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Sinn Féin welcome opportunity to discuss equality with Unionists

24 January, 2005

Sinn Féin South Down Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane MLA has welcomed the response from Dermot Nesbitt who has agreed in principle to enter into a public debate on the equality issue. Ms Ruane recently challenged Dermot Nesbitt to a debate after objecting to recent comments by the Ulster Unionist MLA in which he claimed Catholics living in the north of Ireland do not face discrimination.

Ms Ruane said:

"Part of the current Unionist agenda is to propagate the absurd claim that the Protestant community is subject to increased levels of discrimination while at the same time perpetuating the myth that nationalists suffer little or no prejudices.

"While I accept that many Protestants live with disadvantage and poverty any objective analysis of the facts show that the Catholic community are disproportionately at risk in terms of housing, unemployment and ill health. Attempts to distort this reality only make it more difficult to target poverty, social need and discrimination in urban and rural areas that are in dire need of investment.

"It is a position that is designed to undermine and discredit the equality agenda in an attempt to prevent real and lasting change. I welcome therefore, the chance to debate this issue publicly with Mr Nesbitt which will give us both the opportunity to get to heart of the debate about equality, discrimination and disadvantage." ENDS

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