Racism and intolerance towards minority ethnic groups in Northern Ireland

Lucy Michael

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Prior to the 2016 EU referendum, there was an observable increase in racist and anti-immigrant sentiment in many media outlets, and expressed publicly by politicians and community leaders across the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey has asked questions on attitudes to minority ethnic communities since 2005, examining self-reported prejudice, perceptions of prejudice, acceptance of minority ethnic groups in intimate relationships, and levels of interaction. The data therefore provide a valuable indicator of the vulnerability of Northern Ireland to xenophobic discourses which understate the value of diversity andmigration, and emphasise self-segregation and exclusion.Racist incidents in Northern Ireland recorded by the PSNI almost doubled between 2012 and 2014 (PSNI, 2016), with correspondingly high media coverage. Organised racist violence continues to bea focus of interest for both the state and civil society in Northern Ireland, despite a decrease in racist incidents in 2015.Segregation and social distance on ethnic lines are more widespread and damaging to long-term social relations. NILT data on social distance from 2006 to 2014 suggested that ethnic minority groups were increasingly accepted in Northern Ireland, despite pockets of entrenched racism and xenophobia. This Research Update uses data from the 2015 NILT survey to explore current patterns of racism and intolerance in Northern Ireland.Key points• Half of respondents who have contact with someone from a minority ethnic group, shared more than just a greeting with them. 29% described such contact as ‘a close interaction such as a lengthy conversation’, the highest level yet.• The majority of respondents acknowledge the benefits of diversity and inclusion in governance, including a slight increase in acceptance of diversity in public spaces and institutions amongst Protestants.• People aged 18 to 34 years are most likely to admit to racist language and behaviour. Those aged 18 to 24 years are most likely to intervene when they witness racism.• Few respondents (18%) are optimistic that there will be less prejudice against minority ethnic groups in Northern Ireland in 5 years’ time.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAccess Research Knowledge
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - May 2017


  • Brexit
  • racism
  • discrimination
  • equality
  • social attitudes
  • friendship
  • social distance


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