The new Presbyterian Moderator has warned more must be done to tackle sectarianism.
In his first speech as head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Norman Hamilton last night called the failure of those in authority to agree a community relations strategy a “public disgrace”.
Quoting PSNI figures showing a 25% rise in sectarian-motivated incidents over the past year, Dr Hamilton from Ballysillan Presbyterian Church called for action.
“There is a problem with sectarianism right across much of Northern Ireland. It is acute in what might be seen as some very surprising places,” he told 1,200 delegates at Church House.
“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.”
Dr Hamilton, who has succeeded Dr Stafford Carson as Moderator, was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his community relations work. And the 63-year-old said he would like to “kickstart” discussions about a shared future.
“I would love to be part of a public discussion, carried out with grace and with rigour, as to how to face this demon in our midst,” he said.
“I might even be bold enough to say that I would like to help kickstart the moribund, even non-existent, public discussion about what a coherent, shared and healthy society looks like.”
In his final speech, Dr Carson said he was “seeking justice” for all of the beleaguered Presbyterian Mutual Society savers. It was forced into administration in 2008 after a run on withdrawals.