Stormont discrimination of Catholics 'hugely exaggerated' says David Trimble's ex-aide
A FORMER adviser to ex-First Minister David Trimble has claimed discrimination against Catholics by Stormont before the civil rights movement has been "hugely exaggerated".
Graham Gudgin – a Cambridge University economist who was a special adviser to the former Ulster Unionist leader until 2002 – said nationalists have "comprehensively won the propaganda battle".
Writing in the News Letter, he said: "Accusations of discrimination against Catholics by the unionist Stormont regime of 1921-72 have been a staple of nationalist parties, underlying the Good Friday Agreement and the aspiration for Irish unity.
"The allegations are widely believed, even by unionists, but are hugely exaggerated."
Mr Gudgin accepted that some councils used housing for gerrymandering purposes and civil rights campaigners five decades ago "were at the time correct to protest against this wrongdoing".
"The abuses were limited and localised but nonetheless serious," he said.
But he argued there was "no attempt to deprive Catholics of housing", saying that Catholics were "over-represented in state-owned housing across Northern Ireland".
He said housing legislation was not legally challenged, and that a British complaints ombudsman at the time "received few complaints" and "praised the quality of administration in Northern Ireland ministries".
"The persistent refusal of unionists to argue their case on discrimination is baffling," Mr Gudgin said.
He added: "Nationalists are allowed free reign to exaggerate the problems and they have comprehensively won the propaganda battle for international public opinion."
Mr Gudgin criticised the "quality of debate on discrimination" but said that "unionists have only themselves to blame".