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Incitement to sectarian hatred must be given legislative muscle

22 September, 2003

Sinn Fein Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that 'freedom from sectarian harassment' must be given legislative muscle and must include legislation specifically dealing with the problem of incitement to sectarian hatred.

Ms Gildernew said:

"On a daily basis there is growing evidence of the pain and damage to the peace process resulting from the sectarian campaign of intimidation and attack of the unionist paramilitaries. While there is a focus, particularly of Unionist politicians, on alleged republican activity the reality is that overwhelmingly, violence today is coming form the unionist community and is directed at nationalists.

"The issue of equality and of freedom from sectarian harassment are key components of the Good Friday Agreement and the failure to implement commitments in these areas is acknowledged in the Joint Declaration from the two governments. There is a commitment to give legislative effect through the Bill of Rights, the Single Equality Bill and through legislation to tackle racism and sectarianism.

"A key component of any legislation on sectarianism must be to target incitement to sectarian hatred. There must also be similar moves to outlaw incitement to racist hatred. There must be legislative muscle to stamp out the poison of sectarianism.

"In particular such legislation must be effective in challenging the attitudes and responses of unionist politicians to the sectarianism emanating form their community." ENDS

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