Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Segregation in Northern Ireland

Segregation in Northern Ireland is a long-running issue in the political and social history of Northern Ireland. It’s often been regarded as both a cause and effect of The Troubles between the Roman Catholic and Protestant populations of Northern Ireland.

A combination of political, religious and social differences plus the threat of intercommunal tensions and violence has led to widespread self-segregation of the two communities. Catholics and Protestants lead largely separate lives in a situation that some have dubbed “self-imposed apartheid”.

Belfast is a city divided along religious grounds. West Belfast is mainly Catholic, in most areas over 90%. For many years, the Catholic population expanded to the southwest, but in recent years it has started expanding around the Shankill and into north Belfast. The east of the city is predominantly Protestant, typically 90% or more. This area, along with the north of the city, is the main growth pole of the Protestant population. When trouble flares in the city, it is in the border areas between largely Catholic areas and largely Protestant areas. These areas are common in West Belfast, where a large ‘Peace Wall’ was erected some years ago to try to keep rival groups apart. There is also trouble in North Belfast, but there is much less sectarian tension in the East and South of the city.

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