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We need respect to replace this hatred

Editor's Viewpoint

The recent attacks on an Orange Hall near Newry and a GAA club in Co Tyrone are further evidence of the sectarian sickness that lurks at the heart of our society.

The roof of the historic Orange Hall was damaged in the third attack on the building in the past 20 years. This is deplorable, but at least there is some comfort in the knowledge that the building can be repaired again.

In the attack on the GAA club, a defibrillator was destroyed.

This vandalism took place in an area where Gaelic footballer Cormac McAnallen died in his sleep in 2004 from an undetected heart condition.

The GAA has lost several players due to heart attacks, and the loss of a defibrillator could literally mean the difference between life and death. Now the club will have to replace this valuable equipment.

The repetitive nature of such attacks is depressing.

For example, the Orange Hall near Newry has been attacked three times since the Good Friday Agreement, which was supposed to herald an era of peace and tolerance.

In 2017, sadly, this is far from a reality. The atmosphere has not been helped by the toxic election campaign, virtually up to polling day.

DUP leader Arlene Foster predicted a brutal campaign, in which she played her part by crudely likening Sinn Fein to a rapacious crocodile.

The Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill, for her part, sent out contradictory messages by attending the memorial to four young Provisional IRA terrorists shot dead by the SAS, and then launching an anti-sectarianism plan days afterwards.

The so-called "nice" Alliance Party has dented its image by alleged campaign skullduggery in trying to manipulate a radio phone-in.

And an Alliance member resigned after claiming in a tweet that unionists have been bred to hate Catholics.

Somehow, when this unfortunate and unnecessary election is over, we will have to try again to eradicate sectarianism and to build tolerance and mutual respect, and - who knows - a genuine interest in the "other side".

That will require maturity and understanding from both sides.

There have been commendable efforts to achieve this, but so much more needs to be done.

The only long-term answer is respect for people of other cultures, and certainly not by attacking their property and sending out wrong signals.

Belfast Telegraph

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