Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Hardline Unionists living in Fantasy Land

22 June, 2009 - by Pat Sheehan, Westminster

‘The northern Ireland state is a sectarian state. It was established on this basis and it remains sectarian at its core.

When Unionism was in control of the institutions of state it abused these institutions and used its political power to sustain its control. Sectarianism is a device to keep citizens in their place. Catholics were the main target of this sectarianism and victims of state policies of discrimination.

Sectarianism also kept working class Protestants in their place, divided from their Catholic neighbours and distrustful of them even though in many cases living conditions, particularly for all poor working class people, were similar.

Because this is a sectarian state and because unionism could not be trusted to govern fairly the outcomes of the Good Friday Agreement and the Saint Andrews Agreement are all-Ireland in nature particularly in their institutions.

There are also many equality and other legal safe guards built into the new political dispensation. These include compulsory power sharing and partnership political arrangements.

Thinking unionism knows that this will be the case for as long as the new dispensation lasts and fair minded unionist MLAs have slowly but surely come to terms with this reality. They fulfil their political duties in a positive way. They also appreciate that these safeguards are to their advantage as the constitutional position changes in the future.

Others, inside and outside the Northern Assembly toy with the idea that the system of governance can be changed.

I cannot believe that they are serious but if they are they are living in Fantasy Land. The truth is if the new political dispensation is to deliver for everyone then it will do so because all political parties have entered into the spirit as well as the letter of power sharing.

Any suggestion that the compulsory nature of the power sharing arrangements can be changed is dishonest and misleading. Those who argue for this position know that it is unattainable.

All politicians have a duty to set their faces against sectarianism.

The recent spate of shameful racist attacks shows another unacceptable aspect of our society.

Racism and sectarianism are two sides of the one coin.

If there is any tolerance for sectarianism, and in my view there is, it is little wonder that racism thrives.

It also needs to be confronted.


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