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Survey reveals Irish peace process widens religious divide

The gulf between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland has widened since the peace process, new research has revealed.

The Irish Newsreports that Surveys carried out among 4800 households in 12 neighbouring estates separated by peacelines show there is less integration now than there was 10 years ago, particularly among young people.

The polls showed prejudice to be so deep that 68% of 18 to 25-year-olds had never had a meaningful conversation with anyone from the other side of the community.

The research, carried out by University of Ulster lecturer Dr Peter Shirlow, used specially trained members from both sides of the community to conduct the surveys.

Dr Shirlow said the results of the research contradicted what the peace process hoped to achieve.

"Everyone sees themselves as a victim in Northern Ireland," he said. "There is a complete denial of the other side's victimhood. People cannot see themselves as perpetrators of violence and intimidation - only as victims of the opposite camp."

Dr Shirlow's research is supported by as yet unpublished analysis of the 2001 census. This showed that in Belfast in 1991, 63% of the population lived in areas that were either more than 90% Protestant or 90% Catholic. By 2001, however, this had risen to 66% - showing segregation to be on the rise.

Irish News