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Pluralism & Diversity in early 21st century Ireland …

19 May, 2011

This book by Mícheál Mac Gréil SJ documents the positive change in attitudes towards Northern Ireland and Britain following the peace process.

pluralismndiversityThis is the third book by Mícheál Mac Gréil SJ dealing with prejudice and tolerance in Ireland. It documents a positive change in attitudes towards Northern Ireland and Britain following the peace process. It shows a reduction of social prejudice following the increase of economic security as a result of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and the favourable contact with immigrant workers of different nationalities. The category to improve most is gay people, but on the less favourable list are travellers, people with compulsive-behaviour problems, such as heavy drinkers, alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as Middle-East categories (Pakistanis, Palestinians Israelis and Arabs), Muslims and communists and there is also negative stereotyping of Romanians and Nigerians, all of which need to be addressed.

Mícheál Mac Gréil SJ was educated at Westport Christian Brothers’ School and served as a cadet and officer in the Irish Defence Forces from 1950 to 1959. He studied philosophy, sociology and theology in Louvain, Kent State University, Milltown Park and UCD. He was awarded a PhD in Sociology in UCD in 1976 and lectured in Sociology in NUI Maynooth from 1971 to 1996.


Foreword by Éamon Ó Cuív, TD

Author’s Preface and Acknowledgements

Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: Minorities in the Republic of Ireland
Part I: Demographic Breakdown of Ethnic Minorities in Ireland
Part II: Experience of Ethnic Minorities in Ireland
Part III: Sequential Cycle of Acting-Out Prejudice (Allport)

Chapter Three: Theory and Methodology
Part I: Conceptual Framework
Part II: Theoretical Framework

Chapter Four: Social Distance in Ireland 
Part I: Introduction
Part II: The Overall Social Distance Findings
Part III: Changes in Social Distance since 1988-89
Part IV: Social Distance by ‘Kinship’ and ‘Denial of Citizenship’
Part V: Diverse Prejudices
Part VI: Conclusion

Chapter Five: Intergroup Definition 
Part I: The Rationalisation Scale
Part II: Special Rationalisations
Part III: Conclusion

Chapter Six: Ethnic, Ethnico-Racial & Racial Prejudices 
Part I: Social Distance Scores of Total Sample
Part II: Inter-Category Correlations
Part III: Conclusion

Chapter Seven: Ethnic, Ethnico-Racial and Racial Social Distance by Personal Variables 
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Ethnic, Ethnico-Racial & Racial Social Distance by Personal Variables
Part III: Anticipated Patterns of Variance by Personal Variables
Part IV: Irish, British and American Stimulus Categories
Part V: Continental European Nationalities
Part VI: African, Asian and Racial Categories
Part VII: Middle-East Categories
Part VIII: Nota Bene – The Age-Factor in Ethnic & Racial Prejudice

Chapter Eight Ethnic Prejudice & Irish Ethnic Self-Identity
Part I: Irish Ethnic Self-Identity
Part II: Primary Ethnic Self-Identity by Personal Variables
Part III: Public Reaction to Immigration
Part IV: Ethnic Social Distance — Kinship & Denial of Citz’ship
Part V: Conclusion

Chapter Nine Racial Prejudice
Part I: Reflection on Recent Commentary
Part II: Racial Prejudice in Ireland
Part III: Racial Prejudice as Measured by Social Distance
Part IV: Conclusion

Chapter Ten Attitudes towards Northern Ireland 
Part 1: Introduction
Part 11: Northern Ireland Stimulus Categories
Part Ill: Special Northern Ireland Scale
Part IV: Conclusion

Chapter Eleven Irish Attitudes towards the British
Part I: Socio-Historical Background
Part II: Social Distance towards ‘Great Britain’ Categories
Part III: The Special Anti-British Scale
Part IV: Anti-British Scale by Personal Variables
Part V: Conclusion

Chapter Twelve Prejudice towards Social Categories
Part I: General Findings
Part II: Personal & Domestic Social Categories by Personal Variables
Part III: Compulsive-Behaviour Categories
Part IV: Socio-Economic Social Categories
Part V: Correlation Matrix of Political, Religious & Social Categories
Part VI: Overall Conclusion

Chapter Thirteen The Travelling People — Ireland’s Apartheid 
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Demographic Profile of the Irish Travelling People
Part III: Social Distance towards Travellers
Part IV: The Special ‘Anti-Traveller Scale’: Attitudes & Opinions
Part V: Anti-Traveller Scale by Personal Variables
Part VI: Concluding Remarks

Chapter Fourteen The Irish Family and Attitudes Towards Women
Part I: Demographic Aspects of the Family
Part II: The Feminist Scale
Part III: The Feminist Scale by Personal Variables
Part IV: Feminist Scale & Sub-Scale Scores by Personal Variables
Part V: Conclusion

