peter Stringer, Policy Research Institute.
Professor Joseph Thompson, Department of Politics, University of Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA
Professor John Whyte, Department of Politics, University College, Dublin.

The Centre wishes to record its sympathy to the family and colleagues of John Whyte, who died so tragically earlier this year.

John Darby,
Director, Centre for the Study of Conflict,
August, 1990

Return to publication contents



The aim of this study was to examine social interaction, attitudes and behaviour within each of three communities. The objective was to arrive at a fuller understanding of the effects of the current violence and political uncertainty on the general population of the province. The study was policy oriented in the sense that while it examined a wide range of social behaviour in the different communities, it was particularly concerned with the state of community relations and the attitudes of different sections of the population to various aspects of public policy. In particular, the studies focused on three key issues:

(1) to what extent have the Catholic and Protestant communities become further polarised as a result of the continuing violence and political uncertainty;

(2) to what extent, and for what reasons, were various sections of the Northern Ireland population "alienated" from the state; and

(3) to what extent was the seemingly fairly high degree of social interaction between Catholics and Protestants, in certain physically integrated areas, socially and politically significant or merely superficial, and to what extent did such physical integration help reduce community tension and political polarisation.


After a review of previous studies and research in progress, it was decided that this project would focus on the following types of area, for which very little recent research material was available:

(1) a predominantly Protestant, working-class urban district;

(2) a religiously mixed border area; and

(3) a small integrated area, preferably a housing estate.

We would, ideally, also have wished to include a predominantly Catholic, working-class area, but as resources were not available for four studies and as several studies had been or were being carried out in such areas, it was decided that this study could be omitted In choosing the specific areas, there were two general, though not over-riding considerations:

(a) Regional proximity:
It was considered preferable that the three communities should be in the same geographical region, as this meant that some factors would be constant in all areas. A region in the western part of Northern Ireland would give a counter-balance to the predominance of research in the east' and would highlight issues in a part of the province where the Catholic and Protestant populations were more balanced.

(b)Settlement size:
There were two approaches to the issue of the optimum size of each community, and both had merit One could choose three communities which were similar in size, which would allow some comparison between them. On the other hand, communities of different sizes could be selected, which would allow the identification of issues and processes which are significant in different sized communities. This latter approach was adopted.

The specific criteria adopted for each area were as follows:

Working-class Protestant community

(1) Urban location: the study area should be part of a large town or a city with a population of at least 75,000.

(2) Protestant community: there should be as high a proportion of Protestants in the study area as was possible (over 90%). It would be preferable if the surrounding area also had a substantial Protestant population, as it was not intended to study an enclave or ghetto population.

(3) Working-class: a public housing area would offer an appropriate class profile.

(4) Demographic characteristics: the study population should demonstrate a normal profile for age and other variables.

Mixed border community

(1) Closeness to border: the study area need not be actually on the border, but it should be within 5 miles of it.

(2) Perception of border: the proximity of the border should be perceived as possibly contributing to tension in the community, in contrast to communities where the border was seen as an "accident of history " and there were significant patterns of good relationships across the border.

(3) Population mix: there should be a significant population of each religious group (at least 30%). It was probable that only in communities where this criterion was met, would the significance of the border as a possible source of tension become apparent.

(4) Type of community: a small town (under 5,000 population) would provide an appropriate nucleus and focus for the study, and would, therefore, be preferable to a dispersed, wholly rural community. However, a rural sector should also be included, as much border conflict and violence occurs in isolated rural locations.

Small integrated area

(1) Population balance: the ratio of Protestants and Catholics should be within the range 60:40.

(2) Residential integration: the two religious groups should live mixed throughout the study area.

(3) Social integration: there should be some evidence of social mixing, though it might be difficult to determine the level and nature of this integration at the initial stages of the study.

(4) Background to integration: integration might occur because members of the community wished to be integrated, or because other factors (e.g., limited employment or housing opportunities) made integration unavoidable. The former situation would be preferable, though the reason for integration was less important than the current fact of integration.

On the basis of the above criteria, the following choices were made, after analysis of census statistics and consultation with informed workers in a number of communities.


