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FLIGHT: A Report on Population Movement in Belfast During August, 1971
by Community Relations Commission

[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text: Community Relations Commission ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

A Report on Population Movement
in Belfast during August, 1971


Community Relations Commission Research Unit (1971)


Movement Patterns
Zone Index
Map of Movement-Out
Map of Movement-In
Areas of Major Movement
Flow Charts
Movement within Sectors



We know from the evidence of many people that intimidation and scare-mongering leading to individuals leaving their homes in fear has been going on in Belfast for some considerable time. We know also that the mounting tension of the last months coupled with the increasing tempo of violence has created a situation in which feelings of acute insecurity are endemic in wide areas of the city.

But the violence which flared up in the second week of August this year following the detention of suspected IRA terrorists widened what had been, in the main, a steady trickle into a flood.

As the records of the cases dealt with by the Staff of the Commission through its Emergency Communications Centre were analysed it became apparent that a very significant number of people, with or without help, were removing themselves from places where they felt exposed to dangers to areas which, in their view, afforded them greater security.

To give up a home where one has lived for years, and which is itself a symbol of security, for the insecurity of squatting, which many did, is an act of desperation: to damage one's home on leaving, or allow others to do so, is an act of despair. Each of the statistics recorded in this report represents an individual tragedy and a personal bitterness which remains as a legacy of what has taken place.

The new residential patterns revealed by this study, which are still being reinforced by a continuing movement of population, are obviously going to significantly affect future planning and development in the city. The need to feel secure and protected from danger is a factor of considerable importance. At the moment this is being achieved by a voluntary retreat on both sides into defensive positions. Whilst we must accept this fact for the time being it would be entirely wrong to fatalistically infer from it that the future lies in the development of separate ghettoes throughout the land. It has to be remembered that what drove people to take such desperate measures was an overpowering sense of insecurity and fear. The remedy lies in a concerted attempt to remove that fear and to restore to a much-abused people the security that they long for.

The end of this story is not yet in sight. This report does not claim to be a full record of all the movements which took place up to the end of August and new information is still coming in. It was clear however that a sufficiently large number of cases had been recorded and analysed to yield significant interpretation of what has taken place. Consequently the report is published now to provide reliable information on a problem which has caused wide concern.

All the work of obtaining and analysing the information and of writing-up this report has been undertaken by 3 people, Richard Black, Frances Pinter and Bob Overy. Without the diligence and the enthusiasm which they brought to this project the report would never have been produced and I should like to record here my gratitude and appreciation for all their hard work. They received valuable advice and help from Dr Michael Poole of Queen's University Geography Department who collaborated with them on a number of stages of the project and to whom I am also very grateful.

Finally I should like to record my appreciation of the co-operation which we received from those agencies who are named in the report who, together with the members of the Commission's Community Development Team, collected the data in the first instance and made it available for analysis.

22nd September 1971


The object of this report is to (i) present a factual account of household movement within the Belfast urban area for the 3 week period beginning 9th August, 1971, (ii) to present a few hypotheses which seek to explain the patterns, and (iii) to illustrate how the collected data might be used to predict future patterns of movement.

A Note on Method

We have collected data on people's origins and destinations from a wide variety of sources. They include:

(i) Emergency housing lists from Northern Ireland Housing Trust.
(ii) Local Housing Trust offices in Monkstown, Suffolk and Dundonald.
(iii) Belfast Welfare Department.
(iv) Housing Liaison Committee.
(v) Housing Aid Society.
(vi) Royal Ulster Constabulary.
(vii) A few relief centres.
(viii)Community Relations Commission transport and intimidation records.
(ix) Lists supplied by local groups during emergency house repairs.

The Central Citizens' Defence Committee were asked if they could supply information but had been unable to do so for the date of publication. Some of our information (about 15%) arrived very late when most of our analysis was complete. The new material was partially processed to update total figures and to assess the validity of the existing movement trends but it was not possible to give a detailed breakdown.

