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Survey suggests society here is becoming more sectarian

A JUST published survey claims that fewer people believe relations have improved between the two main traditions here compared to five years ago.
Less than 50 percent of the population in the north believe that relationships between Protestants and Catholics are better – a marked decreased on five years ago. 
This is according to new statistics released in the Government’s Good Relations Indicator Report. The report presents a controversial variation from last year’s figures which painted a much brighter picture. In 2016 59 percent of adults and 52 percent of young people stated that they believed cross community relationships had improved, however now under half of those living here believe that this is the case. 
Veteran politician and retired Irvinestown councillor John O’Kane believes that Brexit may have influenced the responses from both communities, “Five years ago people travelled across the border without really recognising it but with Brexit they are definitely aware of it now as political parties are radicalising views. 
“The future here is very uncertain at the moment and the political situation is affecting relationships whether people like it or not.  If it came to an election in the morning people will still vote green and orange. People are generally good neighbours and look out for each other regardless of their political allegiances. We live separate but equal lives. Even despite all the political troubles over the years, people have never allowed that to interfere with their daily lives.”
While accepting there were major challenges in improving community relations Sinn Fein councillor in Newtownbutler Thomas O’Reilly believed important work was being carried out at grassroots level.
“The relationships have continued to grow cross-community wise in and around this area. The work that has been done over the years has brought opportunities for people to come together and this has then helped sustain those relationships.
“I think that more work needs to be done to give an opportunity for cross community relationships to organically come together, rather than coming together through peace money or Good Relations money.” 
The report also notes that 80 percent of people think that culture and traditions of Catholic communities and Protestant communities add to the richness and diversity of the Northern Ireland society. 
This is finding that Mr O’Reilly agrees with: “The work we do through Newtownbutler Together brings communities together to explore their cultures and identities. There are some things that people perceive as one side or the other, if you never see and never experience something then you believe the myths. It’s about giving young people these experiences.” 
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