Sectarianism can never be treated if not properly diagnosed

Posted By: October 09, 2017


Distributed by Irish National Caucus

“African-American writer and social critic James Baldwin (1924-1987) incisively observed: “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 Northern Ireland that is the subject of the following letter in today’s Irish News of Belfast. Sectarianism is the flip side of the racism coin that England brutally imposed on, and carefully fostered in, Ireland.”—Fr. Sean McManus

Jack Duffin. Letters to Editor. Irish News. Belfast.  Monday, October 9, 2017.

We can be reasonably sure that the muted cacophony of outrage following the intimidation of four Catholic families on the Ravenhill Road did not reach the Midland Hotel in Manchester and that the DUP did not raise the issue with their Tory friends when they addressed that conference.

There are many reasons why sectarianism endures and festers uniquely and unchecked in the Northern State. But like any illness, it can never be treated if it is not properly diagnosed.

And yet when I started to read Tom Kelly (October 2) I thought that, with his insight, assessment and comprehensive analysis, at long last, the origins and remedy for this cancer that the British introduced into our country, would be accurately identified. But, disappointment would be an understatement.

The truth is that political unionism is underpinned by a pervasive and diabolical hatred of Catholics that goes back to the days of Oliver Cromwell. It is not so much about what unionism does, but more about what unionism is. And the sense of siege felt by the land thieves who came over here from England and Scotland 400 years ago has been mischievously kept alive mostly by Protestant clergy, to facilitate political and religious careers – but by no means all or most of them – who make up a sizable quota of the membership of the Loyal Orders. This toxic concoction of fear and hatred is ingrained in many young Protestants from an early age and is aptly documented and exhibited in the bonfire and marching rituals.

It is not reciprocated by Catholics, nor does it run in all our DNA as Tom Kelly claims. There is certainly sectarianism [and racism] in nationalist Ireland, but no popular support for it exists anywhere, and there is no propensity for it as he claims.

During my entire life, I have never heard a priest or bishop make insulting comments about Protestants from the pulpit, refer to other religious beliefs as being in error or declare that the Muslim faith is satanic.

The Catholic hierarchy has been slated publicly for many historical misdemeanors. But they have never been sectarian. And Tom’s contention that Republicans show disdain for Orange culture and overreact to every parade is manifestly untrue.

Indeed only a small number of those thousands of parades have been contested.

And Tom refers to the schools. Who would argue against educating all schoolchildren together?

We can continue to send joint excursions of Catholic and Protestant children to Holland or Florida. But this only feeds the false narrative that the Catholic victims of this disease must share the blame for it.

And that only makes the problem worse.