1923-1968 Living on a Divided Island

Exit Menu

1923-1968 Living on a Divided Island

“Let them see from the outset that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority.” This was Edward Carson’s warning to Ulster Unionists amid the chaos of the Irish War of Independence. Carson had worked to keep Ireland in the United Kingdom, but the Government of Ireland Act 1920 put an end to that struggle. Nevertheless, his intervention had ensured the six counties of Northern Ireland were kept in the Union.

The new border divided former allies in the Irish Free State. Michael Collins, the nationalist hero, had signed the treaty with the United Kingdom, accepting a partition of Ireland and dominion status in the British Empire, without thoroughly consulting staunch republicans, such as Éamon de Valera. These two factions, pro and anti-Treaty, now turned on each other in the year-long Irish Civil War. Sectarian tensions remained high in Northern Ireland, despite Carson’s injunction.

Our collection includes customs notices, the new currency of the Irish Free State and political ephemera from this era.

Both states emerged from the maelstrom of the independence struggle and the First World War into the doldrums of economic stagnation. The war had been a boon to Norther Ireland’s ship building and linen manufacturing industries, but demand dried up with the peace. In 1932, Catholic and Protestant workers marched together to improve welfare payments. The two groups had so few songs in common that they reverted to singing ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ at rallies, a popular song of the time. They succeeded in increasing weekly welfare benefits from eight to 20 shillings.

The Irish Free State had effectively become a republic in 1937, under a government led by Éamon de Valera, consummating the struggle he had started in the Irish Civil War. The new republic remained neutral during the Second World War, but Northern Ireland contributed to the United Kingdom’s war effort. Belfast endured German air raids, and sent men to the front. The war exposed weakness in the economy, and continuing tensions in industrial relations.

We have a significant Second World War collection, including uniforms, medals, and gas masks, as well as items related to Belfast’s war time industry.

After the war, Northern Ireland benefited from the United Kingdom’s newly expanded welfare state. The gap in living standards between Ireland and Northern Ireland widened. The Northern Ireland Labour Party enjoyed success at the polls in the 1950s and 60s, but traditional fears and community tensions undermined working-class challenges to the dominant Ulster Unionist Party.

Economic expansion led to the end of rationing in the early 1950s. “Britain’s never had it so good” declared Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, in 1957. Television brought the world into people’s living rooms, while improved education widened horizons. Modernisation brought new roads and better housing, such as high-rise flats, but also destabilising social changes.

The prosperity of the 1960s encouraged a more permissive society, where freedom of expression was encouraged, and the old order repudiated. The social revolution sweeping the West also affected Northern Ireland. Here, of course, it was imbued with the themes of local politics. Community tensions were particularly high in 1966—the 50th anniversary of both the 1916 Easter Rising, and the Battle of the Somme. Our collection holds memorabilia produced by both nationalists and unionists to commemorate these events.

Searchable list of collections

37 items found.
View 
 Items per page
If no image shows this may be due to copyright restrictions. Please contact picture.library@nmni.com who will be happy to help.
Living and Learning

Living and Learning

Pamphlet published by The Northern Ireland Labour Party, 'Living and Learning,' A Survey of Education in Northern Ireland now, together with a policy ...

Their Future is in Your Hands

Their Future is in Your Hands

An Ulster Unionist Party poster, possibly created for the 1959 UK General Election. 'Their Future is in Your Hands - Vote Unionist.' Printed black, bl...

Vote for the Big Four... Vote Unionist

Vote for the Big Four... Vote Unionist

Poster issued by the Unionist Party for candidates in Victoria Ward in East Belfast Municipal Elections. Printed blue on white. 'Vote for the Big Four...

Labour for the Future

Labour for the Future

Poster issued by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Printed black on yellow 'Labour for the Future. Unionism for the Past.' This poster produced by th...

For Deeds! Not Words

For Deeds! Not Words

Poster published by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Printed black and red on white. 'For Deeds! Not Words. Vote Northern Ireland LABOUR.' Support f...

Put Ulster First

Put Ulster First

Poster issued by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. 'Put Ulster First vote Northern Ireland LABOUR.' Support for the NILP peaked in the late 1950s and...

