First unionist Senator urges NI politicians ‘to lead by example’
The first Ulster Unionist elected to the Irish Seanad has urged politicians in Northern Ireland to lead by example and choose their words carefully.
Ian Marshall, a former head of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) and the Taoiseach's nomination for the Republic's upper house, said the silent majority wanted change.
He told a Sinn Fein event centred on combating sectarianism: "It's about building trust and taking small steps.
"Forty years of violence left its mark, a culture of weaponising symbols and emblems, cultures and traditions has no place today. Inflaming situations by playing to your audience has no place today. We need politicians, community leaders, church leaders and individuals to choose words carefully and lead by example.
"To send out the message to their groups and followers that working together is a demonstration of strength and not weakness and that it's not disrespectful to your culture to embrace others."
Mr Marshall enjoyed Sinn Fein's support in his bid for the Seanad seat. He owns a farm near Markethill, Co Armagh, and has opposed Brexit.
"I hate to have to keep reiterating this but the silent majority want change and the young will demand change and we all will have failed if we don't take this opportunity to act," he added.
He said the vast majority of citizens in Northern Ireland are completely appalled at any notion that sectarianism should or could be tolerated in society.
Mr Marshall addressed an event at a centre in Ardoyne, scene of serious inter-communal violence in recent years.
It was organised by Fr Gary Donegan, a Catholic priest who has been a constant voice for peace in the area.
Mr Marshall added: "We can never ask those whose lives have been torn apart to 'forgive and forget' and many people will never recover from the damage inflicted on themselves or other friends and family members.
"But we need to separate the horrors of what went before from what we have now."