Dermot Ahern: towards a non sectarian politics?

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs has made an interesting speech this morning, which suggests that political parties in NI could usefully consider signing up for an anti racist protocol, in pursuit of a non sectarian politics. Trouble is, (particularly if you read the points we’ve bulleted) if all the parties in NI genuinely snapped to these conditions, the policy cupboard whilst not bare exactly, would look decidedly thin. Since all parties, have majored on the divisive and largely sectarian aspects of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland to the exclusion of much else.

“Before the last general election, most political parties across the island signed up to the NCCI Anti-racism Political Protocol or the Charter of European Parties for a Non-racist Society. By doing so we sent out a clear message that race has no place in Irish politics.

-That no-one should electioneer on the issue of colour or on the fear of other cultures.

-That no-one should resort to a political narrative of black versus white. Or garner political support on the back of racial division or fear.

Perhaps now it is time to consider a similar move in relation to sectarianism. Perhaps it is time that all parties in the North and indeed in the South signed up to a Political Protocol on Sectarianism; a declaration, that politicians or political parties will not resort to the gratuitous, populist narrative of Catholic versus Protestant or unionist versus nationalist, for political gain.

A powerful message from political leaders, throughout the island, that sectarianism is just not on. I’m not talking about ignoring the very real injustice, isolation, alienation and terror of the past.

I’m talking about a clear political statement that those who rioted in Dublin, those who have attacked families in North for no other reason than their religion or their political beliefs are wholly without legitimacy and open to nothing but condemnation. All I ask today, is that the parties consider it.”