Ulster study reveals a growing spirit of tolerance

November 30, 2001

Marriages between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland are becoming more acceptable and popular, Ulster University researchers have found.

Gillian Robinson of UU's School of Policy Studies carried out the study. She said: "New survey evidence suggests that people in Northern Ireland are much more likely than they were ten years ago to regard mixed marriages as acceptable."

In 1989, more than 33 per cent of those interviewed said most people would "mind a lot" if a close relative married someone of a different religion. But the latest figures show this has fallen to 16 per cent.

The number believing most people "would not mind" had risen from 28 per cent to 44 per cent, Ms Robinson said. "We also found that Catholic respondents are still more optimistic than Protestants about how mixed marriages are generally accepted in society."

Catholics also feel that mixed religion marriages are more accepted than interracial marriages. But Marie Smyth, co-organiser of an international workshop to present the findings, said: "Before we get too complacent, it is important to remember that this new spirit of tolerance towards mixed marriages is not matched by any increase in the desire to live in mixed neighbourhoods or attend mixed workplaces. However, there has been a marked decrease in support for single-religion schooling."

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