“closer to each other”

More in the Irish Times from the ESRI study (still waiting for the publication.. *tap tap*). Despite the heading on this article (on attitudes to the Agreement) there is more detail given on social attitudes –

The study concludes that “on all the major issues, the Republic and Northern Ireland, and Protestants and Catholics within both parts of Ireland, are closer to each other than to most other national populations in Europe”.

The general point the article makes on the Agreement, without much detail of figures, is that –

While there is growing disillusionment among northern Protestants with the agreement and a dominant view that it has benefited nationalists more, there is a growing perception among Catholics that nationalists have benefited better from the agreement.

The remaining paragraphs deal with, in the words of Patsy McGarry, Irish Times Religious Affairs correspondent, “family and sexual morality” – the findings seem to be an indicator of at least one form of unity on this island.

It is on issues of family and sexual morality that Catholics and Protestants on the island find most common ground. Both have deeply held views against abortion, with opposition highest among regular Church attenders.

Of the European countries surveyed, only Malta opposes abortion more strongly.

Where homosexuality is concerned, both communities hold increasingly tolerant views and are at the mid-range among European countries.

Where most family/sexual morality related issues are concerned, Catholics and Protestants on the island have “experienced a substantial shift towards the liberal positions common in most European countries”.[emphasis added]

But “the family is still as highly valued as in the past, and marital infidelity is still widely disapproved of”.

Yet “unmarried parenthood has become more widely accepted, though majorities still regard joint parenthood as better for children’s welfare. Opposition to abortion and homosexuality has declined, but is still high, especially among Catholics in the case of abortion, and among Protestants in the case of homosexuality”.

The study concludes that “on all the major issues, the Republic and Northern Ireland, and Protestants and Catholics within both parts of Ireland, are closer to each other than to most other national populations in Europe”.

It was “particularly notable that Northern Ireland as a whole, and Protestants within Northern Ireland, are quite at a remove from Britain on these issues”.[emphasis added]