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'Community Relations in Northern Ireland: Attitudes to Contact and Integration' by Joanne Hughes, and Paul Carmichael (1998), in, Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Seventh Report



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Text: Joanne Hughes and Paul Carmichael ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following chapter has been contributed by the authors Joanne Hughes and Paul Carmichael with the permission of the publishers, Ashgate Publishing Ltd. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

scanned image of front cover This chapter is taken from:

Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland:
The Seventh Report

Edited by Gillian Robinson, Deirdre Heenan
Ann Marie Gray and Kate Thompson (1998)

ISBN 1 84014 094 1 Hardback 208pp 35.00

Published by:
Ashgate Publishing Limited
Gower House
Croft Road
Aldershot
Hants GU11 3HR
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This chapter is copyright Joanne Hughes and Paul Carmichael, 1998 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the publisher, Ashgate Publishing Ltd. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the authors and publisher. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.


Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland
The Seventh Report

Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Introduction
Gillian Robinson
1. Community Relations in Northern Ireland: Attitudes to Contact and Integration
Joanne Hughes and Paul Carmichael
2. The Growth of Home Ownership: Explanations and Implications
Deirdre Heenan
3. Attitudes to the Countryside
Sally Cook, Adrian Moore and Claire Guyer
4.Role of Government
Niall Ó Dochartaigh
5. Attitudes to the National Health Service in Northern Ireland
Ann Marie Gray
6. Attitudes to the Environment in Northern Ireland
Adrian Moore, Sally Cook and Claire Guyer
7. Belief and Trust in the Political Process
Martin Melaugh



Introduction

GILLIAN ROBINSON


This book is the seventh in a series of reports which began in 1991 (Stringer and Robinson, 1991; 1992; 1993: Breen, Devine and Robinson, 1995:

Breen, Devine and Dowds, 1996: Dowds, Devine and Breen, 1997). As such it provides a unique opportunity to view social attitudes in Northern Ireland and explore how these may be developing and changing. In this volume authors from Northern Ireland and beyond utilise the data from the 1996 Northern Ireland Social Attitudes (NISA) survey to provide a picture of social attitudes to various issues. It is hoped that their analyses will stimulate others including policy-makers; journalists; community based groups; school children and students to further analyse the data, which is easily accessible (see Appendix 3), and gain a deeper understanding of social attitudes here.

The survey is constructed in a modular format and is closely linked to its sister survey British Social Attitudes (BSA) so that modules run in Northern Ireland are selected from those being run in. GB. This allows for comparisons between Northern Ireland and GB and as you will see many of the authors chose to look at the differences and similarities between the two regions. In 1996 the issues covered included attitudes to the countryside and the environment; housing; and political trust. In addition there is a specific Northern Ireland module run each year and in 1996 this concentrated on aspects of community relations issues here. Finally the survey includes the International Social Survey Programme module that allows for comparisons with countries across four continents (over 20 countries in all) who participate in the programme. In 1996 this focused on the role of government. Full details on the content and administration of the survey are included in Appendix 1.

Having been involved with the Northern Ireland Social Attitudes survey series since its inception in 1989 I regret that this report will be the last in the series and presents the results of the final survey. The series began life with funding from the Nuffield Foundation and the Central Community Relations Unit (1989-1991) and since then funding has been provided by government departments in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately government is no longer willing to bear the full costs of the survey and efforts to secure other funding have been only partially successful. Therefore all those involved: Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR), who run the BSA series and were a key partner in the NISA series; government - CCRU and the Central Survey Unit within the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency in particular; the University of Ulster (UU) team who have produced this report; and Lizanne Dowds, Research Affiliate at The Queen's University of Belfast have had to regretfully make the decision to end the series at this time.

However, as one door closes another one hopefully opens. Plans are underway to launch a new survey series which will retain some of the former NISA time series and on-going British Social Attitudes modules. Though the focus of the new survey will be quite different we are determined that the spirit of the original survey will not be lost and that the seven years data will continue to be built upon.


