Reports recall the painful exodus from west bank of Foyle

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The early 1970s was a terrible time for Northern Ireland but particularly so in many of the most divided communities across the Province.

Escalating violence saw major population movements in some areas which had been to a significant extent religiously mixed but then became almost exclusively Protestant or Catholic – and have remained so ever since.

Some of this history of shared pain has been distorted, with talk of anti-Catholic progroms, as if there was a single, state assisted story of intimidation.

While it is of course true that thousands of Catholic families fled their homes in terror, so too did many Protestant families. Much of the trouble was chaotic, and tit for tat, and much of the official response to it was inevitably chaotic too.

Parts of the Ardoyne saw large outward movements of Protestant families, as did places in west Belfast around Suffolk.

Today we report on one of the most dramatic such movements, out of the west bank of the Foyle.

The Protestant population of the cityside of Londonderry was approaching 9,000 people in 1971 but had plunged to 2,874 a decade later.

Today the Protestant population is almost non existent outside of the isolated Fountain estate.

The accounts that we publish today of some of the people who left the west bank make sobering reading, and are a reminder of the wounds that are still fresh in people’s memories decades later.

Vulnerable Protestant populations do not get much publicity, perhaps because they do not fit the stereotype of the sectarian dominant Prods, but there are many of them.

The streets around Madrid Street in east Belfast are an example, as are some rural villages towards the border.

Our report today is a reminder of the plight of the worst historic experiences of those communities.