Belfast Telegraph

Decline in prejudice in Northern Ireland a welcome trend

Editor's Viewpoint

It seems that we, as a society, are slowly learning to change our attitudes towards minority groups and bury old prejudices.

But even the Equality Commission, which carried out the latest survey, warns that the more positive feelings revealed do not totally mirror the real life experiences of some in our communities.

What perhaps is most surprising in the statistics is the finding that attitudes towards lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals have improved most in the eight years to 2016, the last year for which information is available.

Northern Ireland is normally portrayed as a very conservative place, especially when it comes to gender issues, as is evidenced by the continuing controversy over matters such as same-sex marriages.

But if this survey is borne out across society - and it is sometimes the case that respondents are economical with their true feelings, especially when they could be construed as prejudiced - it would seem that the gay community's demands for equality and recognition of their sexual orientation are making headway.

Another group that can feel greater acceptance is Travellers, as positive attitudes towards them have improved. But they, along with migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, Roma and minority ethnic groups are still subjected to prejudice.

And as we know, that prejudice can manifest itself on attacks on people's property or belongings, forcing them to move home or even consider leaving the province.

Like all prejudice, it defies logic. Migrant workers play an important part in the local economy. Where would the National Health Service be without staff from overseas? Just recently it was announced that more nurses are being recruited from the Phillipines to fill staff shortages. The important agri-food industry also depends heavily on overseas workers.

And we all know people from overseas who have come here to earn a better living and who work very hard to achieve that aim, a lesson that some of their critics could well take on board.

Why should anyone be prejudiced against asylum seekers or refugees, who have been forced out of their homelands in fear of their lives and for reasons beyond their control?

Thankfully, prejudice is the preserve of a minority within our society and, it seems, a declining minority. That is an encouraging trend, even is progress is still too slow.

Belfast Telegraph

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