Adams urges Orange Order to engage in dialogue
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today described the burning of effigies representing Sinn Féin representatives, their election posters and banners, and the erection of sectarian anti-Catholic slogans on bonfires as “evidence of a nakedly sectarian strand within Orangeism that must be confronted and challenged, principally by the leaderships of the Loyal Orders, political unionism and civic society”.
The Sinn Féin leader dismissed claims by unionist political leaders and others of a so-called ‘cultural war’ by republicans against the Orange tradition.
Gerry Adams said:
“On July 12th, over 500 Orange marches were held across the North. Each of these was an opportunity for the Loyal Orders to express their sense of culture and identity, to fly the Union flag, and to march and play their music. All passed off without incident and peacefully. In the course of this year, there will be over two and a half thousand such parades. The overwhelming majority of these will take place without rancour or dispute.
“The most blatant examples of sectarian aggression and racist hatred were apparent around some bonfires, particularly in Belfast. The burning of Sinn Féin election posters, the hanging of effigies, the coffin bearing a likeness of Martin McGuinness, the KAT (Kill All Taigs) slogan, all of these and much more should have no place in any society.
“It is incumbent on all leaders, civic and political, to make this clear. This division between the nationalist and unionist position goes back beyond the national question. It’s also about the right of those citizens in the North to embrace their sense of Irishness or Britishness.
“Whether this is in music or literature, in language or sport or politics, or in their sense of history and family roots, equality has to be the basis on which everyone is respected. There is a significant section of opinion in the North which is Irish and is proud to be Irish.
“The political system has for generations sought to deny this to them this right. The demands at July 12th marches by leading Orange leaders for the unionist parties not to compromise on an Irish language act are part of this long standing hostility. Claims that Sinn Féin are engaged in some kind of ‘cultural war’ is offensive and untrue.
“What we do stand for is the right of all citizens to be treated equally. This means that those citizens who want to embrace their sense of Irishness must be afforded that right. There can be no place for any effort to limit the expression of Irishness whether in language or music or politics. It is not acceptable and, for that reason, the issue of Irish language rights, marriage equality, and a Bill of Rights have become totemic in the negotiations.
“The Loyal Orders and Orangeism are a part of who we are Orange is one of our national colours. Irish republicans accept the right of the Orders to parade and to promote their sense of identity. However, this has to be on the basis of respect and tolerance for other opinions and identities. Unionist leaders need to clearly and publicly challenge those who are reducing their sense of Orange celebrations to a hate fest. I am sure the vast majority of unionists, including members of the Orange are appalled at the aggression and sectarianism around some bonfires. They know that there can be no place in our society for sectarianism, bigotry, racism or incitement to hatred.
“For that reason, there can be no return to the status quo following any negotiations in the autumn. The crisis in the institutions is about rights. It’s about equality. It’s about agreement on how these rights are going to be delivered and protected. That’s the only way to get the institutions back in place. It’s also the only way to address the deep seated problem of sectarianism in society in the North.”