Belfast Telegraph

DUP accuse authors behind report into Protestant exodus from west bank of Londonderry of 'rewriting history'

The DUP has accused the authors of a report looking into the reasons behind thousands of Protestants leaving the west bank of Londonderry during the Troubles of "rewriting history".

The report was published by human rights organisation the Pat Finucane Centre.

It found that between 1971 and 1981 the Protestant population of the west bank fell drastically, not only because of sectarian intimidation, but because of poor housing and a lack of economic development.

However, the DUP's East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and Foyle MLA Gary Middleton have hit out at the report.

Mr Campbell said: “The report headlines itself as 'Protestant Migration from the West Bank'. 'Migration' is a term more commonly used to describe a natural phenomenon among some birds who migrate for the winter, who usually return when the weather improves.

"The primary and overwhelming cause of the exodus from the west bank was intimidation and violence. They did not ‘migrate’ and 99% of them never returned.

"There was obvious and naked sectarianism in the campaign which resulted in people fleeing the west bank of the Foyle.

"Those who authored this report should listen to the voices of people directly affected and who have spoken of how the report seeks to 'diminish' their experience.

"They should not diminish it by increasing the significance of peripheral factors, by painting it as part of a much longer term pattern or blaming unionism for 90% of the Protestant population leaving the west bank in ten years.

"Instead of attempting to rewrite history, we should ensure future generations do not forget the reality of what happened as it has been chronicled on film, in print and on stage. No one should be subjected to any rewriting of this part of our shared history.”

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Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton

Between 1971 and 1981 the Protestant population of the west bank, also known as the cityside, dropped by two-thirds - from 8,459 in 1971 to 2,874 in 1981.

By 1991 it had fallen to 1,407, down 83% in those 20 years.

Mr Middleton said: “Over the years there have been attempts to justify, rewrite and portray the exodus of Protestants from the west bank of Londonderry as being something much different from the reality at the time.

"The factual, evidence based position has been well documented by the thousands who were intimidated and attacked from their homes and who were left with no choice but to move out for the safety of themselves and their families.

"The truth has become uncomfortable for some however any attempts to rewrite the past will continue to be refuted.”

The report, by Dr Helen McLaughlin and Dr Ulf Hansson, does say intimidation was a "highly significant factor", but suggests the situation was more complex.

It states: "The evidence shows that a number of complex and often inter-related 'push' and 'pull' factors contributed to Protestant migration from the west bank of Derry/Londonderry from 1969-1980 in particular."

The report says other reasons included "poor and limited housing on the cityside and the availability of better housing elsewhere", and the policy of skewing economic development and investment away from Derry.

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