Londonderry was the only location in the western part of the province which was sufficiently large to provide a truly urban environment. The public housing areas on the Waterside were the main areas of Protestant working-class population (the small housing estate on the Cityside being excluded because it might have features of an enclave). Ballygelvin was one of the largest of the solidly Protestant estates on the Waterside, and had a number of phases of development stretching back over the last 20 years. An additional feature which made Ballygelvin attractive for research was its close proximity to lower cost private housing.


Daviestown was the only town on the Northern Ireland/ Donegal border which met all the criteria. It had other advantages as it was a busy community which should provide a range of activities on which to focus. Redlands valley was a somewhat isolated location with no major through routes to other parts of the province nor to the Republic of Ireland, thus possibly making the town and its rural hinterland more of single entity.

Glenbarr estate, Garstown.4

Garstown (or rather a district within the town) came closest to meeting the criteria. The town as a whole was not residentially integrated, but some housing estates within the town were mixed. Garstown had an acceptable ratio of Protestants and Catholics, and compared to other towns in the general area it seemed to have a relatively high level of social integration. The Glenbarr estate seemed to come closest to an equal mix of Catholics and Protestants.


The research involved three ethnographic studies, each lasting two years, with a researcher living for a substantial part of the time in each of the areas being studied. These studies involved a combination of participant observation and formal and informal interviews. After the fieldwork was completed, a survey, covering a wide range of social, political and security issues, was carried out in each study area (see Appendices). This approach was adopted since it was felt that surveys could give at best a partial - and perhaps even a distorted - picture, of attitudes and social behaviour, and that a better understanding could be reached by the use of such surveys in conjunction with the techniques associated with social anthropology.

The fieldwork was carried out by a research officer and two research students, all three of whom were also enrolled for higher degrees at the university in respect of their individual area studies. In addition to his own area study, the research officer was also responsible for the day-to-day co-ordination of the project under the general supervision of two members of academic staff of the University of Ulster. The surveys were mainly carried out by students or ex-students of the university, but with some involvement of the researchers themselves.

After an initial induction period of some three months, the researchers began to make contacts in their areas in July/August 1986, with the fieldwork proper commencing in September 1986 and continuing until the beginning of November 1987, ending just before the Remembrance Day explosion in Enniskillen. The surveys were carried out during the first 3 weeks in January 1988, being completed just before the government announced its decisions concerning the Stalker investigation. The Enniskillen explosion was the only really significant intervening factor between the completion of the ethnographic studies and the commencement of the survey.

The survey was based on simple random sampling from an electoral register drawn up in September 1987. Despite the newness of that register, the interviewers found that a significant number of people had since moved away, and that factor, together with pressures of time which limited the number of attempts to make contact, meant that there were a high number of non-contactables from the original sample. Details are given in table 1.1, while the religious composition of respondents is shown in table 1.2.5

Table 1.1: January 1988 survey: sample sizes and effective response rates
Electoral register116930233064498

Effective response rate (%)72.360.560.064.0

Table 1.2: January 1988 survey: religious affiliation of respondents
CatholicsProtestantsOthers/Unwilling to answer
Ballygelvin2 (1.9%)97 (90.6%)8 (7.5%)
Daviestown63 (48.5%)61 (46.7%)6 (4.6%)
Glennbarr31 (44.9%)33 (47.7%)2 (7.2%)
Total96 (31.4%)191 (62.4%)19 (6.2%)

In the case of the Glenbarr study a short questionnaire, dealing with basic demographic features and social issues, was circulated to heads of households at the beginning of the fieldwork, to enable the researcher to become acquainted with the people of the area. 138 of the 182 questionnaires were returned completed, a response rate of 75.8%.


In the report, the terms segregation, integration and polarisation are used in their everyday meanings. Segregation and integration are used to describe the separation or unification of groups or communities, physically and/or socially. Polarisation is used primarily for the degree of actual or perceived differences between communities politically, in the sense of groups or communities pulling apart politically, although in Northern Ireland terms this clearly also encompasses a strengthening of cultural divisions.

