Survey finds sectarianism ingrained in NI children


Catholic children aged just three are twice as likely to express dislike for police in Northern Ireland compared to Protestant infants, according to a new report out today.

The University of Ulster study into community divisions also found 15 per cent of six-year-olds were making sectarian comments.

They're Protestants and they're bad because they want to kill Catholics
A six-year-old Catholic girl quoted in the University of Ulster survey

"It certainly raises important questions about the indirect effects that our segregated school system is having on the development of young children's attitudes," he said.

For the survey, 352 children across Northern Ireland were quizzed.

Other key findings among three-year-olds included Protestant children being twice as likely as their Catholic peers to prefer the Union flag to the Irish tricolour.

By the age of six, a third of children questioned had identified with one of the two main communities.

Among the comments made to the study team, one six-year-old Catholic girl said: "They're Protestants and they're bad because they want to kill Catholics."

A Protestant girl aged four was quoted as saying: "Catholics are the same as masked men, they smash windows."

Along with the influence of school, the report's authors traced the growth of these attitudes to family and community factors.

Three education policy initiatives have been recommended to tackle the early negative influences.

From the age of three, children should be encouraged to explore and experience different cultural practices, events and symbols, the study suggested.

It also urged that by the time they are five-years-old, youngsters should be helped to understand the negative effects of sectarian stereotypes and prejudices.

Nurseries and schools should also work closely with parents and the local community in a bid to build relationships.