The disadvantages faced by Catholics in Northern Ireland in the mid-1960s

Ever since the plantation of Northern Ireland in the early 17th Century, the Catholics were looked upon by the Protestants as being inferior and ‘backward’ people. Hence, the Protestants did everything in their power to make the Catholics unequal in social and political status. The three main areas where the state discriminated against Catholics were in ‘housing, jobs, and political representation.'(A) The ‘Orange Order’ (A) ensured that these injustices were carried out by demonstrating their power and superiority over Catholics by ‘marching through Catholic areas,'(A) while at the same time protecting the Protestants well being.

In Ulster all Catholics suffered from the very beginning, as ‘children were educated separately.'(A) This in turn led to ‘distrust and prejudice between communities.'(A) This resulted in all ‘top’ (B) jobs being ‘filled by Protestants.'(B) Even in areas like Fermanagh where the population was ‘more than half Catholic’ (B) only a tiny percentage were given their desired job. In the private sector Catholics were employed in ‘the lower end of the job market,'(B) probably due to their unsatisfactory education, thus showing how the ‘vicious cycle’ worked. The Catholics were unable to enjoy worthwhile jobs due to ‘anti-Catholic prejudice’ (B) and thus were usually employed in ‘unskilled and lower-paying jobs,'(B) meaning they lived in great poverty due to lack of money.

This was ideal for the Unionists because the Catholics were unable to afford decent housing and even if they could the Unionist councils used their ‘power to deny housing to Catholics.'(B) On top of this the Unionists regardlessly built ‘standard three-bedroom units,'(B) thus not catering for ‘larger sized Catholic families.'(B) This was most awkward as Catholic families tended to be large due to their unwillingness to use contraception and so even those fortunate enough to buy a ‘three-bedroom unit’ (B) still found the conditions terribly cramped and uncomfortable.

The main problem was that the Protestants genuinely believed the IRA would overthrow Northern Ireland whenever possible, and so to try to prevent this the Protestants ‘dominated’ (A) the Catholics and ‘deprived’ (D) them of their rights. Ironically however the IRA had ‘little Catholic support'(C) because their cause was insignificant at the time and the Protestants actions appeared to be based on nothing more than pointless prejudice. Subsequently ‘politics’ (D) had always been ‘dominated by Protestants,'(D) thus meaning the Catholics had always been ‘under represented.'(D) As the Catholics had their ‘voting rights’ (D) restricted and were ‘deprived’ of ‘ accurate representation’ (D) they became powerless and at the mercy of the ‘B Specials’ (E) who ‘gained notoriety’ (E) by using ‘violence’ (E) in executing ‘their duties.'(E) Even in the judicial system ‘Protestants outnumbered Catholics’ (F) severely and generally the jury was ‘biased’ (F) toward the ‘Protestant community.'(F) This allowed Protestants to ‘get away with murder’ while the Catholics were faced with the ‘full force of the law.'(F)

The Catholics rights were severely infringed due to the Protestants genuine fear that the IRA would try to gain control of Northern Ireland. The Catholics were deemed ‘disloyal’ (B) by Sir Basil Brooke and the entire Protestant community ‘discriminated against Catholics’ (A) so that by demonstrating power over them and by making them look ‘inferior’ and ‘unequal’ it would look seemingly impossible for the IRA to be able to ‘overthrow’ the Protestants in Northern Ireland.

How did Protestant politicians explain the social, economic and political differences between Catholics and Protestants?

In Northern Ireland the Protestants, who were in the majority, were genuinely scared of the Catholic community and thus persecuted them to ensure their own survival and well-being. What looked like blatant sadism and pointless ‘prejudice’ to the Catholics, was actually an attempt by the Protestants to remain united and in the majority in Northern Ireland.

Sir Basil Brooke regarded it as a necessity to employ only Protestants, as Catholics were ‘disloyal’ (A) and by employing them you were ‘disenfranchising’ (A) yourself and thus weakening your own political situation. He was severely worried that by employing Catholics, you were giving them too much political strength and that subsequently Protestants would soon find themselves in the ‘minority instead of the majority.’ (A) He felt that he had to protect the situation as he was once a very influential figure and this compares well to Source B. Both sources fear for the survival of a Protestant Northern Ireland. The Protestants claim that they could only have expected the same to have happened in ‘a United Catholic Ireland’. (B) The Unionists believed that the Catholics would always work to ‘undermine us’. (B) These quotes are clearly excuses for the Protestants unworthy actions. They believed that it was their ‘duty’ (B) to protect the ‘British crown’ (B) and the ‘Union Jack,’ (B) and were therefore entitled to go to any extreme to carry out their ‘duties’. (B) Clearly both Sources feared being submerged by Catholics.

But a loyalist then pointed out that ‘we were all poor,’ (C) but the Catholics seemed poorer because they had ‘huge families’ (C) and ‘drank heavily’ (C) and so he believed that the Catholics ‘did not help themselves’ (C) and that it was there own fault that they suffered due to their choice of lifestyle. This view can be compared with Source I where Lord Dunleath believed that the community was ‘essentially at peace with itself.’ (I) This was ironically true although it would be na�ve to suggest that there was no violence whatsoever. Both Sources claim that the ‘vast majority’ (I) of Protestants had a ‘moderate outlook’ (I) and not a discriminatory one, which the Catholics soon came to believe. These Sources also bare a certain similarity with Source G, where O’Neill effectively denies that there is a major difference caused by prejudice and claimed that ‘our system is fair’ (G) and that no ‘gerrymandering’ took place. This was not an accurate representation as even though a ‘smaller number of electors’ (G) were voted for, this was usually because the Catholic community had their ‘voting rights restricted’ and were unable to elect their chosen MP’s.

In contrast however Sources D, E, F and H adopt the extreme view that Ulster was ‘God’s gift to Protestants’ (D) and that ‘we’ll fight if we have to’ (F) so as to rid Ulster from the ‘prevailing evil in our mist.’ They see the threat arising from ‘Dublin’ (F) and will not accept ‘being united’ (F) as the campaign to ‘suppress Protestantism increases.’ (F) This view is clearly similar to the Israelis view that ‘we are God’s chosen people.’ As ‘Catholicism is unscriptural’ (D) Source H believed that the ‘underprivileged minority’ were an utter drain on the economy and agrees that there is a problem, but on the grounds that it is a Catholic one. While they were given ‘state benefits’ (H) they ‘contributed nothing’ to society apart from a ‘higher birth rate.’ In many respects though, they were unlikely to be able to contribute much because they never had satisfactory jobs or housing to do so.

The Protestant actions to prevent the Catholics ever having a ‘majority’ (A) in Northern Ireland may have been different, but the explanation for why they were doing it was the same, and that was because they genuinely ‘feared becoming extinct in a Catholic Ireland.’

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