Acknowledgements

As the NISA survey series comes to a close the remaining task is to give a sincere thank you to all those who made the survey come to life and who sustained it throughout its lifetime. Peter Stringer was the academic who worked to get the survey extended to Northern Ireland and we thank him for his energy and interest. SCPR who enthusiastically agreed to extend the survey to Northern Ireland, and have directed the operation of the survey since then are we know saddened by its demise. We thank the BSA team for their support, interest and tireless efforts over the years. We are grateful to the Nuffield Foundation who provided funding over the first three years and to all the Northern Ireland government departments who have funded the survey over the years. In particular the CCRU has been an unflagging supporter of the series as have CSU who have carried out the fieldwork over the seven year period to their usual high standards. The research teams at The Queen's University of Belfast who produced the first six reports also deserve praise for their work to ensure the wider dissemination of the survey results. Many academics within Northern Ireland and beyond have contributed chapters to the series and a significant number of others have used NISA data in their research. Thank you all for your interest and we hope you will continue to find the data useful. The authors in this volume have worked to very tight deadlines and we thank you for your tolerance and co-operation. My colleagues at the University of Ulster who were prepared to take up the campaign to try to save the series and who are now working to secure funding for the new survey have been a tremendous support. In particular the analysis skills and thoroughness of Kate Thompson who prepared the data for authors was invaluable. Diane Devine prepared the many varied documents to camera ready copy and we are grateful for her dedication and unfailing good humour. Finally we would like to thank the people of Northern Ireland who participated in the survey each year and were so generous in their time and interest - without them no research of this kind is possible. We hope that the findings may in some small way contribute to the development and understanding of policy issues in Northern Ireland and may lead to policies that impact positively on the lives of all those living here.


References

Breen, R., Devine, P. and Dowds, L. (eds), (1996), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Fifth Report, Appletree Press, Belfast.

Breen, R., Devine, P. and Robinson, G. (eds), (1995), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Fourth Report, Appletree Press, Belfast.

Dowds, L., Devine, P. and Breen, R. (eds), (1997), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Sixth Report, Appletree Press, Belfast.

Stringer, P. and Robinson, G. (eds), (1991), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: 1990-91 edition, Blackstaff, Belfast.

Stringer, P. and Robinson, G. (eds), (1992), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Second Report, Blackstaff, Belfast.

Stringer, P. and Robinson, G. (eds), (1993), Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Third Report, Blackstaff, Belfast.


1 Community Relations in Northern Ireland: Attitudes to Contact and Integration
JOANNE HUGHES AND PAUL CARMICHAEL


Introduction

The last ten years have seen a concerted effort on the part of successive UK governments to address the seemingly intractable problems of community relations in Northern Ireland. The approach has been twofold with attempts to find a constitutional resolution to the conflict complemented by the development of a community relations infrastructure. In the light of these developments, this chapter provides a résumé of the macro-political context over the period. It outlines the nature of community relations chiefly in terms of policy, legislative and infrastructural developments before offering an assessment of community relations in Northern Ireland. It goes on to consider evidence from the Northern Ireland Social Attitudes surveys conducted in 1989 and 1996. The central message is that the data indicate a discernible shift towards greater tolerance and mutual understanding.


Macro-political Developments

From 1987, a sustained twin-track approach to resolving Northern Ireland's constitutional imbroglio emerged. At the political level, the focus has been on attaining a constitutional settlement which will accommodate both unionists and nationalists. Complementing this, organisations with a dedicated community relations remit have been established and, through them, resources targeted at local community level. Arguably, it was the Enniskillen bomb on Remembrance Sunday in 1987 which prompted many in both communities to reconsider the future of Northern Ireland. In local government, for example, the incident was instrumental in promoting the development of 'responsibility sharing' in councils (Knox, 1996). This move was consolidated by government measures to encourage inter-community cooperation at the local authority level. Equally important were various European Community initiatives, notably, the European Community Peace and Reconciliation Programme (1995) which is designed explicitly to foster partnership and community-based forms of decision-making and service delivery.

Concurrent with these developments was the litany of the troubles. Though their intensity was at its lowest since during 1970-71, the relative decline in violence was shortlived. By 1989, an upsurge in loyalist violence triggered a familiar cycle of tit-for-tat reprisals by republican paramilitaries. By the early 1990s, these attacks were increasing in frequency culminating in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) Shankill Road bombing of September 1993. The immediate outlook was bleak.

It was at this juncture that, in December 1993, the Downing Street Declaration between the British and Irish Governments marked a turning point. Whilst not the beginning of the end of the troubles, it appeared to be the end of the beginning, to coin a phrase. Hence, although the next eight months would witness further atrocities and outrages perpetrated by terrorists on both sides, by August 1994, the PIRA had declared a ceasefire, to be followed by the Combined Loyalist Military Command in October 1994. From thereafter, whilst the climate remained tense, the groundswell of goodwill and resolve to 'make peace work' was almost palpable. Notwithstanding genuine fears of a slide back into the worst excesses of the conflict, the period since 1994 was characterised by a widespread hope and expectation of improvement. Outwardly at least, a relaxed atmosphere descended on Northern Ireland as the immediate threat of violence receded.