Alienation is a much more difficult concept to deal with, and in Northern Ireland it has been used very widely and very loosely, to refer to everything from mere discontent to a sense of total estrangement from the institutions of the state. Within sociology and social psychology, it has been used to describe the states of meaninglessness, powerlessness, normlessness and social isolation felt by individuals or groups. In line with that approach, in this study alienation refers to a situation in which particular institutions of the state, or indeed the state itself, are seen as irrelevant to, or contrary to, the aspirations and objectives of particular groups within the society, and are thus rejected by them.


Although the project comprised three individual community studies - which are reported on in separate chapters - it was seen as very much an integrated project, and the report is, accordingly, a collaborative effort throughout. Each of the researchers presented a draft report on his/her study area for group discussion with the other researchers and one of the academic directors. The reports were then revised and edited in the light of those discussions. The concluding chapter - which seeks to draw together the main themes from the three studies, and to make appropriate policy recommendations - is the joint product of the academic director and the research officer. The substantive chapters inevitably reflect, to some extent, the academic backgrounds and interests of the individual researchers, but we have sought to ensure a common core of data relating to the central issues of segregation, polarisation and integration.

Return to publication contents


The three community studies which make up the body of this report are individual studies which are not directly comparable with each other, and which cannot be generalised to Northern Ireland, without qualification. The aim of the studies has been to look at the detailed processes which contribute to the world view of local people and their responses to the issues which they have to deal with, and many of these are unique to that area. Nonetheless there are features of each community which are similar to other areas, and the underlying processes which have been observed and identified may be relevant to an understanding of the ways attitudes and ideas develop in other locations in Northern Ireland.

This section of the report draws together the three studies and examines specifically the development of segregation, polarisation, and alienation. In each case consideration is given to the extent to which these features exist, the dynamics of their development, and the general implications for future policy. To underpin this discussion, there are important underlying characteristics of all three communities which help to explain how attitudes are formed and maintained, and they will be mentioned briefly first.

It is clear from the three studies that in the development of an understanding of the local community and the wider world, the most immediately significant factors are internal to the community. The primary framework through which the world is perceived, is formed by the existing assumptions in the community, and the processes, through which new developments are grappled with, are the interaction and discussion with fellow members of the community and personal experience. The current inter-community conflict, which, the survey confirms is considered by the majority of residents to be one of the most significant issues facing them, is dealt with in the same way, and there are a wealth of existing assumptions which give a framework to how it is perceived. These assumptions act as a filter through which various influences which impinge on the community are assessed - government policy, opinions of influential public figures, including politicians and church leaders, and the level of violence and harassment.

Furthermore, while it is clear from the report that there are wide variations in attitudes and opinions, nevertheless quite small sections of the community have a dominant influence in creating an overall community perspective, partly by their forcefulness, which others are not prepared to challenge, and partly because at a basic level they reflect core values, which allows individuals to give them tacit support even when they have grave reservations. This is particularly striking in the urban housing estates of Ballygelvin and Glenbarr. The study of Redlands also suggests that similar processes operate in the housing estate in the town. In the rural area it is not so obvious, but something similar may be indicated by the reported lack of enthusiasm for the IRA, but yet the electoral support for SF.

There are important implications for policy makers. Whatever policy is devised or whatever motivation lies behind it, once it reaches the community it is out of the control of the policy maker. It will be shaped and controlled by the community, both by the influence of dominant figures and by the influence of traditional frameworks and perspectives. Some external people have influence in the community, but only in so far as they have the confidence of leadership figures, or they reflect the traditional world view. A good example of this in the studies was the way the Anglo-Irish agreement was received and fitted into existing frameworks.


Levels of integration

There was very little integration in any of the three communities, though the level of physical segregation varied. Ballygelvin is an almost exclusively Protestant area, and Londonderry as a whole has many highly segregated areas. The west bank of the Foyle is exclusively Catholic, apart from one small Protestant estate. The east bank is more mixed, but public housing estates are segregated, apart from two. Redlands has a religiously mixed population, but here again some parts of the area are predominately Catholic or Protestant. One of the larger villages is completely Protestant some of the rural areas, particularly those on the poor upland fringes of the district, are mainly Catholic, and the tenants of the largest housing estate in the town are mainly from that area and Catholic. Glenbarr is still mixed, denominationally, but the report has described pressures towards a religiously homogeneous population.

