and Heritage Recovery
THE DISTINCTIVE IDENTITY of the Liverpool-Irish was tried and tested in the depressed economic conditions of the inter-war period. Habituated to their 'curious middle place', they conformed neither to the narrow norms of Irishness propounded by the Irish Free State under the 'de Valera dispensation' nor to notions of Britishness which prevailed outside Liverpool in Baldwin's middle England.1 As economic depression persisted, they were to endure heightened levels of ethnic and sectarian prejudice, a blend of old attitudes and new fears fuelled by alarmist response to the influx of numbers from the Irish Free State. The new arrivals were ready scapegoats for Liverpool's worsening economic plight (apart from those whose specialist skills were essential for regeneration projects, such as digging the Mersey Tunnel).2 The Industrial Survey of 1932 gloomily predicted that 'a vast problem of unemployment will weigh on Merseyside for many years'. Throughout the 1930s the local unemployment rate remained resolutely above 18 per cent, double the national average.3 Even so, Merseyside was not designated as a depressed area in the legislation of 1934. Still dominated by port-based commerce and transport, Liverpool found itself disabled within inter-war discourse of unemployment and economic policy. Priority was accorded to the problems of the industrial north and other distressed manufacturing areas, while efforts to regain comparative advantage as the world's clearing house were exclusively centred on the City of London.
1 Roy Foster, Modern Ireland 1600–1972, London, 1988, ch. 22.
2 There were rumours of a substantial Irish influx even before work began on the
scheme, see LCH 28 Nov. 1925.
3Board of Trade: An Industrial Survey of Merseyside, London, 1932, p.38; S. Davies, P.
Gill, L. Grant, M. Nightingale, R. Noon and A. Shallice, Genuinely Seeking Work: Mass
Unemployment on Merseyside in the 1930s, Birkenhead, 1992.