Young among the most prejudiced, expert finds


TRAVELLERS, DRUG addicts and alcoholics remain the most unaccepted people in Irish society, and young people are the most prejudiced against them, according to a a new book from one of the foremost Irish experts.

However, there was less prejudice than in previous decades against gay people and unmarried mothers.

Based on attitude surveys carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute between November 2007 and March 2008, the book is the third in a trilogy by sociologist Fr Micheál Mac Gréil charting changes in Irish prejudice between 1972 and 2008.

The category to improve the most since 1988 is that of gay people. Twenty-three years ago, just 12.5 per cent of the population said they would welcome a gay person in their family. This survey found 62.8 per cent would.

“The standing of unmarried mothers also improved from 61.1 per cent in 1988-89 to 82.4 per cent in 2007-08.”

On Travellers, the author found there was “a mountain to climb” in terms of being accepted by Irish people in general. Though there has been a “very slight”improvement in the past 30 years, “there is evidence of a level of desired avoidance which perpetuated ostracisation of Travellers in Irish society”.

The author says the Travellers “need the intercultural solidarity of their neighbours in the settled community . . . They are too small a minority, ie 0.5 per cent, to survive in a meaningful manner without ongoing and supportive personal contact with their fellow citizens in the settled community.”

He noted “the position of drug addicts is still very negative and totally counterproductive”. He said they were not drug pushers, and for the most part were victims of exploitation by pushers.

Though the “admission to kinship” measurement, regarding persons who would accept an addict in the family, rose from 5 per cent in 1988 to 20 per cent in 2008, “it is still dangerously low for the successful rehabilitation of the drug addict”. The level willing to deny citizenship to drug addicts was “very high at 34 per cent”, he says.

Fr Mac Gréil found people from the Middle East “are likely to elicit a very complex set of attitudes”, primarily ethnic and religious, but also racial and political.

Most surprising was the finding that “a substantial minority” of 18-25 year olds expressed a serious level of ethnic and racial intolerance. Fr Mac Gréil questioned whether levels of tension among this age group led to “expression in prejudice which is a form of psychological aggression”.

The issue of prejudice among the young “raises serious questions about the socialisation and education experienced by this cohort”.

Pluralism and Diversity in Ireland: Prejudice and Related Issues in early 21st Century Irelandis published today