Sectarianism and our abject failure to eradicate it was graphically exposed in Belfast Crown Court last week.
An Ahoghill man guilty of making pipe bombs for sectarian attacks was given a non-custodial sentence. ‘Boredom’ was cited as a reason for his activities.
The sentence was a disgrace. There is no acceptable level of sectarianism. It is unjustifiable.
Zero tolerance is required. That must be demonstrated by the criminal justice system.
But more; all political parties should unite, mobilise and lead a popular campaign against the reality of sectarianism and resultant segregation throughout our community.
A citizens’ anti-sectarian charter would be a good start.
Anti-sectarian legislation and a Bill of Rights should be introduced..
Achieving a sustainable resolution on parades and flags is essential.
The ambivalent relationship between unionist paramilitaries, politicians and Orange Order is disgraceful and should end.
No unionist paramilitaries should exist. The UVF in particular must fully disband immediately.
Sectarianism and segregation are central to our contested past. They perpetuate current divisions and polarisation.
That’s a blank cheque for continued conflict and instability.
The Crown Court sent out the wrong message. By contrast other positive anti-sectarian initiatives were taking place last week.
Under Rev David Latimer’s leadership and supported by the WELB, all 60 plus primary and secondary schools in Derry council area began the innovative Pathways to Peace reconciliation project.
The Clonard Fitzroy Fellowship convened a cross community conversation with councillor John Kyle and myself. We discussed sectarianism and the nature of a shared future.
Separately, in Holywood, Sanctus Boscus held another important peace building event.
There is an alternative to violent and insidious sectarianism. That’s the common ground of equality, respect and reconciliation.
To paraphrase Fitzroy Presbyterian’s Rev Steve Stockman; we all have to move from passive peace making and become active peace makers.