Failure by republicans and unionists to build on the peace process risks “normalising sectarianism” until the end of the century, Sinn Fein has said.
National chairman Declan Kearney told his mainly republican audience at Londonderry’s Gasyard Wall Feile that now that violence had ended, there was “more heavy lifting to do”.
But he said onus for change lay with “sections of unionism” he blamed for “slowing down the peace process”.
His comments were made at a meeting, Reconciliation In The Process Of Nation Building: Vision Of A New Ireland, in the Bogside.
Mr Kearney described the challenge as “how we begin to build new human and community relationships among our people”.
“None of that will be easy; because it will demand that we all have the courage and compassion to try and understand what it has been like to walk in each other’s shoes,” he said. He warned that a “refusal to embrace this challenge ... normalises sectarianism, division and fear; a remodelled status quo which pays lip service to reconciliation and seeks to limit its vision to institutional processes, and tactical, short-term management.”
Mr Kearney warned that division “has the potential to be passed from one generation to the next in the same way the Civil War gave way to nine decades of trans-generational divisions and ongoing faultlines in the South”.
“Our generation needs to stop that happening,” he said.
He accused parts of unionism of “slowing down the peace process” and said this in turn was providing cover to dissident republican factions who opposed loyalist parades and engaged in violence.
He described this as a “wrong-headed strategy”.
He praised ongoing republican engagement with unionists.
Mr Kearney called for “common purpose to heal the past, with new thinking about truth recovery ... and openness to new political accommodations”.