Perhaps inevitably, the honeymoon period could not last. The summer of 1995 witnessed the first of three successive summers of discontent centred on a controversial march by members of the Portadown Lodge of the Orange Order from Drumcree parish church. However, 'Drumcree 1', as it was subsequently dubbed, did not of itself spell the end of the ceasefires. This came in February 1996, with the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) Canary Wharf bombing in London. Even then, however, Northern Ireland was spared the resumption of fullscale terrorism and, at the time of the 1996 survey on which this report was prepared, confidence about the prospects for a speedy restitution of the ceasefires remained buoyant.


Community Relations in Northern Ireland

The outbreak of violence in 1969 which followed Catholic demands for civil rights forced the British Government at Westminster to play a more active role in the local politics of Northern Ireland[1]. As an interim step, troops were sent in to quell riots which had erupted in interface areas. A series of more long term reforms followed. These were designed to address the inequities which were a consequence of unionist control in the regional government of Northern Ireland and to address nationalist concerns. Issues for particular consideration were the voting arrangements for local authorities; the procedures for addressing electoral boundaries and the allocation of housing -all of which had previously been used to strengthen the powerbase of unionists (Whyte, 1990). In addition, the government made a commitment to examine relationships between the two communities and underlying causes of violence.

The main infrastructural outcome was the establishment of the Community Relations Commission and a ministry to oversee its work. Modelled on similar lines to the UK Commission for Racial Equality which deals with race relations issues, membership was drawn equally from both communities. Primary functions of the commission included:

'the encouragement of bodies active in promoting improved community relations, advice to government, the provision of educational and other programmes, and the commissioning or carrying out of research on community relations themes'. (Gallagher, 1995, p.29)
The initiative was not without its detractors. Hayes (1972) argued that locating governmental responsibility within a single, small ministry marginalised the issue. Community relations policy should inform government decisions at all levels where policy decisions impact upon both communities (housing, education, industry, law enforcement etc.). The strategy of 'mainstreaming' advocated by Hayes, whilst finding little support at the time, has become a feature of public policy in Northern Ireland during the 1 990s as evidenced by Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) guidelines (this is discussed in more detail later in the chapter).

By the mid-1970s the official community relations infrastructure had collapsed. Various explanations as to the cause of its demise have been advanced. At an official level, it was stated that the Power-Sharing Executive of 1974 (a joint system of government between Protestants and Catholics)[2] obviated the need for a Community Relations Commission. Some commentators, however, have suggested that this may have been a convenient excuse. The real reason lay in the fact that politicians were becoming increasingly suspicious of the community development strategy promoted by the Commission. Their concern was that a strengthened voluntary sector could provide an alternative basis for community leadership (Gallagher, 1995). Whatever the cause, community relations became a dormant issue for over a decade.

The sea change in the latter half of the 1980s which saw the return of community relations as a priority issue for policy-makers was prompted by several factors. These included the electoral rise of Sinn Fein after the hunger-strikes by Republican prisoners; external pressure to tackle community relations exerted on the British Government through the McBride campaign[3]; and, the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985) which introduced a new dimension, in the form of consultation with the Government of the Irish Republic, to policy decisions on Northern Ireland. Of greatest significance, however, was a paper prepared for the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) by Hugh Fraser and Mari Fitzduff. It examined the history of community relations in Northern Ireland and considered ways in which difficult issues could be resolved (Gallagher, 1995). Developments in several areas ensued, namely, policy, legislation and infrastructure.


1. Policy

In 1992 government established an explicit community relations policy which had three primary aims: (a) to increase contact between Protestants and Catholics; (b) to encourage greater mutual understanding and respect for diverse cultural traditions; and, (c) to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland enjoys equality of opportunity and equity of treatment (Department of Finance and Personnel and HM Treasury, 1992, p.142). The PAFT guidelines relating to equality, equity and fair treatment were published in 1994. The preamble reads as follows:

Equality and equity are central issues which must condition and influence policy, taking in all spheres and at all levels of Government activity, whether in regulatory and administrative functions or through the delivery of services to the public'. (Northern Ireland Office, 1994)
Areas identified as relevant for PAFT proofing include: religion; gender; political opinion; marital status; having or not having a dependant; ethnicity; disability; age; and sexual orientation. Policy proposals when forwarded for ministerial decision must indicate that a PAFT appraisal has been undertaken. In addition, departments are required to monitor the impact of their policy on designated groups and to provide relevant training for public sector managers. Finally, all departments are required to submit an annual report to the Northern Ireland Civil Service Central Secretariat outlining action taken to implement the PAFT guidelines.

