Workers Party General Secretary John Lowry has welcomed the publication of a long awaited strategy for tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland published by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. John Lowry said, “this consultation paper is long overdue. For too long there has been the elephant in the room, sectarianism, which the Stormont Executive in their efforts to showcase good news stories about Northern Ireland have chosen to ignore. This summer we saw how real sectarian attitudes and prejudices really are and how they are all too often turned into sectarian riots and confrontations, often stoked up and fanned by elements who want to stop this society making progress and leaving behind the sectarian shackles of outdated unionism and nationalism. We saw this in Ardoyne where opposition to an Orange march disguises the true intent of sectarian groups who travelled from afar to ignite the flames of sectarian confrontation in a pathetic attempt to recreate the days of August 1969 in the belief that this would herald an upsurge in support for real Provo-ism. But sectarianism is more than the images of street riots and the burning of orange halls. It is to do with the segregation of our society, in sport and in education and the political institutions themselves.
The Workers Party will give this consultation a fair wind. We welcome the inclusion of racism as something akin to sectarianism and a growing problem in Northern Ireland. Equally the commitment to tackle the visible manifestations of racism and sectarianism and other forms of intolerance including on the basis of people’s sexuality. Likewise a zero tolerance approach to these matters and the development of shared spaces and the physical division around interfaces, which we take to mean the so called Peace Walls. This could represent a good start to tackling in its totality the problems of sectarianism. However it must not stop at managing the problems created by sectarianism but rather point the way to an integrated society based on citizenship and reflective of the modern world in which we live and not of outdated and questionable cultural differences. The consultation process ends in October and The Workers Party will be making a full and comprehensive submission based on our longstanding opposition to sectarianism and the need for its total eradication.