Even where physical proximity occurs, the level of social integration was still low. Few cross the religious barriers for shopping, social activities, sport and personal social intercourse. For some, work is one place where contact occurs, but the studies have shown that many are not economically active, not all work places are mixed, and in the rural area the mutual aid across religious lines, which was a feature of farming in the past, is declining and labour is mainly found within the family. Most schools have no significant religious mix in the pupil population, but a few were involved in inter-community contact work. The studies have shown some of the limitations and difficulties in developing these programmes.

Although integration was low, the level of superficial knowledge about the other community is high. Particularly in the rural area of Redlands, traditional knowledge allowed one to "place" people, and in a fairly new housing estate like Glenbarr there was considerable knowledge. Even in the geographically segregated Londonderry, there were important networks for keeping in touch with what was happening in the other community, and pre-1968 acquaintanceships could be used.

Factors influencing segregation

A number of reasons can be identified which explain this tendency towards segregation:

1. The tendency to live close to ones co-religionists has existed for many generations, and people find this more congenial than mixed communities. Nevertheless the level of segregation has been increasing since the beginning of the troubles, even in areas which have been little affected.

2. It appears that Protestants find it important to keep the demarcation lines clear, as this confirms the importance and inevitability of the conflict. At a personal level, this could be seen most clearly in Redlands, in the apparent reluctance to sell land to Catholics or to use Catholic owned commercial services. It was also seen operating on a broader, more political level in Derry city council, when the unionists found the situation simpler if the nationalist parties could be seen as disinterested in offering them any positions of authority in the council. The Redlands study suggests that there was no similar point of principle motivating Catholics to remain separate.

3. Each community is unaware of its own behaviour and attitudes, which signal its common cultural identity, and thereby suggest an exclusiveness to those outside: a concept which has been called cultural blindness. It has been shown that this process does not happen solely in personal contact, but also through reports and statements in the media.

4. An element of unpremeditated drift operates. There is a tendency, again perhaps stronger on the Protestant side, to withdraw when the participation of the other community becomes strong and apparent. This happens in joint groups and also territorially. An area or organisation becomes defined as Protestant or Catholic, and there is then a reluctance to visit that area or use those facilities. Actual threats or intimidation, while an important problem, are not necessary, though they may commence this process or reinforce it once it has commenced. The Ballygelvin residents had that feeling about some parts of the city centre shopping areas, and indeed many other parts of the city, but there the divisions were clear. In Redlands the study described the suspicion or reticence of Protestants about using the new leisure centre, and in that case their fears were resolved and they now use the centre together with Catholics. In Glenbarr one can see the sense of not belonging growing in the Catholic population, partly through feeling marginalised within the estate, and partly through direct attacks. It is not clear if this trend will continue or be reversed.

5. Housing management practices have an impact on these processes. The NIHE states that it has no policy on building and allocation apart from need and cost. However decisions about where and when to build new housing, and the way in which an estate is managed, will influence the extent of segregation. If these factors are not fully thought out and planned for, then they may well have unforeseen, and perhaps undesirable, consequences.

6. Much segregation is simply a matter of people doing what is convenient, and has no political undertones.

7. Segregation is operating in communities in which many people are private and isolated. They have little to do with other people whatever their religion. This social isolation was found particularly in the urban housing estates of Ballygelvin and Glenbarr.


A. While many of the factors are internal to the community, planning and housing policy can either promote or discourage integration. It is unrealistic to say that planning and housing authorities have no policy on this, when their actions will have an impact. It is also unrealistic to assume that this is a responsibility of the NIHE alone.

It is therefore recommended that a clear policy be developed across public bodies, which states whether segregation is acceptable and in what circumstances. It would state what practices are appropriate in the light of that declaration. While individual preference to live in segregated housing areas is recognised, it is suggested that segregation is undesirable in general terms because it ultimately limits individual choice and freedom of movement, and because it restricts the possibility of understanding other sections of the community. The following recommendations reflect these assumptions.

