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25 June 2009 Edition

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Sectarianism and racism must be confronted

DESPITE all the political progress of recent years there are still some unionist politicians in the North who continue to oppose equality and refuse to confront sectarianism.
The Six Counties is a state that was established on the basis of sectarianism and inequality. It remains sectarian at its core. When Unionism was in control of the institutions of state it abused those institutions and used its political power to sustain its control.
Sectarianism is a device to keep citizens in their place. Catholics were the main target of this sectarianism and victims of state policies of discrimination.
Sectarianism also kept working class Protestants in their place, divided from their Catholic neighbours and distrustful of them even though in many cases living conditions, particularly for all poor working class people, were similar.
Because the North is a sectarian state and because unionism could not be trusted to govern fairly, the outcomes of the Good Friday Agreement and the Saint Andrews Agreement are all-Ireland in nature, particularly in their institutions.
There are also many equality and other legal safeguards built into the new political dispensation. These include compulsory power sharing and partnership political arrangements. ‘Thinking unionism’ knows that this will be the case for as long as the new dispensation lasts and fair minded unionist MLAs have slowly but surely come to terms with this reality. They fulfil their political duties in a positive way. They also appreciate that these safeguards are to their advantage as the constitutional position changes in the future.
Others, inside and outside the North’s Assembly, toy with the idea that the system of governance can be changed. If they are serious, they are living in Fantasy Land.
If the new political dispensation is to deliver for everyone, it will do so because all political parties have entered into the spirit as well as the letter of power sharing.
Any suggestion that the compulsory nature of the power sharing arrangements can be changed is dishonest and misleading. Those who argue for this position know that it is unattainable. All politicians have a duty to set their faces against sectarianism.
Recent attacks on members of the Romanian community in South Belfast and other attacks against people from eastern Europe in other parts of the North have led many people to correctly draw parallels between these racist incidents and the long history of sectarian discrimination and violence in the Six Counties. Racism and sectarianism are two sides of the one coin.The tolerance that is shown by many political leaders for sectarianism makes it inevitable that racism will thrive. It also needs to be confronted.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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