Ending sectarianism requires political leadership from all parties including the DUP
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has described Irish government proposals for an anti-sectarianism pledge as "a good start". He said "if sectarianism is to be eradicated we need to see an end not just to blatant sectarianism on our streets but the implementation of policies to address deep-rooted sectarianism and discrimination in employment and job creation, to end bigotry on some unionist dominated councils, to end to all sectarian attacks wherever they occur and to completely end the activities of unionist paramilitaries. The key to all of this is political leadership."
Mr. McGuinness said:
"We need an open and honest debate about the nature, causes and extent of sectarianism within our communities.
"Sectarianism is much more pervasive than the blatant sectarian scenes witnessed at Holycross primary school, the abuse of parishioners at Harryville Church and Carnmoney cemetery and attacks on homes across the Six Counties in the Fountain and in North Antrim. Deep rooted sectarianism is evident across society including within government agencies.
"In order to end sectarianism there must be:
- An end to all sectarian attacks wherever they occur
- A collective effort to sort out the annual crisis caused by a small number of contentious loyal order parades.
- An end to DUP efforts to stop the equality agenda at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement
- Unionist politicians on councils like Larne, Lisburn and Ballymena must end their discriminatory practices and share power
- Ending discrimination in Government agencies like Invest NI that refuse to invest equally in border areas and councils like Newry and Mourne, South Down, West of the Bann, north and west Belfast must be tackled immediately
- Unionist paramilitaries must end their activities
"The key to all of this of course is political leadership from all parties including the DUP. Republicans have shown by example the need for engagement across society. The Good Friday Agreement commits all of us in political leadership to promote good relations at every level of our work and this of course places a particular onus on those working at local government.
"Alex Maskey as Mayor of Belfast put outreach to unionism and anti-sectarianism at the centre of his year in office. In very practical ways he demonstrated our commitment to tackling this issue. He took brave and difficult decisions. He was prepared to take risks and display real leadership whether it was through his decision to mark the Battle of the Somme, or talk to loyalist paramilitaries, or organise a service to commemorate all of the people killed through conflict.
"Our Mayors and Chairs across Ireland have continued with this work. We have also set out our intent to deepen our engagement with unionism.
"But it is time that the DUP stopped sending mixed signals. They need to stop their messing about and engage in the political and peace process."
Commenting on proposals for the return of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation as a forum for those bereaved through conflict Mr. McGuinness said:
"Creating forums whereby all those bereaved as a result of conflict can have their voices heard is of course to be welcomed. However it cannot replace the demands for truth and justice of the Finucane family, those killed in the Dublin Monaghan bombings or any other family.
"Nor will it provide a substitute for the sort of victim centred independent truth recovery process which we believe is vital if we are to learn the lessons of the conflict and allow those most deeply affected to be able to move forward with their lives in the years to come." ENDS