The results of the 2001 Life and Times survey in the north of Ireland confirm that sectarian attitudes are spreading and deepening. In 1998 we warned that
"the structures proposed in the [Good Friday] agreement actually institutionalise sectarian divisions. Politicians elected to the proposed Assembly must declare themselves either 'unionist' or 'nationalist' - those who refuse will not have their votes counted in measuring the cross community support necessary for passing legislation. We are supposed to line up behind Catholic/Green or Protestant/Orange banners and seek the best deal for 'our community'. The concept of working class interests is not even considered".
The survey confirms these fears. In 1999 some 12% of Protestants and 6% of Catholics wanted single religion workplaces. In 2001 these figures have doubled to 21% and 14%. In 1999 29% of Protestants and 21% of Catholics wanted their children to go to separate schools. Now this stands at 37% and 29%. Similar figures show an increase in support for segregated housing and a decrease (to 25% and 33%) of people who believe things are now better then they were in 1991!
There are some positive signs, 10% identified themselves as being of no religion and only 47% said they attended a religious service once a week or more. But overall the survey confirms that despite the benefits of the cease fire the 'peace process' itself is structured in a way that is deepening sectarian divisions further as working class communities are encouraged to view each other rather then the bosses as rivals for scarce resources.
See the full survey on the web at http://www.ark.ac.uk/
First published in Workers Solidarity 71, July 2002
WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )