Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Unionists challenged to public debate on Equality

7 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality, Human Rights and Women, South Down MLA Catríona Ruane has issued a challenge to Ulster Unionists Dermott Nesbitt and Esmond Birnie to publicly debate the Equality Agenda and also said that it is the dishonest claims by a number of unionists that Catholics do not face discrimination but that protestants are being discriminated against that is 'causing grievances and increasing tensions' between the two communities.

Ms Ruane said:

"Unionists such as Dermott Nesbitt or Jim Allister are being duplicitous in advancing claims that Catholics do not face discrimination and that Protestants face discrimination. However, what is most serious about these claims is that they are actually 'causing grievances and increasing tensions' between the two communities.

"The attempt to rewrite the history of this state and to misrepresent the current reality both feeds into the siege mentality of unionism and undermines the ability of the equality agenda to affect real change that can and should benefit everyone in our society that lives with disadvantage.

"Historic and current patterns of policy and public expenditure show discrimination against the West of the Bann area, the border region and Catholic rural and urban communities. All objective data on disadvantage, poverty and particularly patterns of unemployment, housing and ill health show that the Catholic population is not served well as Dermott Nesbitt claims. I accept that many Protestants also live with disadvantage and poverty but the facts overwhelmingly show that the Catholic community are disproportionately at risk.

"The denial of discrimination within societies that have suffered systematic policies of discrimination is nothing new. In South Africa Afrikaanas claimed that discrimination did not exists just as those who resisted the civil rights movement in America denied that discrimination was systematic.

"However what unionists do in trying to deny the reality of discrimination is make it much more difficult to target poverty and disadvantage objectively on the basis of need and need alone. It is an attempt to reinforce current patterns of discrimination." ENDS

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