Fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, there has been no sign of a decrease in the level of poverty among the Catholic population in the North. A new study has shown that those schools with the largest number of children from deprived backgrounds are almost entirely Catholic.
The analysis of school affluence based on the number of students receiving free school meals found that nine one of the ten poorest post-primary schools is from the Catholic sector.
The report has discredited claims by unionists and loyalists that discrimination against the Catholic community has ended and that the Protestant community has ‘lost out’. One reason given in the media for the flags protests and related violence was a sense of deprivation in the Protestant community.
The only non-Catholic school in the bottom ten poorest schools was in east Belfast. The most affluent schools were in Belfast, Lisburn, north Down and County Antrim. The only Catholic school among them was Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s.
Three of the 10 top ‘poorest’ schools have since been shut down - St Eugene’s in Castlederg, St Peter’s in the Creggan area of Derry and St Gemma’s in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.
The figures mirror other deprivation statistics which show that just one Protestant area is among the 10 most deprived wards. Of the 20 most deprived wards in the north, 80 per cent of these are in Catholic areas.
The new figures have fuelled concern over the Stormont administration’s approach to the inequality and discrimination still being directed against the nationalist community.
A spokesperson for eirigi, Shane Jones, said that the strongly nationalist and Catholic Newry and Mourne council area now has the third highest level of children living in poverty within the Six Counties, behind only Derry and Belfast.
“That is shocking figure and one that is directly related to Stormont’s inability to deliver real change to the lives of ordinary families,” he said.