09/07/2002

NI religious attitudes hardening

There is an increasing hardening of attitudes by both Protestants and Catholics towards living, working and learning together according to new research.

The research conducted by the University of Ulster reveals that Protestants’ and Catholics’ perceptions of each other are becoming increasingly negative.

Using data from the Life and Times Survey - conducted annually by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University - the report show that public opinion has shifted dramatically downwards since 1996 - the year after the paramilitary ceasefires - and that the pace of change has increased in the last two years.

The report shows that statistically fewer people think that relations between Protestant and Catholics are better now than five years ago.

It also shows that Protestants have less confidence than Catholics in the peace process.

Significantly 39% of Protestants believe they are treated worse than five years ago while just 4% of Catholics think they are now treated less well.

Since 1999 there has been a steady increase in a desire for single identity community, workplace and schools.

In 1999 26% of Protestants and 18% of Catholics expressed a preference for own religion neighbourhood. Two years later the figures had risen to 32% and 22% respectively.

In 1999 12% of Protestants and 6% of Catholics also wanted own religion workplaces, figures which rose to 21% and 14% respectively two years later.

A similar trend emerged on the question of own religion schools with 29% of Protestants and 21% of Catholics favouring this option in 1999 rising to 37% and 29% respectively two years later.

The authors of the report said: “The challenge to all those involved in community relations at government/policy making/voluntary and community level is to explore the factors contributing to recent negative trends and to identify strategies that might address the concerns of both communities”.

(AMcE)


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