Study finds high levels of ethnic prejudice in Ulster

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One in four white people in Northern Ireland does not like people of a different racial background living in the area, a study showed yesterday. The government-funded survey identified significant levels of racism in the province.

One in four white people in Northern Ireland does not like people of a different racial background living in the area, a study showed yesterday. The government-funded survey identified significant levels of racism in the province.

The findings show that, while most Ulster people have liberal views on equal opportunities for ethnic minorities, they are more racist when they come into contact with people of non-Caucasian backgrounds.

Researchers at the University of Ulster found that:

* More than a quarter of 1,267 people questioned were not happy with the idea of an Afro-Caribbean, Asian or Chinese person living in their district;

* One in three was not comfortable with these groups as colleagues at work;

* Two in five were unlikely to befriend anyone from a different racial background; and

* More than half would not like a Chinese person as a relative by marriage.

The survey showed that members of the travelling community encounter the most hostile racist attitudes, with 57 per cent of people opposed to travellers settling in their area. Two-thirds said they would not like travellers as colleagues.

The findings were described as "frightening" by David Ervine, a Progressive Unionist Party member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The East Belfast member said: "I think these findings illustrate what a shocking society we live in.

"Northern Ireland needs to tackle its attitudes towards its ethnic minorities. It needs to tackle bigotry and ignorance through education."

The chief commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland said the study underlined many of the points it had been making about attitudes to ethnic minorities. Joan Harbison said: "People in Northern Ireland need to recognise that minority ethnic groups have made an enormous contribution to life here."

Anna Watson, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Welfare Association in Northern Ireland, said she the survey "saddened but did not surprise her" and called for more legislation. The Race Relations Order was not implemented in Northern Ireland until 1997 - 21 years after the rest of the UK.

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