In dividing the city up by areas we have chosen to use the zoning system developed by the Building Design Partnership in 1966. Having rejected the use of Wards and Constituencies as being too large for our purposes, we found the B.D.P. ordering of the city into 137 zones to be the most socially relevant for our purposes. Their work has also provided us with a useful index of socio-economic factors for each area. The total number of movements for which we could account for both origin and destination was 2,100.


There was movement out of houses in 78 zones out of the 137 as defined by the Building Design Partnership, while 101 zones received new families.

Of the 2,069 moves, 97 moved out of the Belfast urban area. This figure is probably too low considering the work of the Development Advice Centre in rehousing families outside the urban area, but we were referred by them to the Housing Trust Emergency List. Over 50% of the 97 moved to areas within 10 miles of Belfast. Of these 10 moved to Carrickfergus, 30 to Lisburn, 11 to Downpatrick and 12 to Bangor. The rest are now dispersed throughout Northern Ireland, while a few emigrated.

Areas with the greatest movement out have been the New Ardoyne/Clonard area (B.D.P. zone 271) with 363 families leaving, (revised figure - 439), and the Grosvenor Road/Roden Street area (zone 321) with 225 families abandoning their homes.


The major movement out of the New Ardoyne (70% in our estimation) was of Protestant families from the burnt-out streets of Farringdon Gardens, Velsheda Park and Cranbrook Gardens with the majority (80) going to the Ballysillan estates, including Silverstream, Benview and Tyndale, and a further 56 families moving to Glencairn.

Further Protestant movement was into Woodvale and Shankill, along the Shore Road, out to Glengormley, Rathcoole and Monkstown and across to East Belfast, in particular to Dundonald.

Most Catholic families moving out of the Farringdon/Velsheda/Cranbrook streets found new housing within the New Ardoyne area though there was also a significant migration into Ligoniel, across to the Springfield Road and Andersonstown/Suffolk areas in West Belfast. 85% of families moving out of homes in New Ardoyne, however, stayed within the North Belfast sector of the city.

Movement into the area (151 families) was overwhelmingly Catholic, with almost all of these coming from the North Belfast sector. 85 families moved only a few streets, or even took a house in the same street, without looking outside the New Ardoyne area for a new home.

Other families moving into the area have come from Ballysillan, Ligoniel, Oldpark Road/Rosapenna Street, Mcnkstown and Rathcoole.


The overwhelming outflow from the Ballysillan area has been of Catholic families, with their homes being taken over by Protestant refugee families from the New Ardoyne. Catholic evacuees have found themselves new homes in the New Ardoyne area, though there is no evidence of direct exchange, in Ligoniel, Oldpark Road/Rosapenna Street, New Lodge Road and Falls Road. 75% remained within North Belfast.

Protestant inflow to the Ballysillan estates (approximately 150) is much larger than our figure for Catholic outflow (approximately 54) suggesting that our record of Catholic movement needs supplementing. 60% of the families moving in came from the New Ardoyne; others from Ligoniel, Oldpark/Rosapenna, which includes the Ballynure streets, from Lower Shankill, from the Lanark Street area between Mayo Street and Cupar Street, and from the Roden Street area. 90% of movement into the area was from within the Northern sector.


The middle Oldpark Road area (zone 213), including Louisa Street, Ardilea Street, Rosapenna Street, Manor Street and the Ballynure Streets off Ballycarry Street, has experienced 140 families losing their homes. Movement within the area (28 families) has involved a redistribution of Catholic and Protestant households, with Catholic families leaving mixed areas in the South-East of the zone between Manor Street and Rosapenna Street and around Louisa Street, and in the North, like Heathfield Street, and Protestants leaving the Ballynure Streets in the middle of the zone.

A few Protestant families have moved into the Louisa Street and Manor Street areas but the majority who have moved out of the zone have dispersed themselves along the Shore Road, irto Shankill, Glencairn and Ballysillan, and towards the Cliftonville Road - especially Westland Road.