2. Legislation

There have been three key developments over the last ten years. These have been designed to address institutionalised segregation in education, discrimination in the workforce, and equality and equity concerns in the formulation of public policy. Specifically, with respect to education, the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DEN1) made provision for integrated education under the Education Reform Order (1989). In particular it became possible for existing segregated schools to opt for integrated status through a parental ballot. Recognising, however, that most schools would retain their segregated status, the Order also provided that two cross curricular themes would become mandatory in the teaching of most academic subjects, namely, 'Education for Mutual Understanding' (EMU) and 'Cultural Heritage'. EMU aims, inter alia, to help children learn to 'respect themselves and others' and 'to know about and understand what is shared as well as what is different about their cultural traditions' (Northern Ireland Curriculum Council, 1990). Although cross-community contact is not viewed as compulsory to the achievement of these goals, it remains an optional strategy which teachers are encouraged to use. Measures to tackle discrimination in the workforce were threefold. In 1989, the Fair Employment (ND Act was passed. This was followed in the same year by the establishment of a Fair Employment Commission and a Fair Employment Tribunal to deal with cases of alleged discrimination. Employers with more than 10 employees are required to register with the FEC and to monitor the religious composition of their workforce. It is illegal to discriminate indirectly and limited affirmative action policies to address imbalance in the religious composition of the workforce are permitted. The third area was PAFT, as outlined earlier.

3. Infrastructure

A community relations infrastructure was re-established. Central to this was the creation of the Central Community Relations Unit (CCRU) in 1987. Reporting directly to the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS), CCRU was charged with formulating, reviewing and challenging policy throughout the government system with the aim of 'bringing the two sides of the community towards greater understanding' (CCRU, 1991). All government departments were required to critically assess their policies and procedures to ensure that community relations considerations informed the delivery of key services in areas such as health, education, housing and economic development. Other aspects of the CCRU remit require the Unit to develop new ideas which would improve community relations and to support on-going efforts aimed at prejudice reduction. Several initiatives followed which endeavoured to improve contact between the two communities. In September 1987, the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) released £250,000 for the establishment of a Cross Community Contact Scheme. Administered through DENI, the scheme targets young people under the age of 19 and provides new resources for those already working in the area of peace and reconciliation. Funding criteria stipulate that activities seeking assistance should:

'... Improve cross-community understanding, be in addition to existing activity, be purposeful, and wherever possible, result in on-going contacts between young people from two communities'. (Northern Ireland Information Service, 1987, p.13)
The scale of applications and the subsequent involvement of more than one third of the schools in Northern Ireland prompted further developments. In February 1989, £2m was made available by government for the advancement of community relations objectives. Of this, £250,000 was used to extend the Cross Community Contact Scheme. The remainder contributed towards the establishment of two bodies. The first was the Cultural Traditions Group, headed by the controller of the BBC and charged with designing programmes in the arts, media and museums which would encourage constructive discussion on cultural traditions issues in Northern Ireland. Second, the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council (CRC) was formed in 1990 as a semi-autonomous government-funded public agency. CRC gained charitable status and served as a resource centre and focal point for groups and individuals working to improve community relations. Bloomfield (1997, p.65) remarked that CRC was, with hindsight, the major development of the era in community relations in Northern Ireland forming 'a public location at which the profile of community relations work could be raised'. Together, both CRC and CCRU 'signalled a new phase in the development of the [cultural] approach' and 'in some ways, these bodies mirrored the previous incarnations of the ministry and the commission of 1969-74, but there were equally significant differences from those precedents' (Bloomfield, ibid). Third, in 1989, the government offered financial assistance to district councils in Northern Ireland for the establishment of a community relations programme. Funding was conditional on cross-party support. The aim of this initiative was to involve local councillors and to develop a local area response to the community relations problem.


An Assessment of Community Relations in Northern Ireland

Changes at the macro-level over the last decade have resulted in the proliferation of a broad range of community relations initiatives, programmes and organisations. In an effort to examine effectiveness and to determine good practice, the CCRU has commissioned a series of macro-evaluations (Social Information Systems, 1994; Knox, et al, 1994; Knox and Hughes, 1996). These relate specifically to projects delivered directly through the CCRU, CRC and district council programmes. In all cases, community relations work has, to some degree, been experimental. Unlike targeted initiatives (EMU, integrated schools and the work of the Cultural Traditions Group) the recipient constituencies and the nature of projects are not predetermined. The approach is bottom-up and largely reactive to perceived need at grass-roots community level. Evaluators are broadly in agreement on the range of approaches embraced by the CRC and district council initiatives. These can be classified under the following six headings which, whilst not mutually exclusive, give a flavour of the diverse nature of activity:

Cultural Traditions

Projects in this category are concerned with advancing mutual respect for diverse cultural traditions. Much of the work promotes community relations objectives through common interest in cultural heritage and local history. Whilst most projects are cross-community, some are located in single identity communities where the primary aim is confidence building. Examples of activity supported include: seminars, conferences and workshops organised by local history associations, cultural awareness courses organised by Irish language groups and the Orange Order.

Community Development/Community Relations

This approach favours community relations work which underplays religious and political divisions between Protestants and Catholics and encourages cooperation on the basis of social, economic and environmental issues. The rationale is that community relations issues will emerge and can be addressed during the course of meeting agreed objectives in less contentious areas. Examples of organisations supported include: Co-operation North (which fosters economic links between the north and south of Ireland) and local community associations.

Reconciliation

This is a dedicated community relations approach where the aim is very specifically to improve intergroup awareness and to foster respect. Examples include: Corrymeela (a residential centre which provides a neutral venue for cross-community holidays, seminars and conferences) and the Peace People which offers a structured programme of community relations activity tailored to the needs of participant groups.

Reactive

Initiatives in this category emerged in response to specific terrorist incidents and threats. The approach is publicity driven and examples include: Enniskillen Together (founded by like-minded Protestants and Catholics to express revulsion at the bomb which killed 11 people in the town on Remembrance Sunday 1987) and the Peace Train Organisation (aimed at highlighting terrorist disruption of the main train link between Belfast and Dublin).

High Profile Community Relations

Projects in this category involve large-scale events often organised to engender 'first time' contact between Protestants and Catholics. The nature of the encounter tends to be largely superficial with little or no interaction between participants. Examples range from festivals and musical productions to dog shows and exhibitions.

Education and Personal Development

Here the focus is on generating confidence at an individual level and exploring those issues, germane to the conflict, which have affected people's lives. Examples include a respite cottage provided by the Ulster Quakers Group for women whose spouses are in prison; access to education courses for women who may have been disadvantaged by the effects of conflict; and training for those who are keen to facilitate cross-community projects.

In almost all of the categories, the strategy has been to improve community relations through cross-community contact. For the most part, assessments by the evaluators have been positive. Measured against government policy objectives for effective community relations, they found that all categories generated contact and some had the potential to promote attitudinal change.

In summary, a commitment to improving community relations has been comprehensively embraced by government. It is manifest not only in policy objectives and legislation but in the targeting of dedicated community relations resources. The following section offers an analysis of survey evidence on social attitudes.


Social Attitudes - Survey Evidence

Overall, the results of the survey in 1996 compared with that in 1989 show an improvement in the professed perceptions of the population concerning community relations. Altogether, of the questions posed of respondents in 1996, eight could be directly compared with identical or virtually identical equivalents from 1989.

Relations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland

Respondents were asked about relations between Protestants and Catholics. Would you say that relations are better than they were five years ago, worse, or about the same now as then? In response, Catholics, Protestants and the two groups combined demonstrated a decisive shift in their attitudes. Whereas the balance of opinion in 1989 was more worse than better, the belief that relations had improved became clear in 1996. In 1989, only 21 per cent of respondents thought that relations had got better in the past five years, whilst 28 per cent thought they had got worse. Almost half (47 per cent) perceived them as about the same. By 1996, whilst 42 per cent thought relations were about the same, only 11 per cent thought they were worse, with almost half (46 per cent) believing them to have improved. In all cases, both Catholics and Protestants shared in the overall sentiment that relations had improved.

Table 1.1 What about relations between Protestants and Catholics? Would you say
that they are better than they were 5 years ago, worse or about the same now as then?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Better
21
23
20
46
47
44
Worse
28
31
26
11
10
11
Same
47
44
50
42
41
43
Other
2
2
2
-
-
-
Don't know
*
*
1
*
*
*
No answer
*
*
1
*
*
*


Table 1.2 And what about relations in 5 years time? Do you think relations between
Protestants and Catholics will be better than now, worse than now, or about the same as now?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Better
25
30
22
43
48
39
Worse
16
16
16
8
4
10
Same
54
51
56
42
43
41
Other
*
*
1
2
1
3
Don't know
5
4
5
6
4
7
No answer
1
*
1
-
-
-


The spirit of optimism was echoed in the follow up question on how relations would fare over the next five years (Table 1.2). In 1989, over half (54 per cent) of respondents indicated that they saw matters remaining about the same. A quarter (25 per cent) saw them improving whilst 16 per cent expected a deterioration. By 1996, those expecting relations to be better had moved into a slight majority (43 per cent) over those expecting things to remain about the same. Those expecting relations to deteriorate fell to just 8 per cent. In all cases, Catholics tended to be marginally more optimistic than Protestants although both groups shared a strong tendency for optimism. Indeed, if nothing else, the surveys confirm an optimism amongst people in Northern Ireland who are otherwise accustomed to recurrent disappointment.

Prejudice Towards Religious Denominations in Northern Ireland

Respondents were asked about prejudice towards religious denominations within Northern Ireland. Specifically, they were asked to indicate the perceptions of levels of prejudice towards Catholics. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a marked divergence between Catholic and Protestant respondents on this issue. Generally, Catholics perceived higher levels of prejudice than Protestants.


Table 1.3 ... thinking of Catholics - do you think there is a lot of prejudice
against them in Northern Ireland nowadays, a little, or hardly any?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
A lot
31
38
27
25
29
21
A little
41
46
37
49
54
45
Hardly any
22
11
31
23
13
31
Don't know
6
6
6
3
4
2
No answer
1
-
1
*
-
1


For instance, in 1989, whilst 38 per cent of Catholics perceived a lot of prejudice against Catholics, only 27 per cent of Protestants expressed a similar view. Conversely, whilst 31 per cent of Protestants suggested that there was hardly any prejudice, only 11 per cent of Catholics agreed. Similar differentials applied in 1996 although significantly, the proportions of both groups believing there to be a lot of prejudice fell appreciably to 29 per cent for Catholics and 21 per cent for Protestants. Clearly, over the period, whilst the discrepancies in perceptions over prejudice were maintained, both were on a declining trajectory.

The Proximity of Religious Denominations - Neighbourhoods, Workplaces, and Schools

The survey probed sentiments concerning attitudes of respondents to the proximity of other religious groups in a variety of social contexts, namely, neighbourhoods, workplace, and schools. In all three areas, a preference for mixed religious arrangements held sway. Moreover, over the intervening period, these sentiments have become more pronounced.


Table 1.4 If you had a choice, would you prefer to live in a neighbourhood
with people of only your own religion, or in a mixed-religion neighbourhood?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Only own
23
18
27
14
11
17
Mixed
70
75
67
82
85
80
Don't know
5
6
5
4
5
3
No answer
1
1
2
-
-
-


Respondents were asked to say whether they would prefer to live in a neighbourhood which was exclusively populated with people of their own religious persuasion or in an area with residents of mixed religions. In 1989, fully 70 per cent of respondents indicated a preference for mixed religious neighbourhoods although almost a quarter (23 per cent) preferred neighbours of their own faith only. By 1996, however, this had fallen to just one in seven (14 per cent) of all respondents (but 17 per cent of Protestants). On the other hand 82 per cent now expressed a preference for mixed neighbourhoods.

A note of caution might be injected here when interpreting these figures. For example, consider the relative proportions of each religious group in the overall composition of an area - the survey does not indicate respondents' thoughts with this degree of detail even though it is probably crucial. For instance, a ratio of 20:80 in the religious composition of a defined area is mixed but so preponderant is the majority group that the continued willingness of members of the minority group to remain in situ is heavily compromised. This is reflected in the increasingly spatial polarisation of the population of Northern Ireland since the resumption of the troubles as, for example, in the 'retreat' of Protestants from many border areas, and to the eastern parts of Northern Ireland generally. In a very real sense, therefore, the professed willingness (even alacrity) of respondents for mixed living contrast vividly with the reality of trends on the ground.


Table 1.5 And if you were working and had to change your job, would you prefer a
workplace with people of only your own religion, or a mixed-religion workplace?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Only own
11
7
14
3
2
4
Mixed
83
86
81
96
97
95
Don't know
5
6
3
2
2
1
No answer
1
1
2
-
-
-


Respondents were asked to indicate their views on a mixed or exclusive religious composition in their workplace (Table 1.5). The pattern was ostensibly one of an increasing desire for religious mix. Indeed, the pattern was even more pronounced than with neighbourhoods. Both groups shared a strong preference for workplaces with a mixed religious composition. Again, we might speculate about what is implied here. Essentially, most people at work find themselves in environments in which they will, almost unavoidably, be in invariably regular and often close contact with people from various religious backgrounds. Indeed, the crucial role of work in the diurnal pattern of most of the adult population makes contact inevitable. Moreover, the impact of the legislation on the display of flags and emblems (the Public Order ((Northern Ireland)) Order 1987) makes workplaces less intimidating for religious minorities.

Of course, whilst contact in the working environment can help to demolish barriers and hostility between the two communities, it is, perhaps, in the early years, that these obstacles to social stability and inter-group harmony are inculcated. To that extent, the existence of an education system overwhelmingly characterised by its fundamental bifurcation based on religion has long been held to help perpetuate division (Whyte, 1990).

Table 1.6 shows significantly that just over half of respondents (53 per cent) in 1989 supported co-religious schooling, whilst two fifths (39 per cent) preferred to send their children to schools with children of only their own religion.

Table 1.6 And if you were deciding where to send your children to school, would you prefer
a school with children of oniy your own religion, or a mixed-religion school?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
Cath.
Prot.
Total
Cath.
Prot.
Only own
39
37
41
34
38
31
Mixed
53
54
52
62
57
65
Don't know
8
9
6
5
6
4
No answer
1
-
1
-
-
-


Indeed, more Protestants (41 per cent) than Catholics (37 per cent) were in favour of segregated schooling. While the Catholic Church has a long-established school sector (the 'Maintained' sector where almost all pupils are Catholic), there are very few/no equivalent Protestant schools with, instead, a 'Controlled' sector of schools with an overwhelming preponderance of Protestant pupils. This is not a matter of semantics. Indeed, it is ironic considering that the debate over segregated schooling was, for a long time, conducted around the assertion that such segregation existed and persisted at the sole behest of the Catholic Church. By 1996, the preference of Catholics for segregated education had remained almost static (38 per cent), whilst that of Protestants had fallen to 31 per cent. Mixed schooling was the preferred choice of 62 per cent of the overall population. Hence, whilst the integrated school sector in Northern Ireland is very small, the sector has seen considerable growth, now accounting for some 2 per cent of pupils. An important development in this regard has been the improved financial arrangements for integrated schools following the government's decision to allow 100 per cent funding after twelve months if the school seeking funding can demonstrate its viability (Donnelly, 1997).

Employment Chances

On the subject of employment, respondents were asked to indicate whether they thought that the chances of either a Protestant or a Catholic getting a job were the same or different. Significantly, in 1989, in the most polarised set of responses, a large majority of Catholics believed that the chances were different (that is, Catholics were less likely to get a job) whilst an identical proportion of Protestants felt that the chances were the same.

Table 1.7 Thinking now about employment. On the whole, do you think the Protestants and
Catholics in Northern Ireland who apply for the same jobs have the same chance of
getting a job or are their chances of getting a job different?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Total
%
Cath.
%
Prot.
%
Same
47
30
60
50
38
59
Different
43
60
30
43
57
33
Don't know
10
11
10
7
5
8
No answer
1
-
I
*
-
*


Of all the areas canvassed, it is well known that attitudes about discrimination in employment whether based on truth or perception are particularly emotive. By 1996, the picture remained sharply polarised albeit with a decline in the proportion of Catholics perceiving different chances along with a considerable rise (to 38 per cent) in the proportions thinking that the chances were the same. Of interest, however, was the changing reaction of Protestants over the period, with a slight but perceptible rise in the numbers believing chances to be different (up to 33 per cent).

Speculation as to why this is so is just that - speculation. However, it could be connected with the growing evidence of Protestant alienation. Inter alia, this is a belief amongst Protestants that it is they who are now the disadvantaged community in the labour market thanks to fair employment legislation and the general perception of a Catholic population in its stride which, in the zero-sum game of Northern Ireland politics, translates directly into an 'obvious' retreat for Protestants. Evidence for such conjecture may be gleaned from considering the evidence of a further survey question which asked respondents to indicate which group is more likely to get a job (Table 1.8). Again, the results are revealing. Whilst they indicate that half (50 per cent) of the respondents think the chances are the same for both communities, the proportion thinking that it is Protestants who are advantaged fell from 32 per cent in 1989 to 26 per cent in 1996. Moreover, the decline in such sentiments was more pronounced amongst Catholics, suggesting a growing faith in the ability of the legislation and changed attitudes to deliver greater equality of treatment. In much the same way, the proportion believing it to be Catholics who are the advantaged group rose (from 9 per cent to 12 per cent), a belief shared by a sharply higher number of Catholics in 1996 compared with 1989 (6 per cent, up from less than 1 per cent).

Table 1.8 Which group is more likely to get a job - Protestants or Catholics?

.
1989
1996
.
Total
Cath.
Prot.
Total
Cath.
Prot.
Same chance
47
30
60
50
38
59
Protestants
32
59
12
26
46
10
Catholics
9
*
16
12
6
17
Depends
4
3
5
-
-
-
Don't know
4
4
4
12
11
13
No answer
4
4
4
*
-
*


Conclusion

When asked the question 'Have community relations improved?', it is difficult to provide a definitive 'yes' or 'no'. Whilst Fitzduff (1993) offered a synopsis of measures taken to improve community relations, Bloomfield concludes that Fitzduffs synopsis is indicative of 'trends rather than irrevocable shifts' which are 'difficult to prove or disprove'. Bloomfield added that, whilst 'most people in Northern Ireland would probably endorse the general trend of Fitzduffs comments', it is 'more difficult to assess the question of any causal link between the CRC's establishment and the noted improvements' (Bloomfield, 1997, pp.144-45). Nonetheless, ostensibly, evidence from comparative analysis of two surveys in Northern Ireland on attitudes to contact and integration offers cautious grounds for optimism. Some initiatives have had a direct impact on attitudes, for example, legislation of fair employment and flags and emblems. Equally, albeit slowly, there is now a momentum behind the concept of integrated education. With the erosion of the power and influence of the churches, coupled with the growing reputation for standards of the integrated schools, not least as serious alternatives for children failing to enter grammar schools, integrated schooling is now an established feature in Northern Ireland. All of these developments have been underpinned by extending responsibility sharing in government, the support forthcoming from various European Union sponsored initiatives, as well as progress towards securing a wider constitutional settlement for Northern Ireland.

