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22 May 1997 Edition

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The only honourable members

In 1981, after Bobby Sands was elected MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, the British parliament changed the rules to ensure that prisoners could not stand for election. It was a straightforward denial of the people's right to choose their representatives.
Today, the British parliament still fears republican MPs. They have once again changed the rules, this time to bar Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, two elected MPs, from the confines of the British House of Commons.

There is growing support in Britain for a reversal of this undemocratic and retrospective rule change.

It is not that republicans have any love for the British Houses of Parliament - and their constituents elected them on the basis that they would not take an oath of allegiance to the English queen - but the elected MPs have a right to represent their constituents and to carry on their work to rebuild the peace process.

Structural sectarianism



Depending on where you are positioned on the political spectrum Archbishop Robin Eames, head of the Church of Ireland was courageous when at the General Synod he called on his church to oppose sectarianism. Or he showed a lack of leadership when he avoided openly censuring the Orange Order, an organisation closely linked to his church.

Speaking in Dublin, last Tuesday, within hours of the discovery of the body of Derry GAA stalwart Sean Brown and within 48 hours of the funeral of Portadown man Robert Hamill, Eames said, ``history wil not easily forgive anyone who encourages a repeat of last summer''. He was of course referring to Drumcree.

Yet the Orange Order still refuses to talk to nationalist residents opposed to Loyalist marches, and as recently as Monday of this week rebuffed John Hume who attempted to arrange a meeting between the Garvaghy Road residents and Orange Grand Master Robert Saulters.

Eames asserted that ``there is not and never has been any official link between the Church of Ireland and the Orange institution''. However, in its report of the proceedings at the general half yearly meeting of the Grand Lodge of Ireland held in 1995 just after Drumcree 1 over 60 Church of Ireland clergymen were listed as Grand Chaplains, Deputy Grand Chaplains and Honorary Deputy Grand Chaplains while many more clergy were listed as holding other offices in the Orange Order, including one assistant Grand Master.

It is now time for the Church of Ireland to grasp the nettle and deal with the structural sectarianism that has been the life blood of the Northern State since its inception.

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