37. According to the Government, religious sectarianism means a narrow-minded following of a particular belief by members of a denomination that leads to prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, malice and ill-will towards members, or presumed members, of another denomination. In the United Kingdom the term “sectarianism” is usually coined to refer to the struggle between Catholics and Protestants. While the conflict in Northern Ireland has often been portrayed as intra-faith intolerance, many interlocutors of the Special Rapporteur emphasized that this conflict was not really about religion but rather about politics, territory and equality issues. At the same time, attacks on Catholic churches and Protestant halls show that some forms of sectarian violence have a clear religious connotation. The latest official statistics indicate that a total number of 1,217 sectarian crimes were recorded in Northern Ireland for 2006-2007.
38. Concerning the labour market, the Special Rapporteur was informed by civil society organizations about the serious level of underrepresentation of Catholics in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in the prison service, in other criminal justice agencies and at the senior level of the civil service. However, Protestants are underrepresented in sectors such as education and health. In general, inequalities and religious differentials seem to persist in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants in relation to housing and employment.
39. Sectarian violence or religiously aggravated offences do not only occur in Northern Ireland. Throughout Scotland, 699 charges of an offence aggravated by religious prejudice were included in reports to Procurators Fiscal in the year 2006-2007. The Special Rapporteur was also informed about the sectarian divide and related violence with regard to Scottish football. Throughout their respective histories, some football clubs have come to represent either the Irish Catholic group or the British Protestant group. The sectarian divide is so polarized that violence erupts between supporters and people even got killed after matches of teams deemed to represent the two sides. In this regard it is noteworthy that article 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 on offences aggravated by religious prejudice also takes into account the victim’s membership or presumed membership of a religious group, or of a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation.