Skip to Content

Episode 5 - Partition and the Southern Irish Protestant experience.

The Partition of Ireland talks programme in partnership with BBC Logo
Professor Roy Foster
University of Oxford
Date: 24/05/2021
Talk 5

Partition and the Southern Irish Protestant experience

Though after 1912 the probability of partition between the north-east of Ireland and the rest of the country was more likely than not, the small Protestant minority outside Ulster were slow to realise it, and accordingly felt marooned when the Irish Free State came into being.

Their position in the new twenty-six-county unit remained to a certain extent removed from the overwhelmingly Catholic-nationalist ethos of the new state, but adaptation came quickly. The status and contribution of the Protestant element in newly-independent Ireland forms the subject of this lecture, which emphasises that the Protestant element in the country, small though it was, reflected a much broader social range than the stereotype of 'Ascendancy gentry in decaying Big Houses'. 


About Professor Roy Foster

R.F. (Roy) Foster is Emeritus Professor of Irish History at Oxford and Emeritus Professor of Irish History and Literature at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of many prizewinning books, including Charles Stewart Parnell: the man and his family (1976), Lord Randolph Churchill: a political life (1981), Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (1988), Paddy and Mr Punch (1993)The Irish Story :telling tales and making it up in Ireland (2001), Luck and the Irish: a brief history of  change  (2007), the two-volume authorised biography of W.B.Yeats, The Apprentice Mage 1865-1914 (1997),  and The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (2003), Words Alone: Yeats and his inheritances (2011), Vivid Faces: the revolutionary generation in Ireland 1890-1923  (2014), and On Seamus Heaney (2020). He is also a well known cultural commentator and critic.

Further Reading
  • Ian d’Alton and Ida Milne (eds.), Protestant And Irish: the minority’s search for place in independent Ireland (Cork University Press, 2019) 
  • Terence Dooley, The Decline of the Big House in Ireland: a study of Irish landed families 1860-1960 (Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 2001) 
  • David Fitzpatrick, Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories Since 1795 (Cambridge University Press, 2014) 
  • Deirdre Nuttall, Different and the Same: a folk history of the Protestants of independent Ireland (Eastwood Books, Dublin, 2020) 
  • R.B.McDowell, The Church of Ireland 1869-1969 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1975) 
  • R.B.McDowell, Crisis and Decline: the fate of the Southern Unionists (Lilliput Press, Dublin, 1997) 
  • Marcus Tanner, Ireland’s Holy Wars: the struggle for a nation’s soul 1500-2000 (Yale University Press, London, 2001)