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Public Discussions on Aspects of Sectarian Division in Derry Londonderry



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Text: Ruth Moore, Marie Smyth and Pauline Collins ... Page Design: Fionnuala McKenna
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public discussions
on aspects of sectarian division
in Derry Londonderry



Templegrove Action
Research Limited

First published 1996
by Templegrove Action Research Limited
13 Pump Street, Derry Londonderry, BT48 6JG

© Templegrove Action Research Limited
Compiled by Ruth Moore
Typeset by Pauline Collins, Ruth Moore and Marie Smyth
Photographs by Allen Kennedy
Final editing by Marie Smyth

Printed by RCD Print Limited, Racecourse Road, Derry Londonderry

All Rights Reserved

ISBN 1 900071004





A REPORT OF A SERIES OF PUBLIC DISCUSSIONS

on

ASPECTS OF SECTARIAN DIVISION
IN DERRY LONDONDERRY

held in the period

December 1994 - June 1995

Meetings organised by
RUTH MOORE

in collaboration with
MARIE SMYTH and PAULINE COLLINS

draft report compiled by
RUTH MOORE

final editor
and project director
MARIE SMYTH

TEMPLEGROVE ACTION RESEARCH LIMITED

Derry Londonderry


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We wish to thank all those who took part in the public discussions, in particular Anne Doherty and Alistair Wilson who opened the series of discussion by presenting their personal views in a public place. We are grateful to our speakers: Brian Lacey, Brendan Murtagh, David Holloway, Jackie Redpath, Gerry Doherty and Andrew Hamilton. We would like to thank the many people, whose names we do not have, who came along and assisted in opening up topics for discussion by their participation. We wish to thank Maureen Hetherington, Community Relations Officer of Derry City Council, who chaired the meeting on population movement. We wish to thank Gary Mitchell and Roy Arbuckle for permission to use their theatrical pieces, and Ann Corr and James King for performing these pieces. We also are indebted to the people who facilitated the small group discussions in the public meetings and provided feedback. Special thanks to Ken Rooney of the Fountain Partnership, and to our Advisory Group, particularly Barney Devine, Denis McCoy, Brendan Murtagh and Donnie Sweeney. William Temple of the Board of Directors gives constant advice and feedback. Allen Kennedy provided photographic records in his usual unobtrusive and professional manner.

Our thanks to BBC Radio Foyle, Highland Radio, The Belfast Telegraph, The Londonderry Sentinel and the Derry Journal for covering the events as they occurred and to unnamed individual journalists who took a particular interest in our work. We would also like to thank the staff of the Central Library and the Foyle Arts Centre for their co-operation in organising meetings. Finally, thanks are due to the funders of this project, Derry City Council, The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, and The Community Relations Council, and to the funders of the overall project, the Central Community Relations Unit, the Joseph Rowntree Trust, the Ireland Fund, and the Londonderry Initiative of the Department of the Environment, without whose financial assistance none of this would have been possible.


CONTENTS

Introduction

Executive Summary

First Public Discussion: The Name of This City

    Two viewpoints: Alistair Wilson & Anne Doherty

    The Historical Context: Brian Lacey

    Submission from the floor: William Houston

    Letters received

    Letters sent by Templegrove Action Research

    Letters in response

Second Public Discussion: Is Segregation Desirable?

    Peace Line Communities: Implications for The Fountain

    Dr Brendan Murtagh

    Responses to the presentations

Third Public Discussion:

    Changing Population Balance and Protestant Drift

    Excerpt from Exodus written by Gary Mitchell

    (from a concept by Roy Arbuckle) performed by Ann Corr

    Population Movement: The Statistics: Marie Smyth

    Monologue written by Robert Herdman and performed by James King

    Responses to the presentations

Fourth Public Discussion: Loyalism

    Loyalism in Northern Ireland Today: David Holloway

    Responses to the presentation

Fifth Public Discussion: The Shankill and the Falls:

    Minority Experiences of Two Communities

    The Shankill: Jackie Redpath

    The Falls: Gerry Doherty

    Responses to the presentations

Sixth Public Discussion: Violence in Communities

    The Effects of Political Violence: Andrew Hamilton

    Responses to the presentation

Concluding Remarks

    Appendix 1:Biographical notes on speakers

    Appendix 2:The budget for the series



Introduction

When we began the research project on sectarian segregation in September 1994, the cease-fires were only weeks old, and the atmosphere in the city was a mixture of excitement and nervous tension. We had planned the Templegrove research project when the violence of the troubles had been ongoing. That the violence should end just as we were beginning work was a challenge to our ability to respond to a changing political climate. Sectarian division and violence did not merely provide the backdrop to our research, they were central concerns, and at the very beginning of our work a major change had occurred - apparently the violence had ended. This cessation of violence seemed laden with significance, not only for our work, but for our daily lives, and for the country as a whole. We wanted Templegrove's contribution to this new and unprecedented situation to be relevant, positive and useful. We discussed how we could contribute to wedging open the windows of opportunity that the cease-fires represented.

