Paul Foot

Derry: the grim facts about
Ulster’s divide and rule city ...

(21 December 1968)


From Socialist Worker, No. 102, 21 December 1968, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


THE DEMONSTRATIONS which have erupted in Northern Ireland and which, in spite of the sacking of Home Secretary Craig, will almost certainly continue, started in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second city.

Derry’s predicament sums up the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the Unionist government.

Here are some of the facts about the city which cannot be found in government handouts.
 

Sub-Standard

Housing. There are approximately 12.000 houses in the city, 40 per cent of which are sub-standard.

According to the 1961 census, 45 per cent of the households in the city do not have sole use of hot water; 54 per cent do not have a bath; 16 per cent do not have a kitchen sink.

About 1,250 households are in ‘multiple occupation’, sharing household amenities.

The Derry Housing Association has seven volumes, incorporating some 1,410 documents of cases of ‘intolerable’ housing conditions. And these are all Catholics.

To these have to be added at least another 300 households in the Protestant areas of The Fountain and Waterside, where conditions are no better than in the Catholic slums.
 

Overcrowding

In 1966,the city’s Medical Officer of Health,who is President of the Apprentice Boys, a high-powered Masonic-type organisation named after the boys who closed the Derry gates against the invading armies in 1688, reported: ‘Overcrowding plays a .arge part in the causation of tuberculosis in the area.’

House-building: The Derry Corporation, which is Unionist-controlled, built no houses in 1967. The following table speaks for itself:

Town

Pop.

Cncl. Houses
built in last
5 years*

Coleraine

13,578

336

Newry

12,214

659

Portadown

20,710

535

Larne

17,278

212

Limavady

  4,811

266

Londonderry

55,681

197

The rate of house-building in Derry (70 houses per 1,000 people) since the war is the slowest of any housing authority in the United Kingdom.

And that’s including the effort of the government-sponsored Northern Ireland Housing Trust,which has done most of the house-building in Derry since 1958.

The vote is only available in local elections to ratepayers, that is, householders in separate dwellings. More than a quarter of the adults in Derry (8,400 people) cannot vote.

There are three wards: South, North and Waterside.

Half the Derry people live in South ward. Nearly all of them are Catholics, who vote eight Nationalists on to the Corporation.

In North and Waterside there are small Protestant majorities, who return 12 Unionists. Protestants make up about 25 per cent of the Derry population, but their party controls the Corporation.
 

Turned Down

This delicate balance controls the Corporation’s housing policy.

A proposal by Derry Housing Association to build 450 houses in Pennyburn was turned down – for fear of rehousing Catholics in a Protestant area.

Similarly, the Protestant slum-dwellers must stay where they are. To move them out to council houses would mean losing valuable votes.

Everything is neatly carved up and Unionists and Nationalists don’t bother to fight elections.

Elections don’t happen, unless,like last year, for the first time, the Northern Ireland Labour Party intervenes, getting about 30 per cent of the vote in Catholic and Protestant wards.

Unemployment is 12.5 per cent in Derry. 17.4 per cent of males are out of work.

Unemployment in Northern Ireland depends very much on the religious nature of the area.
 

High and Low

Derry is Catholic – so unemployment is high. Belfast is Protestant – so unemployment is relatively low:

Catholic
Towns

Unemployment
Rate %

Londonderry

12.5

Newry

15.1

Strabane

16.7

Enniskillen

17.9

Kilkeel

20.4

Protestant
Towns

 

Belfast

  5.5

Coleraine

  8.8

Ballymena

  3.1

Portadown

  3.8

Newton

  3.7

Lurgan

  3.5

Antrim

  2.5


Last updated on 11 October 2020