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4 The Famine and Its Impacts, 1840s to 1860s

Ian N. Gregory Indiana University Press ePub

4

It has almost become a cliché to argue that Ireland’s population development over the last 150 years has been unique. It is the only developed nation in the world with a current population below that in the mid-nineteenth century and the only European country to have suffered a century of demographic decline in its recent history.1 However, spatiopolitical qualifications must be applied to this assertion. The population decline of the area that is now the Republic has been remarkable, but the area that is now Northern Ireland was able to arrest its population decline at a much earlier stage. Furthermore, at the time of the Great Famine all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and what might be described as a long-term regional population decline seems less spectacular when it is considered within the context of the U.K.’s rapid urban population growth, to which Irish migrants made a significant contribution.2 Still, the impact of the Great Famine of the mid-nineteenth century on the shaping of modern Ireland cannot be trivialized. More than any other event it has defined both the literal and the metaphysical places of the Irish in the world. It has sent shock waves down through the centuries that are not only demographic but also socioeconomic, cultural, and political.

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1 Geography, Religion, and Society in Ireland: A Spatial History

Ian N. Gregory Indiana University Press ePub

1

Even today, more than a decade after the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, which marked an end to the Troubles, the visitor to Northern Ireland cannot help but be struck by the interplay between religion, ethnonational identity, politics, history, and geography. Protestant areas are demarked by the Union Flag (the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, formerly the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland), backed up by red, white, and blue curbstones and murals representing events such as the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Derry. Protestantism is seen as synonymous with the politics of unionism and loyalism, which have the union with Great Britain and loyalty to the British Crown as their core tenets. Orange parades further emphasize these links—Orangemen march to church in a symbolic way that makes explicit the links between their religion, politics, history, and, most controversially, territory. So too in Catholic areas, except the flags are those of the Republic of Ireland, the curbstones are green, white, and orange, and the murals tend to focus on the sufferings and tribulations of the Gaelic Irish population from the Norman Conquest all the way through to the recent Troubles.1 Catholicism is seen as synonymous with Irish nationalism and republicanism, which have sought to remove British influence from Ireland.

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5 Toward Partition, 1860s to 1910s

Ian N. Gregory Indiana University Press ePub

5

It is clear that the Great Famine of 1845–51 had a profound effect on Ireland, leaving its mark on a significantly altered and diminished society. It is also clear that the Famine’s impact was not uniform across the entire island. The death and dispersal it caused were catastrophic, but the processes it set in train were just part of an ongoing demographic tragedy for Ireland. The extent to which the Famine was a watershed in these events, or simply acted to accelerate preexisting trends, remains controversial. Nevertheless, it is clear that in the second half of the nineteenth century—the post-Famine period—significantly different paths were followed by the northern and southern parts of Ireland. This led to a divide that encompassed economic, political, ethnonational, and religious aspects, and all of these had distinct and interrelated geographies. This mix would explode in the early twentieth century.

Mary Daly’s book The Slow Failure deals with independent Ireland’s continued population decline in the twentieth century.1 The fall in population that she discusses was a continuation of an ongoing trend that had been set in place by the Great Famine and that gathered pace during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Despite the virulence of the demographic hemorrhage, it soon became apparent that the differing spatial impacts of the Famine earlier noted were leading to lasting differences in the event’s historical footprint.

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11 Belfast through the Troubles: Socioeconomic Change, Segregation, and Violence

Ian N. Gregory Indiana University Press ePub

11

The city of Belfast provides an illustration of much of the division and interdependence that have taken place in Ireland over the last two centuries. Belfast’s success as an industrial city did much to separate the economy and outlook of the Protestant northeast of Ulster from the rest of Ireland. That success had much to do with developing strong links between this part of Ireland and Britain, but it also brought many Catholics from elsewhere in Ireland to the city in search of jobs. This left Belfast with complex spatioreligious patterns that, when the Troubles started in the late 1960s, were particularly contested, resulting, as chapter 10 identified, in the city being the focus for much of the ensuing violence. Over the same period, as described in chapter 9, Belfast went through a period of rapid deindustrialization. Against this background, this chapter first examines the evolving religious geography of the city and related developments in residential segregation. Second, it considers how Belfast has changed socially and economically over the thirty-year period between 1971 and 2001. Third, it looks at the patterns of violence within the city. Finally, the chapter draws these themes together to show how changing spatioreligious patterns and levels of residential segregation are related to wider socioeconomic trends, thereby trying to set Belfast’s experience within the broader context of urban change as observed in other societies.

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7 Division and Continuity, 1920s to 1960s

Ian N. Gregory Indiana University Press ePub

7

The Boundary Commission of 1925 confirmed the territorial settlement of Partition. Ireland would remain divided. In many ways Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State had the same central problem at the start of this period: the 1921 treaty had created two states, but it had not created two nations.1 Religious geographies had determined the spatial extents of both jurisdictions, but the choice for both the north and south was how to forge their own identities and the extent to which these identities would be defined by the sectarianism of their geneses. The new formalized division of Ireland was, as we have seen, about more than just religion—it closely reflected the social and economic divisions of the island as well. A second challenge was thus to develop their separate economies. A final question was whether Partition would mark a new beginning for Ireland or whether it would simply continue the trends that had been developing since the mid-nineteenth century.

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