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Discourses of Ethno-National Demography: Northern Ireland from the 1991 Census to the Census of 2001

Discourses of Ethno-National Demography: Northern Ireland from the 1991 Census to the Census of 2001

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Discourses of Ethno-National Demography: Northern Ireland from the 1991 Census to the Census of 2001

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  1. International Population Geography Conference, University of St. Andrews, 11-14 August 2004 Discourses of Ethno-National Demography: Northern Ireland from the 1991 Census to the Census of 2001 James Anderson, Owen McEldowney and Ian Shuttleworth Centre for Spatial and Territorial Analysis and Research (C-STAR) School of GeographyQueen's University BelfastBelfast BT7 1NN j.anderson@qub.ac.uk i.shuttleworth@qub.ac.uk o.mceldowney@qub.ac.uk

  2. Discourses of Ethno-National Demography: Northern Ireland from the 1991 Census to the Census of 2001 • Political Demography and Ethnicity in Divided Societies • Political Demography and Sectarianism in Northern Ireland • The Structure of Sectarian Narratives on Demography 1991 -2001 • Conclusions and Comments on the Public Use of Statistics and Demography

  3. Political Demography in Divided Societies • Demography is highly politicised and politically useful in divided societies • In public discourse demography can be highly over-simplified • Analysis of sectarian demography provides an insight into the mindset and the assumptions of the society • Demographic discourse informs and justifies (harmful) policy-making in such societies

  4. ‘Ethnicisation’ • The essentialisation of ethnic identity can be dangerously misleading • ‘Ethnicisation’ can simplify the conflict and remove it from the realm of meaningful analysis • However, it is not practically possible to completely reject or ignore ethnic categories

  5. Sectarian Demography in Northern Ireland as a Case Study • Sectarianism and head-counting a long-term feature in Ireland, but.. • The demographic balance that created Northern Ireland no longer exists • There is a large amount of specifically sectariananalysis of census data, with a strong popular interest in it, and strong policy relevance • Northern Ireland sectarianism is strongly reproduced despite little (obvious) dissimilarity between groups

  6. The Structure of Sectarian Narratives in Northern Ireland Master Narrative (A) • Catholic Growth and Protestant Decline • Relative number change in political space and social space • Population growth and decline, advance and retreat • Repeated at every spatial scale • Sectarian meanings, causes and effects – • E.g. Population ‘pressure’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ Master Narrative (B) • Increasing Protestant-Catholic segregation and polarisation

  7. Catholic Growth and Protestant Decline Ulster Television's and Coopers and Lybrand's The Numbers Game “[Is] the writing on the wall for Protestants", "are their numbers down and consequently is their number up?....Catholics who aspire to a United Ireland may soon outbreed them." The Numbers Game ITV, August 4th 1994

  8. Catholic Growth and Protestant Decline ‘Nationalists ‘will become majority’’, Irish News, 19th October, 2000 ‘Balance of Power: Protestant majority predicted to fall sharply’, Guardian, April 12th, 2001 ‘Catholic Boom: Census shows Protestants will be minority in 10 years’ Mirror, January 14th, 2002 ‘Unionists filled with foreboding at loss of influence’ Independent, February 11 2002

  9. "I believe the census will confirm the pro-union population is shrinking to the extent that for the first time it will represent less than 50%."It is understandable that unionists are nervous and unsure about the future given the demographic trend, but refusal to face change will not prevent it." Belfast Telegraph December 16, 2002 Protestants drop below 50%: SF claim [our italics]

  10. The DUP said an all-Ireland was now a republican pipe-dream and claimed Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK for another 50 years.[….] [T]he figures were a "devastating" blow to Sinn Fein."Unionists can take heart. For the past four decades before every census, republicans and nationalists have anticipated an closing of the Protestant/Catholic gap and claimed demography would make a united Ireland inevitable, " the east-Belfast assembly man said."Each time they have been proven wrong."December 20, 2002, Irish News

  11. Catholic Advance and Protestant Retreat in Portadown In both Portadown and north Belfast there are alternative routes avoiding Catholic areas. They won’t take them. It would mean accepting that society, demography, politics, something has changed. They’re not going to. For the old men who run the order to accept reality would mean admitting theirs is a community in retreat; that change has happened, that Belfast is now a nationalist city, that a large chunk of Portadown is nationalist and can effortlessly elect nationalist councillors. They’re afraid that if they give up the claim to be able to march where they always have done it’s the same as formally handing the area over to the Fenians and that’s unthinkable. Who will save them from themselves? Brian Feeney, ‘Marches are Orange claims to supremacy’ in Irish News 14th June 2000

