After partition, the Unionist Party set about creating “a Protestant state for a Protestant people” – built on a “foundation of sectarian discrimination, biased administration and a barrage of totalitarian legislation, which both protected unionism and instilled a deep sense of social injustice in the non-unionist population.” (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, 1978.)

Unionist leaders ran the north on the basis that to give something to Catholics was to take it away from Protestants. Working-class Protestants were urged to see equality for Catholics as a threat to their position. Catholics were virtually excluded from government jobs while private employers were urged to employ only

“loyal men and women.”

No effective opposition to the Unionist government was permitted. The Special Powers Act and the police and the Special Constabularies – essentially, militant unionists, armed and in uniform – were all used as sectarian political tools. At one point, there was one police officer for every two Catholic families in the north.

Over the 50 years of Stormont rule, successive British governments, which retained ultimate authority over the north, including over Stormont, operated a policy of

“out of sight out of mind.”

  • The overcrowded Bogside

    Jobs, Votes and Housing

    Derry was the starkest example of anti-Catholic discrimination in the northern state.

  • DeValera in Derry

    Political Stagnation

    Nationalist Derry settled into a resigned political routine that was to last into the 1960s. Almost all non-unionist councillors and MPs came from the Nationalist Party. Fully supported by the Catholic Church, it was said that Nationalists were not so much elected as anointed.

  • St Columb’s Wells in the Bogside.

    The Swinging 60s?

    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.