B. In planning for integration, size and stability in the housing area are important factors which need to be taken into account. The optimum size must be sufficiently small to allow easy interaction and purposeful community control of "fringe elements", but sufficiently large to make the community viable. In the case of Glenbarr the estate may have been too small to meet this criteria. Allocation and management need to be geared to achieving a stable population over time, and numbers of potentially transient tenants keep to a minimum. It should also aim to achieve a balance of families between those who are capable of organising and supporting the community, and those who need support.

C. The experience of establishing a mixed clientele for Daviestown leisure centre when there were reservations by one side, suggests that tendencies towards segregation can be overcome when there is a commitment to achieving integration, and a sensitivity to potential obstacles.

D. It is important that not only should adequate facilities be made available to meet the social needs of the communities, but that they should be planned in such a way as to encourage, or at least facilitate, the shared use of such facilities.

E. There is currently no mechanism whereby disputes between tenants, or issues of threat and intimidation, can be resolved. Again it is unrealistic to consider that the NIHE can be expected to handle all these issues as an individual organisation, and other skills, in addition to those of housing management, need to be brought in. These would include not only counselling, but also expertise in conflict resolution, and community development.

It is recommended that there should be a dispute settlement service available to housing areas. Ideally there should be access to a local group, but the expertise is not available. Perhaps a regionally-based team could identify, train and support local mediators, and act in a troubleshooting role if the problems are too great.

In broader terms, it is recommended that all public agencies should have a policy on community relations, and that these policies should be co-ordinated at a local, as well as at a provincial, level.

F. Schools have a contribution to make, but inter-community initiatives make heavy demands, and expose those taking initiatives to criticism. They need to be provided with support. On the broader issue of integrated education, the studies, and particularly the survey, show that while there is a widespread acceptance that integrated education would be beneficial to future community relations, any attempt to enforce educational integration would meet with considerable opposition from both communities. This would seem to suggest that the current proposals to encourage the development of integrated schools is the right approach, and should be persevered with, even if they should initially meet with little success.

G. The work place is often a focus for inter-community friction, but it is also one place where interaction does occur, and more participant observation studies of the dynamics of the workplace are required.



Polarisation is very closely associated with segregation. A polarised community will tend to segregate, as the studies show, and a segregated community has little opportunity to deal with polarised positions.

Polarisation runs deep in the two communities. There are very different views of the causes of, and solution to, the political situation. Each community's perspective is based on aspirations which are very distinctive from those of the other community. The basic political assumptions identified by nelson (1984) in Belfast are also features of the west of the province: assumptions of absolute values, that there is one right and wholly correct point of view and a totally wrong view, a zero-sum analysis by which gains on one side must lead to a loss on the other.

There was little confidence that the Anglo-Irish agreement was likely to lead to an improvement in the situation which exists in the province. In the January 1988 survey, only 29 (9.9%) of all respondents felt that the agreement had increased the likelihood of long-term peace and stability, as opposed to 92 (31.4%) who believed it had actually reduced such a likelihood, and 109 (37.2%) who believed it had had no effect. The survey also pointed clearly to the different sense of national identity between the two communities (see table 6.1).

Table 6.1: Term most likely to use to describe self
Catholics Protestants Others Total
(N=) 94 180 15 289
British 17.0% 63.9% 46.7% 47.8%
Irish 54.3% 6.1% 27.7% 22.8%
Northern Irish 27.7% 12.2% 26.7% 18.0%
Ulster 1.1% 17.8% 0.0% 11.4%

(Source: January 1988 survey)

Nor did there seem to be any great desire to make constitutional accommodations which might ameliorate the situation. In the survey, only 16 (17.4%) of all Catholic respondents, and only 31(16.4%) of Protestants, opted for power-sharing as their preferred long-term political solution (see table 6.2).

