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UK Government considered moving Catholics out of Northern Ireland

A copy of a map from
the archives
The BBC reports: "Plans to 'transfer' most of Northern Ireland's Catholic population south of the Irish border were secretly considered by Whitehall officials during the worst violence of the early years of the Troubles. Papers released under the 30-year-rule reveal Sir Edward Heath's 1972 government considered moving hundreds of thousands of Catholics if they could not stop the worsening sectarian violence."

The plan, one of a number secretly considered, was rejected as unworkable - along with proposals for a one-off "violent shock" against both Protestants and Catholics.

By the end of 1972, almost 500 people had died amid continuing political and sectarian violence as the local Stormont government and civil rights movement collapsed.

Such was the fear of complete civil breakdown, Cabinet secretary Sir Burke Trend warned Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath he had perhaps one chance to restore peace.

Prime Minister Heath was presented with a series of options including a 10-page paper called "Redrawing the border and population transfer".

It looked at whether republican violence could be stopped by:

Transferring areas with a Catholic majority to the Republic of Ireland
Moving individual Catholic families to the Republic of Ireland

The authors drew up maps of how it could work - only to find the areas identified for transfer included huge numbers of Protestants.


2 Jan 2003