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24 August 2006 Edition

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Sectarianism and the DUP

An Phoblacht this week features the horrific story of a young Belfast family burned out of their home by a sectarian mob. The result could have been mass murder but for the intervention of vigilant neighbours. The family were targeted for no other reason than the fact that they are Catholics.

Such attacks have occurred across the Six Counties with increasing frequency in recent months, particularly around the Orange marching season. This has been the lot of Catholics and nationalists in many parts of the North since the foundation of the Six County state.

The culpability for unionist violence does not rest solely with the thugs who attack Catholics and Catholic property. The perpetrators who targeted a woman and baby last weekend have been fed on a diet of sectarian unionist propaganda. A major responsibility for what is happening rests with the leadership of political unionism.

The links between Ian Paisley's DUP and violent unionism have been exposed again this week with the admission that a former leading DUP representative, George Seawright, was a member of the paramilitary UVF.

The DUP continue to oppose the equality agenda in the Six Counties, demonstrating their inability to embrace the political realities of the 21st century and their refusal to accept nationalists as equals.

The refusal of unionists to acknowledge the need for equality is based on the hopeless, zero-sum politics that says nationalists gain from equality while unionists lose. This is a myth. Effective equality measures uphold the rights of all regardless of background.

Meanwhile, official bodies such as the Parades Commission also have responsibilities to protect the rights of nationalists and confront sectarianism. The Parades Commission has in recent weeks allowed thousands of loyalists to assemble in small nationalist areas resulting in Catholic families being forced to leave their homes. Bands at these parades have flaunted the regalia of illegal unionist paramilitary murder gangs who have murdered hundreds of nationalists. People have the right to march and participate in parades but these parades are being used as an excuse to intimidate and attack nationalists. This needs to be stopped.

As we face into the 24 November deadline for the formation of an inclusive Executive in the Six Counties which would lead to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, it is important that the DUP are reminded of their responsibilities. It is time Ian Paisley's party was pressurised by both Governments and all other parties to end their rejectionist politics, embrace new political realities and begin to tackle the poison of sectarianism in the North for which they share a major responsibility.

An Phoblacht
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