A multi-million pound scheme was launched in Northern Ireland today aimed at improving the lives of the disadvantaged in the unionist community.

Northern Ireland's Social Development Minister, David Hanson, published the report of a taskforce that looked into problems in Protestant working class areas.

Improving the poor academic achievement of Protestant youngsters will be at the core of the £33 million Renewing Communities action plan.

Unionists have said that the sustained rioting in loyalist areas last September following the Whiterock parade represented community anger at crippling economic and social deprivation.

The British government has argued that, whilst poverty is still greater in Catholic communities, there is a better community structure in nationalist areas to take advantage of government-funded services.

In contrast, of the 15 districts performing worst in terms of educational performance, 13 are Protestant.

On the Shankill Road, just 8% of children achieve Grade A in their transfer test to second level schools, which is one third the rate of nationalist areas in west Belfast and a fifth of the Northern Ireland average.