Time to criminalise sectarianism

"Sectarianism should be made a criminal offence in Northern Ireland and a "Summit on Sectarianism" held here involving all political parties, social, cultural and sporting organisations, the churches and representatives of the voluntary sector", says Workers Party spokesperson John Lowry.

"The very public and positive steps to tackle sectarianism, being taken by the Scottish Assembly, should serve as an example to our own Assembly and to everyone living in Northern Ireland", he said..

"We delude ourselves by thinking that we do not live in a deeply divided sectarian based society", Mr Lowry added.

"Sectarianism remains deeply rooted in this society and Northern Ireland is as divided as it‟s ever been. In Belfast alone we have at least 47 official peace lines and over 80 barriers. We educate our children separately and over 80% of us live in areas exclusive to one community or the other".

"The Northern Ireland Assembly must face the stark realities of daily life here. They must also consider their own role in the perpetuation of, and vested interest in, continuing sectarian division", said Mr Lowry.

"The Workers Party will be writing to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister to demand an early ‘Summit on Sectarianism’ and the immediate introduction of legislation to criminalise religiously motivated threatening, abusive, disorderly or offensive, behaviour".

"We will also be seeking immediate action to make sectarian behaviour online, including posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, an indictable offence with the option of a custodial sentence", concluded Mr Lowry.

Issued: Tuesday 31st May 2011

Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics