Monday, June 18, 2007


Sectarian divisions amongst NI's youth

I was interested to learn that a survey commissioned for a BBC programme has discovered that Protestant and Catholic schoolchildren are living parallel and separate lives divided along sectarian lines.

The poll of 667 children across NI was carried out by Professor Paul Connolly of Queen's University for the BBC NI programme 'State of Minds' and it found that segregation ran deep in the North.

Here are some of the findings:

- More than four-fifths of Protestant children (84%) believed Belfast was the capital of their country compared to 39% of Catholics. Less than half of Catholic children (47%) said Dublin was their capital compared to just 4% of Protestants.

- Catholic children (51%) were five times more likely to see themselves as Irish compared to Protestant children (10%). Protestant children were nearly four times more likely to see themselves as British (58%) compared to Catholic children (15%).

- However when children were asked if they were "Northern Irish", there were roughly similar results - 53% of Catholics said they were and 49% of Protestants.

- A third of Protestant boys (33%) were likely to choose a photograph of a child wearing a Rangers football shirt first as their friend compared to Catholic boys (11%). Almost two-fifths of Catholic boys (39%) chose a photograph of a child wearing a Celtic shirt as their friend compared to just 9% of Protestant boys.

- Protestant children (39%) were twice as likely to say they played hockey 'a lot' compared to Catholic children (18%) who were much more likely to say they played Gaelic sports 'a lot' than Protestants (35% compared to 6%).

These findings are very revealing and show that children are indeed being brought up to think along sectarian lines. It does not bode well for the future of the North if these trends continue. I feel that integrated schooling is one big step forward in helping to alleviate some of the sectarian attitudes currently being espoused in Ireland's north.

I also strongly disagree with Professor Connolly's analysis of these findings. He said:

"My own view is that we shouldn't be forcing children to be the same. Children should be encouraged to have a strong sense of their own culture and identity.

"The challenge, however, is how this can be done in a positive and inclusive way?

"One way of doing this is to encourage children's sense of being Protestant or Catholic alongside also helping them to recognise that they are all part of a wider and shared identity as Northern Irish.

"Perhaps the most positive finding from our research is that many children are already beginning to think in this way."

I agree that children should be encouraged to have a strong sense of culture and identity but why should this involve a false identity like 'Northern Irishness'?

'Northern Irishness' is a lie and does not offer hope of a "wider and shared identity". The entity known as Northern Ireland was built upon ANTI-IRISHNESS.

Professor Connolly needs to realise that if he wants these children to be part of a wider and shared identity then it will be through Irishness and not 'Northern Irishness' seeing as the former is an inclusive identity whereas the latter is an exclusive identity.

It is a real shame that many elements in the North's society try to prevent children from getting in touch with their Irish roots. I shall try and watch this programme tonight but I hope it doesn't turn into a propaganda tool for those who delight in partition remaining in Ireland.

If we want children to be free of segregationist thinking then we need to get rid of segregation and that means getting rid of the border.

State of Minds - The Children, BBC NI, tonight at 9pm.


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