On the brink of the 1960s, British Premier Harold Macmillan boasted: “We have never had it so good”. But in Derry, people were having it as bad as ever. 

The human cost of gerrymandering

Only householders could vote in local elections. Business owners had multiple votes. The gerrymandered system still operated. Thus, a city with a 67% nationalist majority was still under unionist rule.

This came with a human cost. Over 20% of the south ward lived in homes officially classified as overcrowded, compared to less than 6% in the north ward and 8% in the Waterside ward. One local doctor wrote of 26 people living in two rooms of a condemned house in Walker’s Square. As the Corporation ran out of space to cram more nationalists into the south ward, they built the high-rise Rossville Flats, extending upwards when they wouldn’t build outwards.

Unemployment

Mass unemployment remained endemic. Only six advance factories had been built in Derry where unemployment was around 20%. Thirteen were built in Lurgan, where unemployment averaged 6%, and 10 in Bangor with 4%. Prospects for the Derry working class were worse than ever. There was some work available for women in the shirt factories. But male unemployment ran close to 30%.