Badge of Subhas Chandra Bose

Badge of Subhas Chandra Bose

Photographic button badge with a photograph of the Indian Nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose in military style uniform inside a metal frame. c.1943....

PATCH; Rank Patch

PATCH; Rank Patch

Rank patch worn on the shoulder, a red rectanglar piece of fabric with the remains of a central strip of braid carrying 3 metal stars....

BADGE; Indian Independence League Badge

BADGE; Indian Independence League Badge

Indian Independence League badge with pin fastening. On an Indian flag of orange, white and green is an oval ribbon inscribed "Indian Independence Lea...

BADGE; Indian National Army Badge

BADGE; Indian National Army Badge

Diestruck Indian National Army Badge with eyelet fastening. Similar to O203.1975 with a three piece scroll inscribed "ITTEFAQ/ETMAD/KURBANI" (Unity Tr...

Sword : Samurai : and sheath

Sword : Samurai : and sheath

Imperial Japanese Army officer's sword. It has a polished steel blade of traditional pattern, a gilt guard decordated with flowers, a handle bound wit...

SHOULDER TITLE; Indian National Army Shoulder Title

SHOULDER TITLE; Indian National Army Shoulder Title

Indian National Army shoulder title: "I.N.A." in brass with eyelets for fastening....

BADGE; Free Indian Army (Indian Liberation Army) Badge

BADGE; Free Indian Army (Indian Liberation Army) Badge

Free Indian Army (Indian Liberation Army) badge with pin fastening. It is a circular brass badge with"AZAD HIND FAUJ" around the edge with a tiger's h...

BADGE; Indian National Army Badge

BADGE; Indian National Army Badge

Indian National Army badge with pin fastening: it features a grained map of India inside an oval surmounted by the initials "INA", under this is a thr...

Labour the 1962 Party

Labour the 1962 Party

Poster published by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Printed in black and white. 'LABOUR, The 1962 Party. Realistic, Relevant, Radical.' This poster...

You have Three Votes

You have Three Votes

Northern Ireland Labour Party poster highlighting candidates Dunlop, Hanna and Getgood. Issued by the NILP for the Municipal Elections....

National Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators

National Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators

National Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators. Shield shaped one sided, fringed, has tapes on back for vertical car...

DRUM; [Side Drum]

DRUM; [Side Drum]

Of the Irish Unemployed Workers Accordean Band. The drum has a wooden shell and ten metal screw adjusters. The rims are painted black, white and red. ...

Kukri knife

Kukri knife

Kukri (Gurkha knife). It has a curved blade, a bone handle with metal fittings, scabbard and two small skinning or sharpening knives....

BADGE; Royal Artillery Officers Collar Badges

BADGE; Royal Artillery Officers Collar Badges

Royal Artillery Officers Collar Badges: grenade with 7 flames and a surmounting scroll inscribed "UBIQUE"....

SHOULDER STRAP; Indian National Army Shoulder Strap

SHOULDER STRAP; Indian National Army Shoulder Strap

Indian National Army shoulder strap: khaki drill with red piping and a light blue strip at the shoulder end, under this are the initials "I. N. A." in...

FLAG; Japanese Flag

FLAG; Japanese Flag

Japanese Flag with black hand-painted Japanese script....

5th Indian Division - Shoulder Flash

5th Indian Division - Shoulder Flash

5th Indian Division shoulder flash: black square on which a red disc....

BADGE; Royal Artillery Officers Cap Badge

BADGE; Royal Artillery Officers Cap Badge

Royal Artillery Officers Cap Badge with a gun, surmounted by scroll inscribed "UBIQUE" and a crown on top of the scroll. Under the gun is a 3 piece sc...

The Unionists Endangered our Future by Their Cuts

The Unionists Endangered our Future by Their Cuts

Poster issued by the Northern Ireland Labour Party, printed red and black on white. 'The Unionists endangered our Future by their cuts. We cannot put ...

Close filter panel
  • Object type
  • Maker
  • Dates
  • Place made
  • Materials
  • Purchase print
  • With Images