Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has described Billy Hutchinson’s assertion, at his party’s annual conference last weekend, that republicans are attempting to isolate loyalism as absurd.
Mr Maskey said:
“Sinn Féin have repeatedly called for positive leadership from within the unionist and loyalist community.
“Disharmony among the various shades of unionism has clearly contributed to the on-going political instability. Unionist politicians and paramilitaries are currently competing with each other on a negative and anti-democratic and sectarian agenda. The results of this are there to see for everyone, 18 months of street violence, a difficult marching season and increased polarisation.
“No section of the community should be marginalised and no section of the community benefits from the marginalisation of another. We need imaginative, constructive, and positive partnership and leadership right across the community on an equality and power-sharing agenda in the interests of everyone. Sinn Féin is up for such an approach and indeed have worked with all shades of unionism and loyalism to move the situation forward.
“We welcome the recognition of the PUP of the need for a progressive political agenda including the need to promote equality, tackle disadvantage and address housing inequalities and educational under-achievement in working class communities.
“But fine words are easy. The PUP, like all other parties are judged by their action and sometimes by their inaction. There is widespread acceptance that loyalist paramilitaries have orchestrated and been to the fore in attacks on the community and on the PSNI in recent months. Suspicions about the role of unionist leaders and political parties in this, acquiescent or otherwise, are high.
“We need to hear a clearer message from the PUP about this, what they intend to do to bring it to an end and how they intend to promote equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem for everyone.”