Sectarianism Filters
Down to Next Generation

Protestant school children play under a UFF mural in the loyalist Shankill area of West Belfast.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2002

“Proud to be a Baby Prod” is the slogan on the infant bibs that adorn many small children during the North’s marching season.

But a new survey has confirmed what was obvious to most observers: that children in the six counties are following the same sectarian ways as their parents.

Three-year-old Catholics in the North are twice as likely as Protestant children of the same age to say that they hate the police.

Protestant three-year-olds express a preference for the Union Jack over the Tricolor.

By the time they reach the tender age of six, a third of children in the North identify with one community, while one in six are already making sectarian comments.

Susan McKay author of “Northern Protestants — An Unsettled People,” isn’t shocked by the findings. “Society in the North is riven with hatred and distrust. It is hardly surprising that children grow up poisoned by the sectarian hatred that their parents’ generation have.”

The situation, she says, has not improved since the Good Friday Agreement. Many of the cross-community projects set up after the agreement have been abandoned. “Whatever else the Good Friday Agreement has done, it hasn’t brought about trust. Catholics are still being pipe bombed and having their homes attacked. Kids are spending the weekends throwing bricks at each other, and the UDA is extremely active making it impossible for any improvement in cross-community relations.

“There is huge irresponsibility being shown by the Unionist leadership who keep harping back to the break-in in Castlerea and the IRA caught in Colombia when there is wide-scale violence against vulnerable Catholics taking place.”

But there is one reason for optimism. Education Minister, Martin McGuinness, has increased funding for integrated education. “Until now you have had a situation where primary and secondary school children are separated along religious lines, even teacher training is segregated. But he is trying to bring about wider use of integrated education and putting far more money into it,” she adds. ♦

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