Catholics have moved across the Oldpark Road into the Ballynure Streets thus expanding the Ardilea Street ghetto, while those moving out of the zone have moved to New Lodge Road, Falls and the City Centre. Catholic families from Ligoniel, New Ardoyne, Ballysillan, Alliance Avenue and Springfield Road have moved into the zone.

85% of the 140 families moving out remained within the North Belfast sector of the city. 42 of the 47 families finding new homes within the zone came from within the Northern sector.


There has been a decisive movement of Protestant families out of the mixed streets to the south of Duncairn Gardens which connect with the Catholic areas of Lepper Street and New Lodge Road. Those Protestant families which remained within the zone moved north across Duncairn Gardens into the Protestant streets around Tiger Bay. Protestant movement out of the area was along the Shore Road (including especially Alexandra Park Avenue and Shore Crescent), as far as Monkstown, into Ballysillan, and to Dundonald in the East. 85% of movement out remained within the Northern sector.

There has been a minor movement of Protestant families into the Duncairn Gardens area from York Street - but the major movement has been of Catholic families into the Hillman. Spamount and Upper Meadow Streets. The main origin addresses for these families have been Oldpark/Rosapenna, Old Lodge Road, New Ardoyne, Ballysillan, Grosvenor Road, Springfield Road, East Belfast and Monkstown areas. 80% of these new arrivals from outside the zone have come from the North Belfast sector; 30% of these came from Springfield Road/Grosvenor Road areas in West Belfast.

There has been tremendous Protestant evacuation from Suffolk. We estimate that 88% of the movement out has been Protestant, perhaps 15% of that remaining within the area, and the rest dispersing to all parts of the city.

Within the Suffolk area, most Protestant families have moved from the Falcarragh Drive section of Lenadoon Avenue south towards the Stewartstown Road, strengthening the small Horn Drive/Kells Avenue Protestant ghetto across the Stewartstown Road. Other Protestant families have moved further outside the city boundary in the West sector to Lambeg and some also to Lisburn.

However, the main Protestant movement has been to East Belfast, including 22 outside the city boundary to Dundonald, and 5 other families dispersed throughout the East sector within the boundary. 9 have moved into the Southern sector, including 5 to Lisburn Road. 15 have moved across to North Belfast, including 9 outside the boundary to Monkstown and Rathcoole, and to the Ballysillan/Cliftonville Road area.

Several Catholic families have moved out of the Stewartstown Road and Lenadoon Avenue and have moved into the Falcarragh Drive section; but the major Catholic movement in has been from the Falls/Grosvenor/Springfield/ Andersonstown area. A total of 88 out of 134 (updated to 171) families moving into Suffolk from outside the area have come from this section where there was serious street fighting with the Army following Internment. Only 17 of the new families have come from the Springfield Park and Dunboyne Park estates of the Springfield Road which were largely evacuated after sectarian intimidation. 28 came from the Grosvenor Road area which includes Roden Street and Leeson Street.

Other Catholic families have come from Monkstown - 7; Sandy Row - 8; and Lambeg - 6. There have been some direct transfers with Monkstown, Ballybean and Lambeg.


Of the 174 families (updated to 225) which have moved out of the Grosvenor Road/Roden Street area which includes Malt Street:, Little Distillery Street, Excise Street and Selby Street as well as Leeson Street, 47 were Protestant families who moved directly to Lower Broadway. However, there has also been a significant movement of Catholic families dispersed throughout the Springfield Road and Falls areas and to the outlying Suffolk estate. This we take to be as a result of the continual fighting in the area, rather than sectarian intimidation.

The formerly mixed area between Distillery Street to the East, Grosvenor Road to the North, Roden Street to the West and Excise Street to the South has been evacuated by Protestants; while there has also been significant Catholic movement out of the mixed area immediately to the South of this between Selby Street and Roden Street and as far as the Donegall Road.

Protestant movement out has been in the main towards the Donegall Road, with, in addition to the Lower Broadway inflow, several families finding homes in Sandy Row, Lower Donegall Road, Tates Avenue and Lisburn Road. There has been a further movement out towards Ormeau Road and Annadale. A few families have moved across to Alexandra Park Avenue, Mount Vernon and Ballysillan in North Belfast.

Many Catholic families displaced in the Selby Street/Roden Street areas have moved North into formerly Protestant homes in Excise Street and Burnaby Street.

Balancing the Protestant inflow into the Lower Broadway area from Grosvenor Road there was a Catholic outflow back to the Roden Street area. Other Catholic families moved further to the West towards Andersonstown. Our figures, however, do not seem to be accurate enough to reflect the lack of Catholic movement-out as our movement-in figure is more than double the movement-out figure.


The remaining area with large scale movement in West Belfast was that of Springfield Road which for our purposes we divided into Upper Springfield, zones 361/362, Middle Springfield, zones 332/333 and Beechmount/Clonard, zone 331.

Of these the middle Springfield area saw the largest movement out with 77 families leaving their homes. This movement on the whole appeared to be a clarifying of boundaries with a large Protestant outflow from Lanark Street, and Merkland Street going across to the Belair, Mountcashel, Mayo and Ainsworth streets. Equally Catholic movement took place from the Lanark Street/Merkland Street area across the Springfield Road to Elswick Street, Colinward Street and down into the Clonard area. The houses in the Lanark Street area are now all bricked up and uninhabited. Catholic movement also took place from the low side of Mayo Street, from Bainesmore Drive and Mountcashel Street area.

Further up the Springfield Road considerable movement was also experienced particularly in the owner occupied areas of Springfield Park and Dunboyne Park motivated by the intense fighting that took place in the vicinity. Total movement out of the area was 167 and about 70 of them are from these two streets. Almost all the Dunboyne people moved further to the West into Suffolk and Andersonstown whilst Springfield Park people dispersed much more widely. Movement on the whole was about 70% Catholic throughout the two zones. Again large sections of Springfield Park and Dunboyne Park have been left uninhabited like the Lanark Street area.


The movement in East Belfast was located in two areas: the lower Newtownards Road and at Dundonald. In the Bryson Street/Madrid Street area, zone 612, the movement out was quite high with 98 families moving their home. About 75% of the movement out was Protestant and over 5o% of that figure went to other parts of East Belfast or out to the Housing Trust estates at Dundonald. About a quarter of the movement was within the area itself with people going into neighbouring streets or across the Newtownards Road.

The area was previously mixed but is now almost totally Catholic while Bryson Street still remains 75% unoccupied although a number of families have moved back. It is difficult to estimate what started the movement because at one point people of both denominations were leaving, often from the same street.

At Dundonald there was Catholic movement out of the Ballybeen estates, zone 886, with minor movements in Ardcarn (884) and Tullycarnet (882). Movement in was of Protestant families previously from the Suffolk and Bryson Street areas. Once again our figures for Catholic movement out do not correlate with those of Protestants moving in. Our figures show 39 families moving into Ballybeen and 24 moving into Tullycarnet while only 11 and 5 moved out of these respective areas. It is possible that this disparity is due to the people moving out having gone to a situation that has just not shown up on any of the information of the agencies we contacted or the movement in may have been to vacant houses.


From the collected data we have been able to make some general statements about movement within the Belfast Urban Area and have chosen 12 zones with the highest outflow and inflow to study in detail. A chart showing details of this outflow/inflow for these zones and flow charts showing where families have gone and have come from in 7 of these areas are to be found at the end of the report.

Although we were not able to record an exact religious breakdown we have estimated from origin and destination addresses that of the total number of movements 40% were Protestant while 60% were Catholic.

By taking the total population of Belfast Urban Area and dividing it by the average number per family we have arrived at a round number of 180,000 households. From this, our information of 2,100 moves indicates that roughly 1% of families in the Belfast Urban Area have moved house in our 3-week period. The proportion of Catholics to Protestants in the city is 25% to 75%. From our religious breakdown it appears that 2% of the 45,000 Catholic households have moved while 0.5% of the 135,000 Protestant households have also found new homes.


