Leading article

Families have key role to play in tackling sectarianism

Despite great strides forward since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, we are still some way from the peaceful, stable and inclusive society the vast majority wish to see.

These sharp divisions are all too evident during the marching season when parades at interface areas are often surrounded by an increase in tensions, disorder and violence while flags are placed in flashpoints in a bid to mark out territory and intimidate residents.

Those who live in places free from such pressures may find it hard to understand what it is like for those living at interfaces or in the shadow of a peaceline.

A new study produced for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister has looked at the issues facing children and young people growing up in segregated districts or interface communities.

The report found that many young people's lives are negatively affected by risks tied to violence within and between communities, exposure to drink and drugs, conflict within the home, behaviour problems and low aspirations.

According to Professor Peter Shirlow, while youngsters generally experienced the same level of sectarian violence against them, their reaction to it was different. Those with good family relationships were less likely to respond to their experiences.

The report's findings are being seen as a departure from current ideas on tackling sectarianism and suggests families should be given help to deal with their child's anger, emotional and mental health issues.

What this study underlines is the key role played by parents in steering their children away from violence and the attitudes that help to maintain division.

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