Saturday 20 January 2018

President Michael D Higgins: Let's root out sectarian violence

HATE-filled sectarianism should be rooted out of society in Ireland, Irish president Michael D Higgins has said.

The solution lies in courageous individuals being willing to forgive and listen to others, he claimed.

He delivered the British Council's annual lecture at Queen's University Belfast on the subject of migrants and memory and addressed divisions between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland.

Mr Higgins said: "Part of that challenge is to root out hatred from our midst. We have become accustomed to talking of sectarianism but is it not hatred by another name?

"It is bred by intolerance and indeed by a lack of the capacity or opportunity to change. It is not unique to any one group or place, it operates in two directions, one act of disregard feeding off another."

This is the first time the annual lecture has moved outside London and is doing so as part of the Belfast Festival.

Northern Ireland has seen more peace walls separating Protestant and Catholic communities in flashpoint areas than during the armed conflict, with housing and public services in some areas segregated by religion and annual riots over loyal order parades and republican protests. There were 816 sectarian offences recorded in the 12 months to June this year, police records revealed.

The president said it was important to re-examine stereotypes to help address sectarian hatred.

"The solution lies not just with government - though government bears a heavy responsibility - but with countless individuals who take a journey into the unknown animated by the courage of departure and a generosity of spirit and who are willing to review the narratives they have found, are willing to listen to the narrative of the other and to pause, review, forgive, allow or pardon," he added.

Part of mending relations is to improve the lot of victims who lost loved ones during the armed conflict. The president saluted those living every day with loss and said no group had done more to bring about the benefits of peace.

Press Association

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