Roy Mason asked for report on Protestant drift from cityside

Northern Ireland secretary of state, Roy Mason  (September 10, 1976 - May 4, 1979) (News Letter Library File)
Northern Ireland secretary of state, Roy Mason (September 10, 1976 - May 4, 1979) (News Letter Library File)

The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Roy Mason has died.

During his time at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) the Labour MP grappled with many difficulties, including the drift of Protestants from the west bank of Londonderry throughout the 1970s.

“The spectre of the west bank being abandoned to the Republic” was raised at a meeting between Mr Mason, the then Unionist MP for Londonderry, William Ross, and the then Bishop Robin Eames at Stormont Castle on November 7, 1978.

Figures showed that in 1967/68 12,000 Protestant electors lived on the west bank, but by 1978 this had decreased to 4,000. Mr Ross contended the main causes for Protestants departing the Cityside were the points system for housing which he claimed “worked against Protestants” and IRA violence.

Mr Ross suggested something needed to be done about the housing situation, although he recognised the political difficulty on that issue. He also suggested that an RUC station should be re-sited closer to the predominantly Protestant Fountain Estate.

Mr Mason said he could not promise anything but would look into the problem. He asked a Northern Ireland Office official, AE Huckle, to undertake a study “to see if the Protestant drift from the west bank could be halted”.

Mr Mason died aged 91 on Monday (April 20).