The Workers’ Party has welcomed the call by the new Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Norman Hamilton, for a public debate on sectarianism in Northern Ireland and echoed his criticism of the failure of Stormont parties to agree a community relations strategy.
“Dr Hamilton has called the failure of those in authority to agree a community relations strategy a ‘public disgrace’”, Workers’ Party General Secretary, John Lowry, told a meeting of the Belfast Region of the Party, “and we in the Workers’ Party are in total agreement. The most recent official document on sectarianism, A Shared Future, produced under direct rule was to have been replaced with a document, Cohesion, Sharing and Integration, drawn up by the parties to the Stormont Coalition. First Minister Robinson (as he then was) said that hoped the new document would be published ‘without delay’ and Martin McGuinness concurred. But nothing came of this.”
“Meanwhile, reports of sectarian crime and other kinds of hate crime continue to grow. In fact, before retiring as PSNI Chief Constable, Hugh Orde wrote to Robinson and McGuinness, complaining, in terms similar to those of Dr Hamilton, of “the lack of a coherent and credible strategy” to help the police in tackling the “scourge” of hate crime. In response, the DUP sat on its hands and Sinn Féin produced a document called Rights and Respect, which was based on the Shared Future document, but which in the words of an article in Fortnight magazine, ‘deleted all references to ‘tolerance’ and most to sharing or integration in respect of inter-communal relations. It stressed instead the celebration of communally defined cultural difference.’
“The Fortnight writer finds it ironic that republicans should line up behind this approach to living together, given that republicanism and communitarianism are such different political philosophies. We in the Workers’ Party are not surprise to find so-called republicans endorsing the sectarian agenda of ‘separate but equal’. For Republicans, as Des O’Hagan stated in his major lecture The Concept of Republicanism, ‘the citizen [is] at the centre of political discourse’, while for Sinn Fein it appears to be religious background. And this mindset is happy with the ‘social apartheid’ that Dr Hamilton speaks about”
“Dr Hamilton has said that, ‘the failure to agree a community relations agenda and community relations strategy is, in my view, a public disgrace, given our history. That disgrace is heightened by the apparent failure of much of wider society to even be concerned about it, never mind outraged by it.’ Again, we in the Workers’ Party totally agree with Dr Hamilton’s position on this.
Dr Hamilton says he wants to,” kick start the moribund, even non-existent, public discussion about what a coherent, shared and healthy society looks like.” Recently, at our Ard Fheis/Annual Conference, Comrade Sean Garland led the Party in calling for the establishment of the Tomas Mac Giolla Centre for Citizenship and reconciliation, “to oppose sectarianism and racism in the name of citizenship.” We in the Worker’s party will play a vigorous role in the public discussion of our shared future.”
Robin Wilson, “A Shared Out Future”, Fortnight Magazine, Dec ‘09/Jan 2010
Sean Garland, “Sectarianism and racism must be defeated” Look Left Summer 2010