Belfast Telegraph

One in five has never spoken to neighbours, new study reveals

Patricia Fleming says that she is taking part in the Big Lunch walk so that she can be a good example to her teenage children
Patricia Fleming says that she is taking part in the Big Lunch walk so that she can be a good example to her teenage children
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A fifth of people in Northern Ireland have never spoken to their neighbours.

The finding comes as two locals set off on a two-week walk across the province aiming to bring people closer together.

While Northern Ireland prides itself on strong communities, research shows neighbourhoods are in fact drifting apart.

Almost 70% of us do not really know the people next door - and 46% don't even know their names.

Nearly three-quarters of people here would not introduce themselves to a new neighbour.

The research was commissioned by The Big Lunch, a UK-wide initiative funded by the National Lottery aiming to bring communities closer.

But to show that things don't have to be that way, Rory Mullan from Limavady and Patricia Fleming from Belfast will spend the next fortnight walking around towns and villages and meeting inspirational local people ahead of this year's Big Lunch weekend.

A Big Lunch can be anything from a cuppa to a huge spread for the whole neighbourhood and encourages people to spend some time with others in their local community by sharing food, fun and conversation.

Rory (38) and Patricia (53) set off from Belfast yesterday and will finish in Derry on May 31.

In between they will meet individuals and organisations committed to making their local community a better place and encourage more people to sign up for The Big Lunch on June 1 and 2.

Originally from Portaferry, Patricia, who is married to Matthew (50), is taking part in the walk to be a role model for their 14-year-old twins Lily and Eva by emphasising the importance of community.

She said: "It's staggering to think that so few people in Northern Ireland actually know their neighbours.

"I am the type of person who would always make a point of getting to know people who live on our street.

"Growing up in a rural farming community, everybody knew everyone and when I moved to Belfast it was the opposite, but I made the effort to get to know people as that's what I have always known.

"These days people are rushing about more due to work and family commitments or activities while social media may also be a factor."

Rory, who now lives in Derry City, says he looks forward to increasing community activism in the places he visits.

Anyone who would like to host A Big Lunch and get to know their neighbours better can register for a free pack at thebiglunch.com

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