Sectarianism is the flip side of racism coin

Posted By: October 19, 2017

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

 Fr. Sean McManus. Letters to the Editor. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, October 19, 2017

When I read Jack Duffin’s letter ‘”ectarianism can never be treated if not properly diagnosed’ (October 9), I automatically thought of the statement by African-American writer and social critic James Baldwin (1924-1987): ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

This applies perfectly to the enduring problem of anti-Catholic sectarianism in the north. Sectarianism is the flip side of the racism coin that England imposed on and carefully fostered in Ireland.

I think it is historically fair to say that unionist/loyalists/Protestants leaders have never really addressed the issue of anti-Catholic sectarianism (with all due respect to David Trimble’s ‘cold house for Catholics’ remark).

Indeed, unionist leaders, today are likely to dismiss charges of anti-Catholic sectarianism by blaming those who raise the issue – ie blaming those who speak up for the victims of sectarianism.

Blaming the victims is, of course, as old as the abuses themselves. But for as long as unionist leaders indulge in such denial ‘nothing can be changed until it is faced’.

Such denial can never provide a healthy foundation for the beloved community – or the Good Friday Agreement.

However, in fairness to the unionist/Protestant leaders, it is unlikely they will ever feel free to address this issue as long as anti-Catholic sectarianism is enshrined in and condoned by the unwritten/uncodified British constitution. This constitution today still guarantees, through the Act of Settlement 1701, Protestant succession to the British Throne, and it is to that Protestant leaders have consistently pledged their allegiance – not just to the British Crown but to Protestant succession thereof.

But it was not the Northern Protestants who enacted the Act of Settlement, but the British Parliament/Monarchy. So the buck stops with them.

Fr Sean McManus. President Irish National Caucus. Washington, DC