The major movement patterns have shown an outflow of Catholic families from the Ballysillan Housing Estates, from the burnt out streets of the New Ardoyne and from Monkstown, outside the city boundary. All these are in the urban area's Northern sector. In the West, Catholic households have also removed from Springfield Park and Dunboyne Park, privately owned estates in the Springfield Road area, from formerly mixed streets at the Springfield Road end of Mayo Street, from the Roden Street area of Grosvenor Road towards Donegall Road, and along the Donegall Road as far as Lower Broadway. Bryson Street in East Belfast and the new Dundonald housing estates outside the city boundary, especially Ballybean, have also had Catholic families moving out.

Protestant households in North Belfast have evacuated in large numbers from the Farringdon/Cranbrook streets of New Ardoyne, from the Ballynure streets on the Oldpark Road opposite Ardilea Street and from the New Lodge Road side of Duncairn Gardens, the Spamount/Upper Meadow Streets. In West Belfast they have moved from Lanark Street, between Cupar Street and Mayo Street, just off the Springfield Road, from the Grosvenor Road end of Roden Street, including Malt Street, and from the Lenadoon Avenue area of the Suffolk housing estate, outside the city boundary. Protestants have also moved out of Bryson Street in the East.


A great many Catholic families have found new houses in the New Ardoyne area and in other North Belfast streets off Oldpark Road and Duncairn Gardens formerly occupied by Protestants. A similar movement into the Grosvenor Road end of Roden Street and into Suffolk has not accounted for all those requiring housing, however, and there has been a general dispersion of families throughout the Falls/Springfield area. In East Belfast, there has been movement into Bryson Street and into the Seaforde Street ghetto.

The major inflow of Protestant families has been into the Ballysillan estates to homes evacuated by Catholics, into new housing in Glencairn, Shore Crescent and Westland Road, into Duncairn Gardens, Alexandra Park Avenue, Mount Vernon and, outside the city boundary, Monkstown. Outside North Belfast, in the West, there has been a major Protestant evacuation into Lower Broadway/Donegall Road and into the Stewartstown Road area of Suffolk. In the East, there has been some retrenchment opposite Bryson Street and the taking over of formerly Catholic homes in the Dundonald estates outside the boundary.

In none of the areas which we describe is there an absolute correlation between numbers moving out and numbers moving in. This we attribute to the probable deficiency of our information in the private housing sector and in some Catholic areas, to the occupation by squatters of new housing, sometimes even unfinished homes, as in Glencairn and Lisburn, to a substantial amount of destroyed housing, as in Farringdon Gardens and Bryson Street, and to the abandoning or closing up of houses as in Springfield Park and Lanark Street.


If we attempt to group the different sorts of removal in terms of the character of the area and the changes that the population movement has brought about, six tentative categories suggest themselves. Some areas fit into more than one category.

There are formerly mixed areas like Grosvenor Road/Roden Street, Lanark Street/Mountcashel Street, Madrid Street/Bryson Street, Suffolk and middle Oldpark Road, where there has been a redistribution of households between Protestant and Catholic so as to achieve a more distinct segregation by religious background.

There are formerly mixed areas like Farringdon Gardens, Lanark Street, Bryson Street and Springfield Park where there has been the evacuation of both sections of the community - associated with the wrecking or closing-up of houses and the idea, in some cases, of razing the area to the ground.

Then there are formerly mixed areas from which the minority has been evicted or has removed itself - such as Ballysillan. Dunboyne Park, Dundonald, Monkstown, Upper Broadway and Lower Broadway/Donegall Road - and a solidly one-denominational area has been created. Excepting only Upper Broadway, all these areas are now Protestant.

Again there are formerly mixed areas on the margins of religious ghetto areas where there has been the evacuation of one section and the territorial extension of the other. This is true of Farringdon/Velsheda, Oldpark/ Ballynure Streets, Spamount/Upper Meadow Streets, Grosvenor Road/Roden Street, Bryson Street and Ainsworth Avenue/Mayo Street. Excepting only the Mayo Street brinkmanship, all these areas are now Catholic.

