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Sinn Féin extend invitation to Loyal Orders

11 September, 2007


Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson, speaking in a debate about sectarian violence, has extended an invitation to the Loyal Orders to hold direct talks with Sinn Féin.

Ms Anderson said:

"Sinn Fein condemns utterly, without reservation, all sectarian attacks. No equivocation - all sectarian attacks are wrong. I also want to make it clear, so that there is no confusion, anyone who has information about sectarian attacks should go to the PSNI.

"Whether sectarian attacks are directed against young people, old people, their homes or simply against families who wish to live in peace with their neighbours or pray in their respective churches, they are equally wrong, and destructive of all that we are trying to build through these institutions of power sharing. But condemnations are easy.

"Sinn Féin has long declared that political parties must give leadership in their communities. When politicians attempt to dissolve all issues along sectarian lines, they are creating the conditions which fuel sectarianism.

"Some people including some members of this Chambers have worked hard to keep the two main communities apart. In my opinion the Orange Order also have a responsibility in this. We will not advance this important battle against sectarianism through denial. The question for us all is how can we bring sectarian crimes to an end?

"On the ground in Derry, and elsewhere, there has been dialogue between both communities; between politicians and church leaders. There has been dialogue and leadership.

"Today I want to extend the invitation to the Orange Order - and I know that there are many prominent members of those institutions on the benches opposite. I want to invite them to engage in direct dialogue with Sinn Féin.

"Sinn Féin believes that this is best achieved by engaging with each other on the basis of our common humanity. In this way we can deliver for society and play our part in ending sectarian attacks and the politics of division which has fuelled them." ENDS

Full Text of Speech (check against delivery)

Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don leasú.

Sinn Fein condemns utterly, without reservation all sectarian attacks. I want to make it clear that attacks on Orange halls are wrong, attacks on Protestant and Catholic homes are wrong and attacks on places of worship are wrong.

No equivocation - all sectarian attacks are wrong. I want to make it clear, so that there is no confusion in this Assembly today, anyone who has information about sectarian attacks should go to the PSNI.

Whether sectarian attacks are directed against young people, old people, their homes or simply against families who wish to live in peace with their neighbours or pray in their respective churches, it is equally wrong - and destructive of all that we are trying to build through these institutions of power sharing.

We condemn sectarianism - it is the cancer, which lies at the very root of the injustices and impoverishment of our communities, which our power-sharing Executive is above all dedicated to changing.

But condemnations are easy - they are cheap.

Sinn Féin has long declared that Political Parties must give leadership in their communities. When members of parties attempt to dissolve all issues along sectarian lines, they are creating the conditions which fuel sectarianism in our communities.

Some people including some members of this Chambers have worked hard to keep the two main communities apart. In my opinion the Orange Order also have a responsibility in this.

Commitment to the power sharing executive means that we make an honest and open effort to transcend the differences that have divided us in the past, and that we put serving the interests of all our people equally, as our priority.

Nor must we allow any attempt to bury sectarianism - to pretend that it no longer exists, when it stares us in the face. It is important that we face reality, and not attempt to bury racist or sectarian crimes under a catch-all category of hate crimes, or knife crimes.

We will not advance this important battle against sectarianism either through denial.

We all have a litany of sectarian crimes of which we are aware: The murder of the Quinn children and Michael McIlveen and the attempted murder of young Paul McAuley from Derry who is still fighting for his life as we speak.

Whether areas like the Fountain in Derry are the focus of the origin of sectarian attacks - The question for us all is - how can we bring sectarian crimes to an end?

Sinn Féin has drawn up a charter of Unionist Engagement which we believe allows us all to move to the common ground of humanity, and to give political leadership, in our communities, to work towards delivering for all our people.

On the ground in Derry, and elsewhere, there has been dialogue between both communities; between politicians and church leaders.

There has been dialogue and leadership.

Today I want to extend the invitation to the Orange Order - and I know that there are many prominent members of those institutions on the benches opposite. I want to invite them to engage in direct dialogue with Sinn Féin.

It is the duty of this Executive and Assembly to promote tolerance, inclusivity and equality; to eradicate sectarianism, racism and other forms of discrimination and to promote a pluralist society in which differences is celebrated and cultural diversity is encouraged.

Sinn Féin believes that this is best achieved by engaging with each other on the basis of our common humanity.

In this way we can deliver for society and play our part in ending sectarian attacks and the politics of division which has fuelled them.

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