Protestants 'Increasingly Marginalised by Politics' Research Finds Post-Ceasefire Souring

Article excerpt

THE Protestant community is feeling increasingly marginalised by wider political developments, according to research by Joanne Hughes and Caitlin Donnelly of the University of Ulster.

Protestants feel that the overall political and social context in Northern Ireland is perceived to be much less sen- sitive to their rights and cultural traditions than to those of the Catholic community.

The research, conducted as part of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, found that, although both communities accept that relations are likely to improve in the future, there is disparity between the extent to which Protestants and Catholics express willingness to embrace opportunities for cross-community contact, with evidence of growing insecurity in the Protestant respondents.

Since 1989, surveys have monitored the attitude of the Northern Ireland people towards community relations issues.

The Northern Ireland Social Attitudes Survey and the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey have diligently 'taken the temperature' of public attitudes regularly through the seismic changes in the political landscape over the last decade.

Dr Hughes and Dr Donnelly measured some of the changes over the last decade and their implications for community relations policy and practice.

In the period 1989 to 1996, there was an increase of 24 per cent in the numbers of Catholics and Protestants who believed that relations between the two communities had improved.

This is in contrast with the picture which emerges after 1996 where there was only a slight overall increase (four per cent).

A significant disparity in attitude began to emerge between Protestants and Catholics after 1996.

In the period 1989 to 1996, those who thought that relations had improved increased from 20 per cent to 44 per cent and 22 per cent to 47 per cent for Protestants and Catholics respectively.

From 1996 to 1999, the trend continued for Catholics with a further 13 per cent indicating that relations had improved. …