Only those who benefit from segregation oppose anti sectarianism – Kearney
Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney MLA, has said only those who politically and electorally benefit from a segregated society oppose anti sectarianism.
The South Antrim MLA was speaking at a discussion event between republicans and loyalists on the issue of sectarianism in South Belfast organised by the Queen's University Mitchell Institute.
The "Whats wrong with anti sectarianism?" seminar was chaired by Professor John Brewer, and also addressed by PUP Cllr John Kyle.
Speaking after the event at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Declan Kearney said:
"Sectarianism is endemic in this society. It is at the crux of all our political, social and communal divisions in the north.
"If we are to make progress towards a shared society sectarianism must be successfully challenged.
"It is the greatest and most enduring impediment to ending segregation, dealing with the past and achieving a shared and reconciled society.
"Sectarianism is the antithesis of Irish republicanism.
"Sinn Féin has consistently tabled anti-sectarianism proposals in every political forum.
"During the last five phases of Stormont negotiations from last year until the DUP reneged on the draft agreement with Sinn Féin in February, we had proposed that anti sectarianism should be ingrained within the fabric of all political and civic institutions.
"We set out comprehensive proposals for how that could be achieved, including a clear definition of sectarianism as hate crime in legislation with legal enforcement, and a popular anti-sectarianism charter which would be incorporated into the pledge of office for all elected political representatives.
"The DUP rejected this approach. It is for that party to explain its reasons why that is so: But anti sectarianism must not be reduced to a zero sum, win or lose negotiation.
"The Good Friday Agreement held out the vision of an integrated, anti-sectarian society.
"That must remain our collective ambition.
"Sinn Féin is committed to a rights-based inclusive society which is avowedly anti sectarian. However, we can not achieve that on our own.
"United civic and political leadership is now needed. Anti sectarianism should be common ground regardless of our constitutional differences.
"Only those who benefit and profit, politically, electorally or otherwise, from sectarian division and segregation oppose this vision.
"Notwithstanding our deep political crisis I urge all progressive political parties and citizens to work together towards mainstreaming anti sectarianism as a central element of a rights-based agenda which benefits our entire community.”