The unionist/nationalist divide in Belfast today has its origins in the 1840s when Catholic and Protestant workers were involved in campaigns for and against the repeal of the union with Great Britain. This book, a case-study of the Pound and Sandy Row, 1820-86, challenges the existing literature which dates this division from the 1880-90s and overturns the argument that some other lasting political division, such as Liberal/Conservative, could have developed in Belfast in the 1860s to 1880s.
The active role of Catholic workers in nationalist movements and the strength of working- class Protestant opposition to them are revealed for the first time through an examination of the campaign for repeal of the union with Britain, the republican Fenian society and the movement for Irish 'Home Rule'.
This book argues that the riots became more severe as conflict between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists grew. Politics at the national level were played out on the street in riots and sectarian marches in a manner strikingly familiar to anyone observing the recent 'Troubles'. By examining the politics of the secret society and the street this study provides fresh insight into the roots of modern conflict in Northern Ireland.
Catherine Hirst completed her PhD in Irish History at Queen's University Belfast in 1997. She now lives and works in Australia.