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Trust did ensure Protestants and Catholics shared estates but onset of the Troubles created divisions

letter of the day: housing allocations

David Carpenter writes (Comment, September 29) that, in the 1970s, a housing allocation system based on need was introduced in Northern Ireland.

He omits that, long before the 1970s, in 1945, the Housing Trust was established by William Grant, then Minister of Health and Local Government at Stormont, with precisely that mandate.

Local councils, however, were not brought under the scheme and so, whether unionist or nationalist, could continue to allocate housing to applicants and in doing so to their supporters. Nationalists no less than unionists were good at the preferential option.

But under the Housing Trust, chaired by Sir Lucius O'Brien, not only were Housing Trust houses allocated according to need under a points system as required, but also in Belfast housing estates were deliberately integrated: either two-thirds Protestant and one-third Catholic, as in Highfield or, as in the adjoining Ballymurphy and New Barnsley, two-thirds Catholic and one-third Protestant. And relations were such that, later, a new Holy Cross Catholic school could be built without raising any problem (that came later) in a mostly Protestant area of Ardoyne.

All this was to go up in smoke, literally - the Church of Ireland's little Luther Church was set alight on what is now the Upper Whiterock Road. It was burnt down, following the exodus of Protestants from Ballymurphy and New Barnsley at the beginning of the Troubles, as though suggesting don't come back. There was a similar exodus of Catholics from Highfield; each lot, Protestant and Catholic, feeling more secure among their "own".

This was the achievement of those who saw in the then Northern Ireland prime minister, Terence O'Neill, a threat to their brand of "unionism" and their brand of "nationalism".

WA miller


Belfast Telegraph


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