Protestant Migration from the West Bank of Derry / Londonderry 1969-1980
1 March 2018
Dr Ulf Hansson and Dr Helen McLaughlin
Why did members of the Protestant/ Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) community leave the west bank of Derry in their thousands since the late 1960s? The PFC posed this thorny question in a multilingual Political Guide to Derry published by the Centre in 1992. Some have argued that Protestants living on the west bank of the river Foyle in Derry were intimidated out of their homes, schools and workplaces in a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing led by the IRA since the early 1970s.
The accusation itself, of ethnic cleansing, could not be more serious conjuring up as it does images of
Bosnia or Burma. The perception that some of those making the accusation are themselves motivated by sectarianism has allowed the Catholic/ nationalist/republican community in Derry to avoid the reality that thousands of our neighbours have left.
When the PFC first began to discuss the merits of a research project to look at this issue it was decided to focus on the extent of migration and the factors that caused it in the period 1969-1980.
Dr Helen Mc Laughlin, a native of Derry and Dr Ulf Hansson, a Swedish academic, agreed to carry out the research. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade in Dublin had the foresight to provide funding. An independent cross-community and multi-disciplinary Advisory Group was set up with terms of reference which stipulated that the authors of the report had final editorial control over their findings. They also had editorial control over the terminology used to describe the city. It is to the credit of the authors that they took on board the interventions of the Advisory Group with enthusiasm and diligence. Dr Helen Mc Laughlin and Dr Ulf Hansson have authored an important, academically robust and challenging study which we hope will stimulate further debate and discussion.
It was not intended that publication of this report would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the civil
rights movement and the October 1968 march but it is entirely appropriate that it does. The city of Derry has, in a positive way, changed beyond recognition. But one of the negative and unforeseen changes that has occurred is the migration of the PUL population from the west bank.
As well as the grant aid from the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade in Dublin, we acknowledge the
financial support from the Good Relations team at Derry City and Strabane District Council which facilitated the publication and launch of the report. We thank also PFC interns Glenn McGarrigle, Sarah Bylsma and Genevieve Akins who trawled through the newspaper archives and Aime Gallagher who was involved at an early stage. Those who agreed to sit on the Advisory Group (see Appendix One) provided a vital role in challenging the research and asking the awkward questions. The final report is all the more rigorous for their input. Finally we wish to acknowledge the professionalism, attention to detail and balance that the authors applied to what they themselves describe as ‘a complex and sensitive issue’.
Hopefully this report will be seen as an uncomfortable but necessary contribution to a conversation that has at times been dominated by strident voices on one side and apathy on the other. This report provides a useful context for further debate on this issue.