Northern Ireland

Rise in prejudice - NI Equality Commission survey

Prejudice against people from different backgrounds has increased over the past six years, according to an Equality Commission for Northern Ireland survey.

The most negative attitudes were towards members of the Traveller community, but prejudice against gay and disabled people has also risen.

The survey also found that 30% of respondents felt some forms of prejudice were acceptable.

The commission said it was a "worrying insight into the population's psyche".

The survey was conducted last September and recorded the views of more than 1,000 members of the public in face-to-face interviews across Northern Ireland.

'Startling'

More than half of respondents (54%) said they would mind having a Traveller as an in-law, an increase of 17 percentage points from 2005, and there were similar responses to Travellers as neighbours.

Negative attitudes towards people gay people have also increased - more than a quarter of people (27%) said they would mind a gay, lesbian or bisexual person living next door, compared to 14% in 2005.

Forty-two per cent of respondents said they would be unhappy about a gay person becoming an in-law, a rise of 13 percentage points over the last six years.

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project which lobbies for gay rights, said the information revealed in the report was "startling" and showed that negative perceptions about lesbian, gay and bisexual people were getting "progressively worse" in Northern Ireland.

Attitudes towards people with a disability have also deteriorated, most notably towards those experiencing mental ill-health.

Harassed

In terms of those affected by prejudice, the survey found that one in three people in Northern Ireland feels unfairly treated or harassed.

Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said: "This is a worrying insight into the population's psyche and proves that much work remains to be done to break down barriers in our mindsets to create a fairer and more equal society for everyone in Northern Ireland."

"This survey will certainly inform and drive our work going forward and part of this will be to continue to work collaboratively with leaders from across business, politics and the community," he added.