Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland still deeply polarised 20 years after Good Friday Agreement peace: poll


By Allan Preston

Over half of people in Northern Ireland are still more likely to make close friends with people of the same religion, a survey reveals today.

Some 51% said most or all of their close friends are from the same community as them. That figure rises to 62% for DUP voters and 65% for Sinn Fein voters. And 30% say that half of their close friends are of the same religion as them.

The findings, obtained by Sky News, show how Northern Ireland is still deeply polarised 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement.

The broadcaster polled 1,140 local customers for their views 20 years after the peace deal. It found:

  • Nearly a quarter (24%) think divisions between Catholics and Protestants are deeper now than they were at the time of the 1998 deal.
  • A further 23% think cross-community divisions are the same, with 50% saying they are less deep.
  • People are worried about the future of the system of government set up by the Good Friday Agreement, with 47% saying it will work badly in the future, against 28% who expect it to work well.
  • More than a year after Stormont’s collapse, only 17% expect a deal to restore power-sharing to be struck within the next 12 months.

Sky’s head of data Harry Carr said it was “remarkable” the public here could not agree if relations between Protestants and Catholics had improved.

“The divisive nature of Brexit has not helped matters, and, if a post-Brexit deal that avoids border controls either on the island of Ireland or in the Irish Sea cannot be found, Theresa May will clearly have a problem on her hands,” he said.

The biggest changes have emerged on social issues like legalising abortion and same-sex marriage, with most of those surveyed supporting both.

Three in four (76%) now want same-sex marriage to be made legal, with 18% against and 6% unsure. Over half (54%) think women up to 12 weeks’ pregnant in Northern Ireland should have unrestricted access to abortion - 30% are against and 15% unsure.

Nine in 10 Catholics said they would be upset by border controls, and over half (56%) of Protestants said they would not be upset.

Some 28% preferred border controls in Ireland, while just 7% backed border checks between Northern Ireland and Britain.

The perception of security has improved for most, with 61% saying they feel safer since the Good Friday Agreement, a quarter (26%) seeing no change and 9% feeling less safe.

Belfast Telegraph

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