A close family relative lived in the front room of her parents’ small terraced house with her husband and two children for the first four years of marriage. She could not get a house in Derry although a new Corporation housing estate was being built about a mile from where she was sharing hopelessly cramped conditions. My cousin was a Catholic and presumed , in the order of things, to be potentially a Nationalist voter. Under the existing electoral system , neither she nor her husband had a vote in local government elections. My family knew of a local , young Protestant girl who, when she became engaged to a British sailor, based in Derry, was immediately awarded a tenancy in the new estate. This wasn’t merely sectarian corruption by a minor housing officer, it was Unionist Party policy to deny housing to Catholics in ‘sensitive’ areas of the City. Housing was in the gift of the Unionist Mayor and his was the over-riding decision on the specifics of allocation. My experience was not an isolated one ; it was replicated across the City.
And not just in housing. Employment was closely monitored and it began at the highest levels in the Unionist Party. Justice Edward W. Jones was the MP for Londonderry and the Attorney General at Stormont. Historian, Professor Henry Patterson , researching papers released under the ‘thirty year ‘, rule found a letter from Jones to Brookeborough who was Prime Minister at the time. The US chemical corporation , DuPont, was seeking to establish a factory near Derry. Jones’ letter warned of the dangers inherent in the establishment of any secure source of employment in the north-west area ; it would undoubtedly attract workers to the area who were not loyal supporters of Unionism and would seriously interfere with a delicate , political balance. Efforts and brazen enhancements were made to the Delaware company to build their new plant elsewhere and particularly in The NE area in proximity to Belfast. However, the Americans would not be dissuaded but accepted a compromise that they would appoint a Unionist nominated personnel officer called Mackay.
Most sizeable businesses in the town were under Unionist control and operated a flagrantly sectarian employment policy. Young Protestants were guaranteed preference in the jobs’ market. Catholics saw continuing education as their route out of poverty but invariably these highly qualified young people were forced to take their knowledge and skills overseas. Education, sadly , did not have the same concern for loyalist parents since their children were practically assured of employment in Belfast shipyards or similar heavy industry.
The Lockwood recommendation of Coleraine as the site of the North’s second university was perfectly in keeping with Unionist Policy and an affront to Derry, the second city where there already existed Magee University College, a constituent part of Trinity College , Dublin. It has been well established since that Anderson, The Mayor, with several leading Unionists and the MP, Jones, had vigorously lobbied against Derry.
The Nationalist population was discriminated against in broad areas of life – voting rights, housing and employment. I haven’t touched on culture, language, policing and the operation of what passed for a justice system with its abhorrent Special Powers’ Act.. The Nationalist population was meticulously marginalised in daily life and prevented from functioning as citizens of the State. Those changes for the better that have occurred in the last fifty years, result neither from political change of direction by Unionism nor armed attacks but are the product of leverage by embarrassed Westminster in response to the demands of the Civil Rights Movement. Legislative change was happening in all these areas before a shot was fired .
Now in 2021, we are being asked to celebrate 100 years of Partition in Ireland! In just these few areas , it has been shown to have failed a large minority of its citizens; in truth, its bigoted approach was futile for all of its citizens, particularly the working class. Post-Brexit , it is now crying in the darkness and the unification of the island of Ireland is the only practical and pragmatic solution. A malfunctional Unionist cabal is incapable of providing the leadership required to bring about a justly shared Ireland for all shades of cultural and political inclination.
Asking people to celebrate one hundred years of partition is an absurd and grotesque aberration