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McAleese rouses unionist wrath by comparing them to the Nazis

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese was at the centre of a sectarian row last night after claiming that some Protestant children in the North were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Germans of the Hitler era had been taught to hate Jews.

It angered unionists who accused her of vilifying their community and downplaying the horror of the Holocaust.

In a radio interview, President McAleese made the point that anti-semitism that existed for decades had been built upon by the Nazis.

"They gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred of Catholics," she said.

Former Stormont Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey accused President McAleese of downgrading the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust.

"To compare the Holocaust, where six million Jews were exterminated, with Northern Ireland shows a total lack of understanding and sympathy," said the Ulster Unionist assembly member.

"Not only will people in Northern Ireland be outraged but so will people in the Irish Republic who would be startled to see their President say something so disgraceful. It will blight her presidency in the long term."

Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist Assembly member, said: Mrs McAleese's comments were "completely irrational and are designed to insult the integrity of the Protestant community and damn an entire generation of Protestant people."

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