Again, there are formerly mixed areas of direct confrontation between the two sections., like Springfield Park, Mayo Street and Bryson Street, which have now been evacuated or taken over by one side - and seem ripe for an extension of the peaceline.

Finally there are areas with a population drawn from only one religious background from which there has been removal due to a variety of causes, such as gun battles with the army (Moyard, Ballymurphy, Divis, Grosvenor Road) or a chance to get out of a redevelopment clearance area (Falls, Shankill). The significance of families leaving the Falls/Springfield area as a result of street gun battles might have figured more prominently if we had had the benefit of information from the Central Citizens Defence Council.

From these findings, two broad generalisations can be made. Firstly, that Catholic movement out has been more dispersed throughout the urban area and that Protestant movement out has been concentrated in fewer districts. Secondly, that Catholic movement into areas has been more concentrated, and Protestant movement out has been more dispersed.


The reluctance of people to move from areas they already know is shown by the fact that 242 households (14% of the total) found new accommodation for themselves within the same B.D.P. zone that their abandoned home was in. Many moved simply up the street or to the next street.

Moreover of the 1,238 families in our analysis of the 12 areas of greatest movement (see appendix of movement within sectors), 75% remained within the same sector (North, South, East or West Belfast) when selecting their new home. This figure would have been even higher, but for the greater mobility of Protestants formerly living in Suffolk (West) and of Catholics living in Monkstown (North) and Dundonald (East). In some cases, direct exchanges were made between these outlying Housing Trust areas.

From the socio-economic index developed by the Building Design Partnership we have computed and compared the average level for the 12 areas with the greatest outflow with the 12 areas of greatest inflow in an attempt to assess the kinds of social changes people are experiencing as a result of their move. While this rather rough assessment begs a good deal of refinement we have come across the interesting fact that on a scale of 0-4 the average level has dropped from 1.83 to 1.50.


From the above facts we have seen that the nature of the movement of population this August has differed greatly from the major upheaval which unsettled the Belfast community in August 1969. On that occasion there was a direct confrontation across the territorial boundaries between solidly segregated areas, as between Falls and Shankill and Disraeli Street and Hooker Street.

On this occasion the Army "Peace Line" dividing strongly segregated areas appears to have been effective at least in preventing further significant dislocation of population, and the major upheaval has transferred to the mixed areas which were formerly thought to serve as "buffer zones" guaranteeing stability.

This re-sorting of mixed areas into segregated areas (foreshadowed by the New Barnsley/Moyard evacuation of Protestants in 1970) is an extremely ominous development and shows no signs of being arrested in the immediate future.

Explanations as to why this development is taking place may vary from conspiracy theories to the complex question of the balance of fear between sections of the community and the fear-threshold within them.

What may be explained as a sinister attempt by Protestant extremists to evict Catholics and evacuate Protestants prior to some desperate paramilitary adventure may also be explained as a rational attempt by Protestant street militants to rehouse Protestant families from the margins of Catholic areas where tension is getting too high.

Similarly what may be looked upon as a provocative policy of extending Catholic housing ghettos into formerly stable mixed areas may also be looked upon as an honest effort to find homes for Catholic families who are too scared to live elsewhere; and so on.

Certainly, mixed areas are increasingly coming under threat. Protestants are tending to move out to the newer housing areas on the city's margins and Catholics are crowding into the Falls/Andersonstown sector of the city and the older housing in North Belfast. Spontaneous and organised squatting is re-segregating housing in such a way as to undermine the credibility for the community of non-sectarian housing policies. Given no change in the levels of tension throughout the city one must expect these trends to continue.

If this is so, then it may be useful for further research to seek to construct a stability/instability indicator to suggest which areas are liable to future dislocation and which are likely to become or remain settled. Another study, which we were unable to complete in the time available, concerns the level of satisfaction of the family which has moved with its new accommodation, the public services available to it, and so on. The integration of the refugee into his new community is essential if a settled pattern of life is to develop - but for how many will this be possible?

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