Saturday, July 29, 2006

Is Northern Ireland really bigotted?

There's an interesting post on Slugger O'Toole that I felt the need to blog about as it links to a report in the Belfast Telegraph that challenges the myth that people in Northern Ireland are generally homophobic:

Commissioned by the Lesbian Advocacy Services Infinitive, it found 75% of those questioned were very accepting of gay people, dispelling the myth that Northern Irish society was intolerant.

Almost 90% believed lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals should not be discriminated against and supported changes to current legislation.
Of 1,009 people interviewed by Ipsos MORI, 59% shared the perception that Northern Ireland was intolerant but only 21% of those surveyed actually were.
Much of the media reporting of gay issues in the province has been heavily negative. And yet the first gay civil partnership in the UK was enacted at Belfast City Hall. There have been a number of reports about the hypocrisy of some, especially the DUP, in opposing inoffensive gay rights marches when supporting the rights of rather more offensive marches to go where they please, but this is only one very small part of the story. And it seems even the Paisleys & co are not going far enough for some homophobes, who picketed the last DUP conference protesting the party's response to civil partnerships.


Bill said...

I know nothing about NI other than what I read and see in the media, but I have formed the definite impression that there are pockets of homophobia there. One thing I have noticed is that many of the reported incidents seem to have come from (London)Derry which is so I gather a largely Catholic city and therefore presumably more SDLP/Sinn Fein than supportive of the various Unionist Parties, although I've also read pretty negative reports involving DUP people. I'm a little suspicious of the surveys showing a high rate of acceptance of gays - just how honest are people when they respond? An analagous cases is when people are asked if they would be prepared to pay more tax to fund things like the NHS or education, but (funnily enough) they never seem to vote in terribly high numbers for political parties that offer such a programme. There are relatively few bigots who are prepared to come out and say exactly what they think, preferring to give bland or worse completely false responses because they know it will make them seem tolerant even if they are not.

It would be interesting to have comparative statistics bewteen NI and other parts of the UK to establish whether the occurrences of homophobic crimes is significantly different from the median there.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I seriously doubt the survey just asked people "are you homophobic?" and given the high level of perception rate one would if anything expect the "fashionable" answer to be "yes".

With regards the public's unwillingness to pay high taxes, I think this is a misnomer. They are prepared to pay more if it would make a difference, but they're not impressed with parties that just tip money down the drain. And few of the serious parties actually offer such programmes - the Lib Dems may make the odd noise nationally (whilst locally telling voters that it will be someone else who pays the taxes) but it has never really convinced the public or become the dominant issue in an election. Elections are not single issue matters.

Bill said...

You are quite correct - elections, like life generally, are not single-issue. However, for a critical assessment of what to read into the survey in NI one needs to know both the precise questions asked and the methodology used. Otherwise it means, frankly, nothing. And in the light of empirical evidence to the contrary, without solid data to back it up, meaningless. If NI’s possibly poor record in this area is to be classified as down to media bias, then I would be happy to be made aware of proper evidence to back up such an assertion.

As for your comments about tax - well, in a way, I agree with you. However, it is striking that what people mean (in my view) when they express a view that 'they' would be willing to pay more tax for definable purposes is that what is usually meant again in my view) when you examine their responses more closely is that the 'they' they usually refer to is other people, not themselves. You are quite right, I am a cynic. I also, for the record, believe in lower not higher taxation, of course.

Anonymous said...

The answer is yes!
What a cloud-cuckoo world you must live in Tim.


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