The Catholic Protestant Divide

The Catholic Protestant Divide

Religious Differences

Celtic Cross - HIstory GCSE RevisionAround seventy-five per cent of the population of Northern Ireland was protestant, and twenty-five per cent was Catholic. Religious bigotry had been a feature of life in all of Ireland for centuries, and it remained just as strong by the 1960s. In Belfast and other towns, protestants and Catholics often led separate lives, living in different neighbourhoods and going to different schools.

Political and Economic Inequalities

Orange Unionists - History GCSE Revision However, it wasn’t just a case of two different religious groups hating each other. Protestants were a majority, and many Catholics felt that they were discriminated against. They believed they were shut out from all but the lowest-paid jobs and only able to live in the worst housing available. They also believed that the electoral districts of Northern Ireland were gerrymandered (manipulated) to prevent the Cathlolic vote having any effect in local politics – gerrymandering worked by organizing the geographical boundaries of electoral districts in such a way that Catholics were a minority in each district, meaning the Catholic political voice was diluted. Catholics also resented the Special Powers Act, which had been in effect since 1922, which gave the British government sweeping powers to crack down on demonstrations or meetings organized by people who wanted Northern Ireland to be handed over to the Republic.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, (NICRA) a civil rights group,was set up to campaign against these inequalities.