The use of the terms pogrom and ethnic cleansing to describe the violence of this time has been fiercely debated by historians. Historians have argued that the term pogrom is not appropriate given the reciprocity of violence between communities in Northern Ireland. In the context of the Belfast shipyard clearances, the use of the word pogrom does not strictly conform to dictionary definitions, most notably in the pogroms directed at Jews in eastern Europe. However, the term was widely used at the time by Irish Nationalists. The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland Interim Report 1921 stated “These riots between Protestants and Catholics in which Protestants were the aggressors partook of the character of Russian pogroms against the Jews.” (emphasis mine)
During this period of intense violence, many members of the Catholic/Nationalist community in Belfast felt that the violence of the shipyard expulsions and the violent clearing of thousands of Catholics from mixed neighborhoods was ethnic cleansing or a pogrom. What is clear is that the minority population were the principal victims, suffering high levels of violence, intimidation and severe economic hardships at the hands of the majority population and the police.