Tackling sectarianism: Whatever you do, do nothing…

IT seems everyone is on the anti-sectarianism bandwagon at the moment… they just can’t agree where it should be going. Last week, Eamonn McCann urged readers not just to respect diversity, but celebrate sameness. In his challenge to the prevailing wisdom that a balancing act between ‘the two communities’ is how to deal with division – an approach that purposefully excludes those who don’t fit neatly into one of the two tribal boxes – he suggested that the common interests of the working class could be the key to a united community.

Next, it was revealed that the just-departed Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, wrote to the two first ministers by suggesting their lack of progress on a ‘coherent and credible strategy’ for tackling sectarian hatred would leave a vacuum that would be filled by “those wishing to perpetuate the divisions of the past”. This echoes Orde’s parting shot to our politicians in August, when he lambasted them, saying that the “Shared Future strategy is not right at the top of the public agenda. It hardly seems to be on the agenda at all”. It also reflects the message he has taken to Great Britain when it comes to dealing with extreme right-wing groups there.

Today, Duncan Morrow, the chief executive of the Community Relations Council, added:

The opportunity provided by the peace process was that it would enable us to tackle our underlying issues head on. In a society which has made coming out of conflict its international calling card, the failure to agree policy to ensure a shared and better future has become embarrassing and potentially dangerous.

In response, the two leading parties have tried to deflect the criticism of having done nothing in time-honoured fashion – the DUP has blamed Sinn Fein, while Sinn Fein has published its own strategy (pdf here). You don’t have to be a genius to get the irony of a party publishing plans for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) without involving anyone else, and Alliance seems to have taken this as a bid to scupper the ship entirely.

A BBC report added that “a DUP source insists the [republican] party’s paper bears little resemblance to a paper drawn up by officials in the first and deputy first minister’s office last October. The source said the Sinn Fein paper suggests equality is the only factor in addressing good relations, ignoring issues such as ignorance, education and prejudice. The source said the DUP had provided Sinn Fein with a framework document in July as a proposed way forward on the issue, after consultation with the Community Relations Council.”

Meanwhile, the festering problem that has been bubbling under for so long continues to wreck lives on a daily basis. Whoever’s to blame, and most of us are beyond caring I think, it looks like the politicians are fiddling while Rome burns. ‘CSI’ is well named – you’d need to be a forensic detective to find any bloody trace of it.