Martina Anderson MLA/MEP - sectarianism - Ard Fheis
Last week a furore erupted in the Six Counties when Junior Minister Bell and I had the audacity to suggest that sectarianism was not a Working Class phenomenon.
Our use of a metaphor became the subject of much attention to deflect away from a very serious point - that Sectarianism is as prevalent in Middle Class communities as anywhere else.
Sectarian attitudes are not confined to any one class or creed.
The theme of the Conference where we made the comments was “no more them and us”.
Yet as soon as we highlighted the need for all of us to confront sectarian attitudes, attempts were made by some to deflect attention away from the salient point –which made no contribution at all to take us out of the “them and us” space.
There are some people within our society who are comfortable in maintaining their separate spaces.
For too many, it is reassuring to believe that it is always the other’s fault – after all it is easier to point the finger at the most disadvantaged in our society, focusing attention on interface areas and blaming those who live there for causing the problems.
Without doubt, all of us need to face hard truths – and in this transformational journey towards reconciliation there are challenging issues that we as Republicans must face.
There are also hard truths for those in society who turn a blind eye, keep their heads down, remain silent and tolerate wrong doing; just as there are hard truths for those who chatter and comment in derogatory ways about the other tradition, fermenting views that are damaging and dangerous.
Most people I met since the conference have encouraged me to continue with the challenge and to shine a bright light on a dark truth – that Sectarianism is unfortunately prevalent across all classes and creeds.
None of this takes away from the fact that as a Society emerging from conflict we have much to celebrate and acknowledge.
We have lived through many pinch-yourself moments, made the impossible possible and gone to places that we thought we would never go – but they were the right pathways to take both physically and psychologically.
However while the War is over; Sectarianism is not.
Anti sectarianism on paper is not a panacea –although it is important that in the Six Counties the Executive has an effective Good Relation framework and therefore the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Strategy currently being finalised must lead the way in building a united community based on equality and social justice cherishing all traditions and none.