Life span of people on Northern Ireland interfaces is 10 years shorter: claim
People living on or near sectarian flashpoints in Northern Ireland are having their life expectancy cut by a decade, it has been claimed.
Joe O'Donnell, of the Belfast Interface Project, said his revelation that life expectancy was 10 years shorter for those living in an interface area will be backed up by new research at the University of Ulster.
"You are more liable to be open to influence by legal and illegal drugs, alcohol dependency, family break-up, difficulties in the family unit, lack of employment, lack of education and lack of opportunity," he told the Stormont committee that monitors the Office of the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
And he warned of clear signs in interface zones - backed up by PSNI reports - that young people in republican areas can be drawn to dissident republican activity, with a similar risk of being attracted to loyalist paramilitaries for those in from the unionist community.
Mr O'Donnell said: "There is currently quite a bit of research going on in the University of Ulster. It is being conducted by Duncan Morrow, Jonny Byrne and some of their colleagues.
"At this stage, I say with some considerable confidence, that life expectancy is 10 years shorter if you live in an interface community.
"All those aspects in those areas are considerably focused by the current economic strife we are feeling and the austerity measures that are kicking in.
"They do not make it a pleasant situation."
An Ulster University spokeswoman confirmed a team at the institution was currently conducting research into aspects of interface policy in Northern Ireland, but that it had not yet commenced analysis of data collected.
"Mr Morrow is unable to comment further at present," she added.
It is just over 18 months since Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness announced a 10-year programme to reduce and eventually remove all interface barriers.
But the First Minister and Deputy First Minister stressed the initiative would be conducted hand in hand with local communities involved. The move formed part of their Together: Building A United Community strategy.