Table 6.2: Most acceptable long-term political solutions (%)
Catholics Protestants Others Total
(N=) 92 185 16 289
Devolved government (majority rule) 0.0% 11.6% 0.0% 7.4%
Devolved government (power-sharing) 17.4% 6.4% 11.1% 16.4%
Direct rule 4.3% 9.5% 5.6% 7.7%
Federal Ireland 3.3% 0.5% 0.0% 1.3%
Independence 4.3% 4.2% 0.0% 4.0%
Integration with Britain 5.4% 17.0% 11.1% 13.0%
Joint authority between Britain/Ireland 12.0% 5.8% 27.8% 9.0%
United Ireland 6.3% 1.1% 5.6% 6.0%
Not Interested/no preference 1.1% 2.1% 5.6% 2.0%
Don't know 35.9% 31.7% 33.3% 33.1%

(Source: January 1988 survey)

Limitations on reducing polarisation

  1. Polarisation has long historical roots, with stories which prove the need for vigilance, and distrust of the other side, carried down through the generations. Current experience reinforces these views.

  2. The Protestant population feel vulnerable, especially in a border area like Daviestown, where the IRA have been active, or a predominantly Catholic area like Londonderry, where Protestants feel they are deprived of a fair share of provision. The issue is less stark in Garstown, but Glenbarr is close to a strongly Catholic estate, and very aware of Catholic achievements in the recent erection of the church and the GAA club.

  3. The Catholic people are aggrieved in that they continue to feel they receive less favourable treatment in areas such as employment and the behaviour of the security forces. They see the continuing failure to make progress as an indication of Protestant intransigence and unwillingness to compromise, coupled to an unwillingness on the part of the government to take the necessary action, in terms of effective practical measures, to overcome this intransigence. They react accordingly.

  4. There are few opportunities to explore issues with opponents.

  5. There has been little examination of the identity and aims of one's own community, which would be a necessary basis for rethinking issues between the two communities from a clear perspective.

  6. As with segregation, polarisation must be considered in the context of the general isolation of individuals from neighbours.


A. General political education is needed to provide people with the necessary skills to consider the main issues and to explore them with those with opposing views. This could be done at two levels: programmes for children in schools, and through adult education programmes involving groups which already exist, such as bands. Women's groups, churches, and trade unions.

B. In a situation where there are insufficient resources and facilities, the situation is zero-sum, and this is recognised in the communities. There is no easy way of dealing with this without finding the resources to make more opportunities available for everyone.

C. Public bodies are themselves using confrontational approaches, which confirm that this is the appropriate way to solve problems. On the broadest political level, the prime example is the introduction of the Anglo-Irish agreement. Residents of the study areas who opposed the agreement often commented on the government's imposition of the plan and imperviousness to protest. They did not like that approach, but they would like to emulate it, and the whole community may have been encouraged to believe that this style is appropriate in other circumstances.


Extent of alienation

It is not necessary to join the debate about defining the precise meaning of alienation (Johnson 1973), and it is sufficient to say that classic alienation is probably not prevalent, with the possible exception of a significant section of the Catholic community in Redlands. It may be more useful to consider the existence of some perceptions which can contribute to a sense of alienation: dissatisfaction with government and leaders; a sense of remoteness from power: powerlessness to bring about change; a breakdown of social values; and a sense that policies and rules are meaningless or incomprehensible. It is evident that all these perceptions were held by sections of the community, though they were not all held by any one section.

There seemed to be little real demand for a break in the link with Britain, and this was confirmed by the January 1988 survey (see table 6.2). Apart from the obvious desire of Catholics for some sense of involvement in the policy-making process - whether in an internal solution, or one requiring some degree of involvement for the republic of Ireland - the most striking aspect of this survey was the absence of any real degree of consensus around any specific political solution, and the high proportion of don't knows or not interested. Taken in conjunction with the feelings of political apathy, unhappiness and confusion about the present situation, and lack of confidence in any improvement in the future - sentiments referred to throughout the area studies - this would seem to be a clear indication of a widespread sense of powerlessness within both communities.