  12. Catholic Expansionism in North Belfast NATIONALISTS in North Belfast have hit out after a DUP minister compared a campaign for better housing in the area to Hitler’s notorious Nazi regime.The statement, issued by Minister for Social Development Nigel Dodds, accused nationalists of pursuing the Nazi policy of ‘lebensraum’ – a campaign of ethnic cleansing to make way for the master race.[..]Mr Dodds accused nationalists of stirring up sectarian tensions and exacerbating the very serious situation on the ground.“The reality is that ordinary Protestants on the ground have seen the area being run down and neglected over the years having been forced out by the IRA and Sinn Fein Hitlerite Nazi tactics,” he said. “What we are now seeing is demands led by nationalist politicians to take away the peace lines – it’s a recipe for civil war.” Jacqueline McIntyre, ‘Dodds in row over housing remarks’ 28 June 2000

  13. Population ‘Pressure’ in Ardoyne Why this outbreak of malignancy? The Protestant intimidation of Catholic schoolchildren is not only evil, but also apparently without rationality. Certainly, from a public relations point of view, the loyalists have a perverse genius for putting their worst foot forward. But as Richard Haass, President Bush's envoy to Northern Ireland, noted in a masterly address earlier this week, the television images supply only half of the story. The demonstrations take place against a background of the relentless retreat of the working class Unionists of north Belfast in the face of a swaggering, self-confident nationalist community. The latter thinks itself to be winning the political, territorial and demographic game. ‘Belfast ghettos’ in Daily Telegraph January 12, 2002

  14. Increasing Segregation in Northern Ireland “In half of the council wards in Northern Ireland, 90 per cent are Catholic or Protestant. The other half are rapidly going the same way and we expect to see evidence of this in the 2001 census figures when they are released.” Brian Feeney, quoted in, Bimpe Fatogun ‘Tearing down the bricks of hate’ Irish NewsAugust 30, 2001 THE results of the 2001 census in Northern Ireland are expected to show Catholics and Protestants are more deeply entrenched in their own communities than ever before. Bimpe Fatogun ‘Tearing down the bricks of hate’ Irish NewsAugust 30, 2001

  15. Increasing Segregation in Belfast Segregation in Belfast has increased since the Northern Ireland peace process began, with Protestant and Catholic enclaves more entrenched and violence on the rise, according to new research.[…] Dr Shirlow’s research has been backed up by an as yet unpublished analysis of the 2001 census. This showed that in Belfast in 1991, 63 per cent of the population lived in areas that were either more than 90 per cent Protestant or 90 per cent Catholic. By 2001, this had risen to 66 per cent, showing that segregation was rising. ‘Belfast more segregated since process began’ Irish Times January 4, 2002

  16. Increasing Segregation – McKittrick 2004 ‘A province where Catholics and Protestants are strangers to each other’Independent April 6, 2004 More than two dozen peace lines have become permanent features, some of them tastefully draped with ivy and shrubs to soften their grim purpose, but the figures show that invisible yet potent boundary lines exist in most other parts of the city as well..[…] While many assumed the ceasefires would result in a drawing together of the communities, they have in fact been followed by near-total segregation. The authorities therefore face a daunting task in aiming to reverse the so far inexorable tide of polarisation and working towards a more tolerant and inclusive society.[..] This mindset means that segregation is destined to be the norm for many years to come. It is both a product of community division and a factor which makes those divisions worse.

  17. Demography in caricature • ‘Ethnic cleansing’ or ‘chill’ leads to movement out • Movement in leads to tensions and more segregation (rather than more mixing) • Catholics move into Protestant areas, and the number of Catholics increases with high birth-rate • Catholics move in and Protestants move out

  18. 1991 discourses vs. 2001 • Catholic growth, Protestant decline narrative at Northern Ireland level became the major discourse • Addition of high media profile ‘interface’ demographic struggles – ‘Holy Cross’, ‘Siege of Drumcree’, ‘Ethnic cleansing in Short Strand/Cluan place’ • Increasing segregation and polarisation not such a ‘shock’ story – now more of a piece of conventional wisdom (e.g. East/West Divide) • But the structure of narratives has remained largely the same, despite the changes in the political and demographic landscape (e.g. GFA and new migration)

  19. Objectivity and public discourse • Media discourse on demography is part real, part exaggerated, and partly straight false • ‘Realism’ depends on what categories are used for analysis • Even the ‘real’ discourses may help generate more of that reality • Discourse may have element of truth but still not be constructive

  20. Finally… • The problem of over-‘ethnicised’ and essentialist analysis… • Abuse of limited data, lack of context and comparison • Over-generalisation and hype • The exclusion of other categories, especially trans-ethnic categories of class – the main conceptual victims of ‘ethnicisation’.