United Irishmen

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Tim Brannigan was the only black son in a family of five boys, the only black kid in his school and, for many years, in his world. Born in West Belfast, the result of an affair his mother had with an African doctor, Tim fought hard to blend in.

Northern Ireland may have a history of 'us and them' but in this case it wasn't catholic or protestant - it was Tim in a class of his own.

Brought up in a republican family on the Falls Road his credentials as an Irishman are solid, yet he is constantly asked where he is from. When he says Belfast, he is invariably asked where he is REALLY from.

The conflict of the last 40 years means some social changes that took place in the rest of the UK simply didn't happen in Northern Ireland. As different ethnic groups moved in to England and parts of Scotland and Wales, few moved over the Irish sea and those who did mostly went south of the border.

In the 2001 census Northern Ireland's population was 99.15% white. The expectation is that that figure will change quite radically in the 2011 results. Northern Ireland already looks very different. But what kind of reception is it offering?

Tim talks to Joseph and Lisa. Both are black and have made Northern Ireland their home for decades, but not without some struggle. Lisa has four boys with her Northern Irish husband. What identity will they be allowed to choose for themselves?

There's a lot of talk about a 'shared society' but Tim considers the reality in Northern Ireland is that housing and schooling are still segregated along catholic and protestant lines. Anyone outside those two confines exists in a kind of social limbo. Tim and others like him are a challenge to these boundaries.

Producer: Rachel Hooper

A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.