Belfast Telegraph

Third of Northern Ireland adults feel cultural identity not respected: report

Almost a third of Northern Ireland adults feel their cultural identity isn't respected (PA)
Almost a third of Northern Ireland adults feel their cultural identity isn't respected (PA)

By Eimear McGovern

A leading sociologist described as “alarming” that almost a third of people in Northern Ireland don’t believe their cultural identity is respected by wider society.

The Northern Ireland Life and Times survey, released by the Executive Office, takes a snapshot of the attitudes and beliefs of the public.

The influential survey asks if people think their ethnicity, nationality, religious or political backgrounds are respected.

The latest publication reveals a third of Catholics and Protestants don’t believe their cultural identity is shown the respect it deserves.

Another 41% of people from a non-Christian background also feel their cultural identity is not respected.

Author and sociologist Dr Gladys Ganiel said the figures gave pause for thought.

“It’s really alarming that a third of respondents feel their cultural identity is not respected given the Belfast Agreement was supposed to ensure that identities were protected and respected and held in equal esteem. That shows there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said.

Young people between the ages of 25 and 34 are one of the groups least likely to believe their cultural identity is respected, with 38% saying they feel disrespected.

The same proportion of those in the 50 to 64 age bracket also feel their cultural identity isn’t respected. However, a majority of those over 65 (71%) believe their cultural identity is respected.

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“I’m surprised young people are less likely to think their identity is being respected because they started from a different place,” said Dr Ganiel.

“The older generation remembers more of the bad old days and recognise that things have got better whereas younger people have an expectation that they should be more respected and are disappointed that they are not.”

The latest report shows 38% of men and 34% of women feel their cultural identity is not given the respect it deserves.

“There are people who would say religion is very important to them and with increased secularisation and reduced influence of the church, people coming from a Christian perspective think their religion isn’t as respected as it used to be,” Dr Ganiel continued.

She said she knew of people from a non-Christian faith background that felt their religion was not respected or acknowledged in the public sphere.

“They have a feeling of being overlooked as well as overt discrimination. Invisibility can be painful and disempowering,” she said.

She said there’s a difference between those who see their religion as cultural and those who see it as a matter of faith.

“I think we need to be cognisant that (church-going) people have a perspective and it’s just as valid for them to participate in the public sphere, with voices of faith and voices of non-faith,” Dr Ganiel said.

As part of the same survey, it was revealed that almost three in 10 adults said they didn’t believe facilities where they live — such as leisure centres, parks, libraries and shopping centres — are “shared and open”.

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