If, in times of war, truth is the first casualty, then dialogue is the second. In those early days of the cease-fires, talking amongst politicians was posed as an alternative to violence. We noted that topics of conversation related to politics were beginning to open up a little. During the violence of the last 25 years, silence, avoidance of certain topics, and denial of true feelings or opinions were strategies we all used to manage our identities in a situation where revealing our identities could attract violent attack. We had learned to live within the confines of this situation, had become used to self-censorship, and certain topics of conversation being considered taboo, especially in the company of strangers or in "mixed" company. Living in a society fractured by violent division had robbed us of the opportunities - and eventually some of the capacity - for dialogue and discussion about our differences. Where such discussions did take place, they were carefully managed, and time and energy had to be devoted to building trust among participants before any depth of discussion could be embarked upon.

Faced with the removal of the threat of violence, even, as we thought at the time, briefly, - we wanted to create an opportunity for open public discourse in which citizens from both of the two major traditions in the city could participate in discussing the issues which most divided them -aspects of sectarian division. We planned a series of public meetings, which were publicly advertised. The took place largely in city centre venues, and each topic and speaker was selected in order to offer information and informed perspectives on the topic under discussion. With the exception of the first meeting, we structured the public discussion in small groups, so that the participation of those attending was maximised. A plenary session and general discussion drew each meeting to a close. We documented the content of each discussion, we recorded the main points emerging from the public discussions in almost all the meetings and summaries of those records are presented here.

I will never forget my feelings prior to that first meeting. The topic was "The Name of the City" and Ann Doherty, Alistair Wilson and Brian Lacey were the speakers. Whilst reassuring participants about their contributions I had my own usual anxieties about no-one turning up, this being the first public venture undertaken by Templegrove. I was also nervous that the meeting would degenerate into verbal abuse between people of different views. My anxieties were ill-founded. A range of views, some of them conflicting, were expressed, in a respectful manner. In subsequent meetings, conflictual subjects were similarly discussed successfully. By the end of the series of meetings, some people had attended many of the meetings and knew what to expect. Each meeting was attended by between forty and fifty people, from both communities. Discussions were informative and seriously engaged in by participant, and many view points were aired and examined. What follows is an account of those meetings.
Marie Smyth
January 1996.




Executive Summary

In September, 1994, Templegrove Action Research Limited, a community based research company with directors drawn from both sides of the community, began a two year action-research project on aspects of segregation and sectarian division in Derry Londonderry. Just as the project began, the IRA and shortly afterwards the Combined Loyalist Military Command announced cease-fires. Templegrove's research field was substantially altered by these developments. In recognition of the possibility of more open political dialogue, Templegrove embarked on organising a series of public discussion on aspect of sectarian division - the subject that was most difficult to address when violence was ongoing. A series of topics was identified and, in all, six public discussion were organised on the following topics:

1: The Name of This City: Derry or Londonderry?

2: Is Segregation Desirable?

3: Changing Population Balance and Protestant Drift

4: Loyalism in Northern Ireland Today

5: The Shankill and the Falls: Minority Experiences of Two Communities

6: The Effects of Political Violence

The meetings took place in city centre venues for the most part, with one meeting - the one on segregation, being held in two parts. The first part was a meeting in The Fountain attended by Fountain residents, and the second part was a public meeting attended by people from all over the city. The meetings were organised so that public participation was maximised, by the use of facilitated small group discussion, and the content of some of that public discussion is incorporated into this record. Attendance at meetings varied from forty to sixty people, and there is some evidence that discussion of the issues raised persisted beyond the meetings, and that the series of discussions contributed towards the creation of a more open political dialogue in the city. Whether this atmosphere of openness will survive in the current political climate remains to be seen. However, other organisations in the city continue to organise public discussions which are accessible to both communities on matters relating to sectarian division, and these may contribute towards increasing the political space available for political dialogue.

Marie Smyth
March 1996



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