The area studies clearly indicated that within the Protestant community the major sources of dissatisfaction were the continuingly effective terrorist campaign, and the imposition of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This was confirmed by the January 1988 survey, which also suggests that even if the intensity of hostility to the Anglo-Irish Agreement had lessened, the agreement continued to be opposed by the majority of Protestants (see tables 6.3 and 6.4). In addition to the 56 (29.5%) Protestant respondents who named the agreement as the biggest problem in Northern Ireland today, a further 57 (30.2%) named it as one of three other major problems.

Table 6.3: Biggest problem in Northern Ireland today (%)
Catholics Protestants Others Total
(N=) 93 190 18 301
Political violence 26.9% 27.4% 22.4% 26.9%
Anglo-Irish Agreement 8.6% 29.5% 5.6% 21.6%
Unemployment/economic situation 19.4% 15.8% 22.2% 17.3%
Religious discrimination 16.1% 8.9% 22.2% 12.0%
Unionist politicians 5.4% 2.1% 5.6% 3.3%
Behaviour of security forces 8.6% 0.0% 5.6% 3.0%
Interference by Irish government 0.0% 3.2% 0.0% 2.0%
British rule 2.2% 1.6% 0.0% 1.7%
Nationalist politicians 2.2% 1.6% 0.0% 1.7%
Others 0.0% 1.1% 5.6% 1.0%
Don't know 10.8% 8.9% 11.1% 9.6%

(Source January 1988 survey)

Table 6.4: Attitudes towards the Anglo-Irish Agreement (%)
Catholics Protestants Others Total
(N=) 88 185 16 289
Strongly support 4.5% 2.2% 0.0% 2.8%
Tend to support 27.3% 6.5% 31.2% 14.2%
Neither support nor oppose 60.2% 36.2% 50.0% 44.3%
Tend to oppose 4.5% 29.2% 12.5% 20.8%
Strongly oppose 3.4% 25.9% 6.3% 18.0%

(Source January 1988 survey)

One reason for this was clearly spelt out by the area studies; the manner in which the agreement was implemented. Added to this was the resentment, and indeed fear, of any involvement of the Irish government, and the feeling that their constitutional position had been undermined without any commensurate improvement in the security situation. Indeed, only 28 (15.2%) Protestant respondents believed that the agreement had led to a reduction in support for republican paramilitaries. Protestant perceptions of a general sense of loss, were accompanied by specific fears concerning both physical and political insecurity. In the survey, 63 (34.1%) Protestant respondents believed that the agreement had given the Irish government a direct say in the government of Northern Ireland, as opposed to a purely consultative role.

Catholic reaction to the agreement was more complex. The area studies have referred to what was at best a rather lukewarm welcome amongst Catholics, and this was confirmed by the survey (see table 6.4). The great majority of Catholics saw any possible benefits as being in the areas of practical day-to-day issues, rather than as a step towards a united Ireland. Indeed, only a small minority seemed to strongly desire unification. In the survey, only 15 (16.3%) Catholic respondents opted for a united Ireland as their preferred long-term political solution (see table 6.2), although in a separate question 34 (36.2%) said they were in favour of a united Ireland within the next 25 years, with 20 (21.3%) saying they were opposed and 40 (42.6%) having no definite preference.

Apart from a general desire to have some meaningful say in the policy-making process - whether within an internal political solution, or within an arrangement which in some way involved the Irish government - Catholic attention focused on the issues of unemployment and discrimination, both in the areas of employment and in their treatment at the hands of the state's law and order agencies (see table 6.3). Although in the survey only 15 (16.1%) Catholics named religious discrimination as the biggest problem in Northern Ireland today, a further 34 (36.6%) included it as one of three other major problems, while 78 (82.1%) Catholic respondents agreed or strongly agreed that most Catholics would be happy to stay within the United Kingdom if they could be assured of no discrimination against them.

Within the area studies, there are constant references to a widespread feeling that Catholics see themselves as being discriminated against by the local security forces - particularly the UDR, though to only a slightly lesser degree by the police - and the absence of any effective forms of redress. These sentiments were confirmed by the survey (see table 6.5). Although only 8 (8.6%) Catholics named the behaviour of the security forces as the biggest problem in Northern Ireland today, a further 22 (23.7%) included it as one of three other major problems. While bias within the courts did not appear to be such a major issue, 14 (14.9%) Catholic respondents strongly agreed, with a further 45 (47.9%) agreeing, that, failing a return to jury trial, three judge courts should be introduced.