Chapter Fifteen: Irish Political Attitudes
Part I: Ideological Context
Part II: Political Social Distance
Part III: Political Social Distance by Personal Variables
Part IV: Political Party Preference
Part V: Conclusion

Chapter Sixteen: The Irish Language
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Aspirations for the Irish Language
Part III: Attitudes towards Irish While in School and Now
Part IV: Declared Competence in the Irish Language
Part V: Frequency and Occasions of Use of Irish
Part VI: Irish as a Basis of Common National Identity
Part VII: Attitudes towards Irish Speakers
Part VIII: Overall Conclusion

Chapter Seventeen: Religious Attitudes and Practices
Part 1: Historical Background of Religious Profile
Part 11: Religious Practice over the Years
Part IV: Practice of Roman Catholics by Personal Variables
Part V: Personal Prayer
Part VI: Perceived Closeness to God
Part VII: Religious Social Distance in Ireland
Part VIII: Attitudes to Christian Church Unity
Part IX: Overall Conclusion

Chapter Eighteen: Authoritarianism and Social Anomie
Part I: Introduction
Part 11: Authoritarianism in Irish Society
Part III: Social Anomie
Part IV: Conclusion

Chapter Nineteen: General Summary of Findings [1]
Part 1: Introduction
Part II: Social Distance in Ireland in 2007-08
Part III: Ethnic & Ethnico-Racial Prejudices
Part IV: Ethnic Prejudice and Irish Ethnic Self-Identity
Part V: Racial Prejudice

Chapter Twenty: General Summary of Findings [2]
Part I: Attitudes towards Northern Ireland and Britain
Part II: Prejudices towards Social Categories
Part III: The Irish Travelling People
Part IV: The Irish Family & Attitudes towards Women
Part V: Political Attitudes
Par VI: The Irish Language
Part VII: Religious Attitudes and Prejudices
Part VIII: Authoritarianism and Social Anomie
Part IX: Conclusion of Summary

Chapter Twenty-One: The Final Analysis
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Path of Causation
Part III: Path Analysis of Different Areas of Prejudice
Part IV: Patterns of Social Distance
Part V: Clustering of Stimulus Categories into Factors
Part VI: Concluding Comments & Suggestions
Part VII: Further Research & Concluding Remarks


Appendix A: Survey Questionnaire 2007-08, (c) Micheal Mac Gréil

Appendix B: Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficients of Bogardus Social Distance Scale (51 Categories)

List of Tables and Figures

Name and Subject Index

658pp. The Columba Press. To purchase this book online, go to www.columba.ie


Social Prejudice is a particular type of negative disposition or attitude towards persons who are perceived to belong to a category or group, and are seen or felt to be less desirable in themselves because of their membership of that category or group. Unlike negative attitudes that are based on personal experience and rational judgement and are open to change, social prejudice tends to be rigid and inflexible and resistant to change. A greater understanding of the social situation, unbiased rearing of the young, strict control of incitement to hatred, and conditions conducive to favourable interpersonal and intergroup contact are among the most effective conditions of greater social tolerance in society.

The main aim of Pluralism and Diversity in Ireland is to contribute to a reduction in social prejudice and to replace it with intergroup tolerance. The current text is based on a national survey of intergroup attitudes carried out in the Republic of Ireland from November 2007 to March 2008. Two previous major surveys were undertaken and reported on by the same author in 1972-73 (Greater Dublin area) and in 1988-89 (Republic of Ireland). More or less the same questions were used in each of the three surveys. This has enabled the researcher to monitor significant changes in Irish social prejudice over thirty-five years, which is very valuable in assessing the impact of sociocultural change on the people’s intergroup attitudes.

One of the positive latent functions or consequences of researching and publishing the state of social prejudice is to weaken its grip in society. A prejudice exposed is a prejudice undermined! It is a universal phenomenon and is present in various guises, i.e. class, ethnic, political, racial, religious, sexist and social. It is basically a hate attitude which has led to incredible atrocities throughout history, not least over the past eighty years in Europe and elsewhere.

In addition to the systematic exposure of social prejudice through the findings of survey research, it is proposed to interpret and discuss the results throughout the text as well as in the final chapter. This is done without compromising the scientific rigour of the findings. The ongoing normative commentary is included in the text to enhance the attainment of the main aim of this research (as outlined above). Obviously, normative commentary can be challenged by readers from different theoretical and ideological points of view. Such challenges are always welcome.

It is the view of the present author that integrated pluralism is the most equitably human solution to a modern society composed of cultural and religious diversity. Such a model of integration respects, protects and even promotes cultural diversity while, at the same time, guaranteeing intergroup equality. It represents diversity without segregation or involuntary assimilation. Chapter Three deals with the conceptual and theoretical frameworks deemed relevant to the diagnosis and explanation of different levels of prejudice and tolerance in society.

