Draft strategy to tackle alienation of Londonderry Protestants

THE deep insecurity of Londonderry's minority Protestant community is acknowledged in a new draft Good Relations Strategy committed to tackling the problem.

The draft strategy - prepared by Derry City Council - accepts that more than half of respondents to a Citi-Scope survey conducted as part of Londonderry's Regeneration Plan did not find the city a friendly place for Protestants, ethnic communities or gay and lesbian people.

The proposed Good Relations Strategy 2011-14 was considered by a Special meeting of Derry City Council's Development Committee yesterday.

It is based on an external and internal consultation process conducted by Council Community Relations Officers from May - September 2010.

The survey found that Protestant alienation, the city name and parading related strongly to Protestant identity in the city.

It also found that after geography Protestant inclusion was the second most popular reason given by respondents as a barrier to access to council facilities.

The strategy notes: "Concerns were raised around council venues e.g. Strand Road Offices, Templemore Sports Complex not being accessible to Protestants - some citing experience of direct intimidation.

"Some argued Waterside facilities e.g. Lisnagelvin Leisure Centre were inferior facilities. It was felt that council had an overemphasis on using the Cityside for events and service provision.

"The city name issue and Irish language issues arose - council is perceived as using 'Derry' all the time and promoting Irish language too strongly.

"It was also notable that whilst the PUL community were more likely to raise geographical issues approximately half of PUL responses said they experienced no problems and that issues were more related to perceptions than reality in their opinion."

The report also found Protestants were 20 per cent more likely to stress the importance of work in Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist areas; 17 per cent more inclined to favour work on remembrance or memorials; 16 per cent more supportive of bus trips to historical/GR sites; 14 per cent more interested in Faith Based work; and 12 per cent more supportive of 'Hard Hitting CR Training / Awareness'

Protestants were also 25 per cent more likely than Catholics to believe prejudice against Protestants will increase in the next 5 years.

But the draft Good Relations Strategy 2011-14 is committed to tackle community divisions citing as its Vision Statement: "Making a meaningful difference locally to attitudes and actions, policies and places in a society in transition from conflict to lasting peace."

It will be informed by a new piece of research being commissioned by the local Gateways to Protestant Partication and INCORE.

"Ways forward to support Protestant participation in the North West' (GPP/INCORE, 2011) is currently being commissioned and will be carried out over the next 12 months.

It will build on the St Columb's Park House research of 2008. Its aim will be to explore issues impacting PUL participation in the North West and to consider ways to improve participation.

The research is currently out to tender with the closing date for applications next Friday, November 5.