Survey evidence illustrates that public attitudes on a range of issues associated with improving community relations, moved decisively towards closer inter-communal association and integration. Paradoxically, however, what this evidence does not reveal is the discernible shift in the electoral behaviour of people in Northern Ireland, with increasing polarisation becoming apparent (Knox and Carmichael, forthcoming). Arguably, Northern Ireland is becoming more, rather than less, polarised. As the summers of 1995, 1996 and 1997 attest, beneath the veneer of improving relations and emerging harmony, many of the old prejudices, suspicions and hatreds remain. Atavistic tendencies within both traditions resurfaced with alarming speed in the most graphic form, with one of the worst bouts of civil unrest in the troubled history of the Province - Drumcree. Harangued from all sides for having failed, the whole episode left in turmoil those engaged in community relations, forcing many to go back and re-examine first principles. Hence, whether the improvement in attitudes and some of the behaviourial patterns discerned in our survey analysis above will be replicated on a long term sustainable basis throughout Northern Ireland society remains to be seen.


Notes
1.Prior to 1969, a convention had been established in Westminster such that all Northern Ireland business, except for a few limited areas of policy, was within the remit of the region's parliament in Stormont (Belfast). By 1972, it was clear that the devolved Northern Ireland Government was unable to control the civil unrest. Invoking its powers under the Government of Ireland Act, the Westminster parliament suspended the Northern Ireland Government and replaced it with direct rule from Westminster.
2.The power-sharing executive lasted three months and remains Northern Ireland's only experience of internal government based on a sharing of power between the two communities. Its supporters aimed to construct a devolved system based on power-sharing and a joint body, the Council of Ireland, to regulate a small number of largely minor affairs of common concern to the north and south of Ireland. It was opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party and most of the Ulster Unionist Party. Eventually it was brought down by the Protestant workers' strike of 1974.
3.The McBride campaign, initiated by Irish Americans, sought to prevent US owned companies from investing in Northern Ireland on the grounds that the British Government was not doing enough to eliminate discrimination against the Catholic population.



References

Bloomfield, D. (1997), Peacemaking Strategies in Northern Ireland, Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Central Community Relations Unit. (1991), Community Relations in Northern Ireland, CCRU, Belfast.

Department of Finance and Personnel and H.M Treasury. (1992), Northern Ireland Expenditure Plans and Priorities 1992-93 to 1994-95, DFP, Belfast.

Donnelly, C. (1997), Ethos and Governance: Case Studies from the Primary School Sector in Northern Ireland, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

Fitzduff, M. (1993), Uneasy Partners? Government, Community Relations, and the Voluntary Sector, Community Relations Council, Belfast.

Gallagher, A.M. (1995), The Approach of Government: Community Relations and Equity', in S. Dunn, (ed), Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland, St Martins Press, New York.

Hayes, M. (1972), The Role of the Community Relations Commission in Northern Ireland, Runnymede Trust, London.

Knox, C. (1996), 'The Emergence of Power Sharing in Northern Ireland : Lessons from Local Government', Journal of Conflict Studies, vol.16, no.1, pp.7-29.

Knox, C. and Carmichael, P. (forthcoming), 'The Northern Ireland Local Government Elections 1997', Government and Opposition.

Knox, C., Hughes J., Birrell, D. and McCready, 5. (1994), Community Relations and Local Government, Centre for the Study of Conflict, University of Ulster, Coleraine.

Knox, C. and Hughes, J. (1996), Community Relations: A Research Review, Centre for Research in Public Policy and Management, University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

Northern Ireland Curriculum Council. (1990), Cross-curricular Themes - Guidance Materials, NICC, Belfast.

Northern Ireland Information Service. (1987), 'Community Relations', Minister's Press Statement, 14 September.

Northern Ireland Office. (1994), Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment Guidelines, Mimeo.

Social Information Systems. (1994), A Review of Community Relations Research in Northern Ireland, SIS Ltd, Cheshire.

Whyte, J. (1990), Interpreting Northern Ireland, Clarendon Press, Oxford.


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