A descriptive summary of the main findings is presented in Chapters Nineteen and Twenty. Because of the heavy concentration of statistical data and findings presented through the main body of the text, i.e. Chapters Four to Eighteen, readers are advised to go through the text, concentrating on one chapter at a time. The findings are presented in a fairly clear and, hopefully, non-intimidating manner. The tables represent a considerable range of information and findings, collected from 1,015 respondents over an average interview time of forty minutes (replying to pre-coded questions – see Appendix A, pages 615-632).

It will be clear from the findings that the overall results of this research have been quite positive. The level of intergroup tolerance has increased substantially between 1988-89 and 2007-08. Among the causes which were anticipated or hypothesised for such dramatic improvement in social tolerance were the following, i.e.

(i) the satisfactory outcome of the Northern Ireland Peace Process;
(ii) the increase in social and economic security between 1995 and 2008;
(iii) the positive impact of the in-migration of workers resulting in favourable contact.

Other contributions which were expected to reduce social prejudice were greater participation in education, an increase in foreign travel, and the rise of urbanisation and related changes. The relatively higher social prejudice score of the younger age (18 to 25 years) sub-variable questioned some of the positive influences of greater educational achievement at the complete second-level and with third-level experience. This anomaly requires further research.

The levels of intolerance or prejudice towards a number of categories at the end of the rank-order list, i.e. from 39th to 51st on Table No. 19.1 (page 515) are well above acceptable scores. The position of Travellers, for example, is one of relatively high social prejudice. A special chapter is devoted to the attitudes towards them in Irish society. While there was a substantial increase in the percentages willing “to admit members of the Travelling community into the family” (at 39.6%), there was also a significant proportion of respondents prepared “to deny them citizenship” (at 18.2%). The latter is an intolerable percentage! (See Chapter Thirteen.)

Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen deal with areas integrally related to intergroup attitudes and relations, namely, the Irish Language and Religion. Cultural and religious pluralism are basic to most modern societies with diverse ethnic and religious categories. The experience of modern Ireland bears out the need to respect religious and cultural diversity in a pluralist manner.

In regard to the findings concerning the Irish Language, there is a real basis for optimism. The level of positive aspirations in relation to Irish continues to be overwhelming at 93% in favour of its preservation or revival. Reasonable competence at 47% is the highest since the Great Famine, while the level of regular use is too low at 23%. The growing degree of ambiguity in relation to the people’s ethnic self-identity may, in part, be due to less use of Irish and also to a weaker level of identity with one’s religion and community.

The decline in religious practice has been substantial since 1988-89 in the Republic of Ireland. Attitudes towards religious categories, while improved, were very varied. The position of Muslims was disappointing while the attitudes towards Jews did not improve as much as was anticipated, probably due to their association with the Israeli-Palestinian troubles. The negative correlation between education and religiosity is a matter of concern in that it can result, by default, in a rise of religious fundamentalism (with its possible links with prejudice).

Attitudes towards Northern Ireland and the British have confirmed the progress achieved by the Belfast Agreement (1998) and the Saint Andrew’s Agreement (2006). The findings clearly point to a significant ‘peace dividend’ following years of division and strife. Sexism and anti-feminism are measured in Chapter Fourteen and raise interesting questions about progress towards further gender equality in Ireland. The level of homophobia in Irish society had greatly reduced between 1988-89 and 2007-08.

Authoritarianism and Social Anomie are key phenomena in explaining the level of social prejudice in society. The former represents a personality trait conducive to closed-mindedness. The latter is a social condition discerned by the French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, which results in a sense of normlessness. Both correlate with social prejudice very significantly. The present author recommends that serious research into the causes of these two important measures is required in order to find out how to reduce them and in the interests of greater social tolerance. The levels of ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘social anomie’ in Irish society are still moderately high.

Chapters Six to Nine deal with ethnic, ethnico-racial and racial prejudice in the Republic of Ireland. In all, there are twenty-nine stimulus categories covered under this broad classification. They are subdivided into four specific sets of categories, i.e. (i) Irish, British and American categories (9); (ii) Continental European nationalities (9); (iii) African, Asian and Racial categories (7); and (iv) Middle-East categories (4).

The level of social distance (Bogardus Scale) towards each of the different categories is measured, analysed and discussed. One of the optimistic findings was the overall increase in closeness to which members of the various categories are admitted. An important indirect finding for the Middle-East categories is the urgent need for effective dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The process of secularisation in public affairs in the Middle-East, if not accompanied by such dialogue, is likely to aggravate the situation rather than reconcile it!

It will be clear to the reader that this book contains a considerable amount of tabulated information. Every effort has been made to present as comprehensive a set of findings as possible, publishing individual findings for each stimulus category and scale. The new technique of presenting extracts from the bigger Tables in the body of the text should help the reader in discerning the patterns emerging. Hopefully, this will help to make the reader’s task less intimidating. The overall analysis in Chapter Twenty-One tries to examine correlations between personal variables and different types of social prejudice, and suggest areas for research.

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