BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

20 February 2015
BBC Northern Ireland Learning - Citizenship - KS3/KS4

BBC Homepage
BBC NI Schools

Contact Us

Sectarianism
Transcript

Case study - N. Ireland

Torrens audio

BBC presenter:
Dr. Peter Shirlow is demographer at the University of Ulster. How typical is that Dr. Shirlow?

Dr. Peter Shirlow:
Well, I think it is increasingly an example of what has happened with the peace process, in that the territorial issue has come to the fore, as it were. We've had similar sort of campaigns of violence against Catholic communities in Bushmills, in Larne and Carrickfergus. Quite clearly in North Belfast, in particular, the Protestant community is in decline, and it is becoming increasingly vulnerable to this type of intimidation. And also, I suppose, we have a situation in which people are attempting and increasingly choosing to live segregated lives, and this is one of the poignant reminders of the harm done by thirty years. The post peace process effectively is now about coping through living and encouraging people to live apart and, I think most of all, it is a reminder that the conflict really is about territory. And what we see here in Torrens today, I think, is a metaphor for the wider context which is, of course, the border.

BBC presenter:
It is extraordinary this isn't it that we will have, we have sort of, a government of Northern Ireland, where you see both sides sitting around the same table and yet, on the street, you have segregation.

Dr. Peter Shirlow:
Well, I think it proves the point that you have very strong ideologies here. People, you know, through living separate lives, grow to have different identities, different cultures, different understandings of what the conflict is about.

BBC presenter:
But - I mean most people manage to get by that, don't they? They may well have different ideologies but they live side by side and they get on with each other in most - well I say most parts of the world, certainly in many parts of the world.

Dr. Peter Shirlow:
Well, I suppose if you think about Britain - and think about Britain as a multi-cultural society - of course this doesn't happen. People live separate lives as shown in the Cantle Report on Bradford and other such places, so it's not that unique, and it may be something which is increasing throughout the rest of Great Britain. What you basically have are strong political belief systems: those political belief systems are reproduced, through holding and maintaining territory. If you look at the whole way in which the conflict rolled out during the last 30 years, it was the shifting of populations though - it was the movement of people apart. People chose to live in Catholic and Protestant areas because it makes sense to them. I think that's probably what people who don't live in such places as Belfast don't understand. People who live apart can see a rationality in that, they see a logic in that because living apart to them is safety. It's about removing yourself from harm.

BBC presenter:
Sorry. Once they have done that, once they have physically separated, are they then able as separate communities (put aside the individuals within those communities) but as communities - are they then able to live in sort of reasonable peaceful co-existence?

Dr. Peter Shirlow:
I think in 1998 we had an idea of two communities coming together. I think what we have seen since then is quite clearly a process in which the two communities are going to live apart but they are not going to cause each other as much harm as they did previously. And I think that is one of the things which is very regrettable. We are basically going to end up in a practical coping process and that - as opposed to a political process which brings down these barriers. And I think that is the best we can really hope for at this stage.

BBC presenter:
But that - in a sense - I suppose is sort of reasonably hopeful. At least then people won't be throwing petrol bombs through each others' windows.

Dr. Peter Shirlow:
Well, of course, if we can remove as much harm as possible, it takes away the way in which people can interpret the other community. But the fundamental problem when people are living separate lives is the myths about the other side being demonic, the other side being devious, the other side being harmful.

BBC presenter:
Well, there we are. What a depressing thought. Peter Shirlow, thank you very much indeed.

(Report from BBC Radio 4's Today programme 26/08/2004)



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy