David and Rachel highlight attitudes to sectarianism

Gill Hassard, senior participation officer, NCB NI with David Langdon and Rachel Wolff. INNT 11-600CON
Gill Hassard, senior participation officer, NCB NI with David Langdon and Rachel Wolff. INNT 11-600CON

TWO young people from Newtownabbey have helped to compile a major research project into attitudes to sectarianism among the youth of today.

David Langdon (21) from the Doagh Road and 17-year-old Rachel Wolff from Burnside announced the findings of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) research at a special event in the Long Gallery at Stormont recently.

From their research they found that the majority of young people understood what sectarianism was and had different experiences depending on where they lived.

David and Rachel also found that sectarianism affected where young people could spend their leisure time and that parents played a major influence in shaping attitudes towards religion and culture.

They recommended a need for more cross-community activities as well as a greater emphasis on Northern Ireland history in schools and said more should be discussed with adults in order to create a better future.

Commenting on the research and the recommendations, Gill Hassard, senior participation officer for the NCB said: “NCB is all about providing young people with an opportunity to get their voice heard on issues that matter to them.

“In this project, our members decided to explore young people’s attitudes to sectarianism and its impact on children and young people right across Northern Ireland.

“The young researchers opted to use focus groups to find out what other young people thought.

“They created a set of questions and prompts to help the discussion in the focus groups and developed an information sheet to provide informed consent.

“They conducted 11 focus groups in Belfast, Banbridge, Newtownards, Newtownabbey and Armagh from September to November 2012.

“In total, 70 young people aged between 15 and 18 years old took part. The results were then discussed by the group with an adult researcher and common themes were identified.”

She added: “Collectively the young people decided that they should make three key recommendations. If work could be undertaken in these particular areas, then this would provide the necessary opportunities to continue to challenge sectarian attitudes.”

Tony McCusker, chair of the Community Relations Council, said: “It’s important that young people are encouraged to think about the challenging issues that are prevalent in our society.

“Research has shown that there is a need for tolerance in societies coming out of conflict, a need to respect other cultures and identities, if a society wishes to move forward and prosper. Only by acknowledging the benefits of diversity as well as the challenges of change, can we hope to embrace a brighter future, a future which young people aspire to be part of.”