Table 6.5: Catholic attitudes towards security forces and courts (%)
Army UDR RUC Courts
(N=) 94 94 95 95
Very biased against Catholics 4.3% 36.2% 23.2% 9.5%
A bit biased against Catholics 16.0% 29.8% 25.3% 20.0%
Treat Catholics and Protestants fairly equally 67.0% 16.0% 38.9% 45.3%
Don't Know 12.8% 18.0% 12.6% 25.3%

(Source: January 1988 survey)


A. It seems clear that unless the current proposals to deal with discrimination in employment are successful, and unless measures are introduced to remove, or at least significantly reduce, Catholic perceptions of bias in the area of law and order, there is a very real danger that widespread Catholic grievances may develop into a more general alienation from the state.

In the area of employment, government measures will ultimately be largely judged by their effectiveness in reducing unemployment rates amongst the Catholic population. While it is accepted that success in this area will also depend on broader economic and labour market strategies, failure to deal effectively with the issue will have serious implications for stability in the province.

In the area of law and order, while a change to three judge courts would be welcomed by the majority of Catholics, and might to some extent increase Catholic confidence in the administration of justice, it is more important that measures are taken to deal with relationships between the Catholic population and the local security forces. Perhaps the most urgent requirement, is the introduction of what will be accepted by the Catholic community as a speedy, effective and impartial mechanism to deal with complaints against members of the security forces. Whilst it is recognised that this is a politically sensitive area, progress is essential if the legitimacy of the security forces, including the RUC, is not to be further undermined within the Catholic community.

B. In dealing with the Protestant population, it must be borne in mind that there is a fairly widespread concern about political, as well as physical, security. In view of the comments made earlier about the influence of local leadership in mediating community perceptions of government measures, it seems essential that strategies are adopted, at local as well as at provincial level, to properly explain government intentions. While the current advertising campaign surrounding the fair employment measures is undoubtedly a significant step forward, what seems to be needed, in more general terms, is for public authorities, or central government itself, to get out into local communities to explain strategies and specific proposals. There also needs to be a greater indication of a willingness, on the part of government, to listen, and not to be seen as simply imposing policies from some remote centre

There is also a clear need to convince the Protestant population that effective security measures are not being jeopardised for broad political objectives. The Protestant sense of loss, and the sense that the government is no longer fully committed to the defeat of terrorism, can be effectively played upon by militant leadership. It is difficult to imagine how, within the context of the Anglo-Irish agreement, these sentiments can be counteracted, unless it can be clearly demonstrated this agreement is leading to an improvement in the security situation. Success in this area will obviously depend in part on how successful other measures are in reducing tacit support for the republican paramilitaries, within the Catholic population. However, at a broader political level, every hesitation on the part of the Irish government, however understandable, to implement measures aimed at improving the security situation, will be interpreted as further evidence of a lack of will, and a confirmation of the duplicitous nature of the agreement.

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1 In accordance with convention, and to protect anonymity, a number of place-names have been changed. In the case of this part of the study, this applies to the area which has been called "Ballygelvin".

2 In the Ballygelvin study, the name Londonderry is used to describe the city. While it is recognised that this term is unacceptable to some, this has been done in deference to the wishes of the population of the study area. The city council is referred to as Derry, as this is now the officially recognised name of the council. The term Cityside is used to denote that area of the city on the west bank of the Foyle, in contradistinction to the Waterside on the east bank.

3 In any reference to this study area, the comment in Note 1 applies to what have been called "Daviestown", "Redlands", "Eastville", "Northville", "Rally Mills", "Gollan", "Golleter", "River Davie" and "Mill Beg".

4 In any reference to this study area, the comment in Note 1 applies to what have been called "Garstown", "Glenbarr", "Kilbirnie" and "Knocknahoc".

5 In the chapters relating to the individual areas, survey data is normally reported in the form of the actual number of respondents giving a particular response, followed in brackets by the percentage of all respondents (usually religious groups), as appropriate.

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