No place in Ireland for sectarianism, says Ahern


There could be no place for sectarianism in Ireland in the 21st century, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern told the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York yesterday.

Condemning loyalist violence, he said: "In Antrim Catholic families living in small communities have been attacked and intimidated for no other reason than that they are Catholic."

Calling on Sinn Féin to join the Policing Boards, he said the Police Service of Northern Ireland stood squarely between nationalist communities and loyalist attacks last weekend.

He added: "Sinn Féin now have a duty to join with the SDLP in making the PSNI accountable to nationalist communities through the Policing Boards and to press for the full implementation of Patten .

"In recent weeks our streets have been revisited by scenes of violence and intimidation that we hoped we had put behind us. For more than three decades working-class communities have borne the brunt of violence, their young manipulated by paramilitary elites, sent on to the streets to be brutalised and radicalised. And it is clear now that this is still happening.

"Many of you will have seen the scenes in Belfast last weekend - cars and streets set alight, police attacked with bullets and petrol bombs, whole districts given over to anarchy and lawlessness.

"Last week, in advance of the parade, I visited some of the affected areas and spoke to community leaders. At the weekend, during the riots I was in contact with people on the ground - on Isadore Street, on the Springfield Road and elsewhere.

"Next week I hope to return and meet some of those who suffered most. Because it is important that we stand with these people.

"A key remaining step to complete the policing project is for Sinn Féin to support the new policing arrangements. This must include participation in the new policing structures. It must also include a willingness to encourage their supporters to join the police service."

He added: "I would also strongly urge unionist leaders to maintain their full support for the structures of policing."

Stressing the urgency of dealing with loyalist paramilitarism, the Minister said: "In addition to all necessary and appropriate actions by the PSNI, all political and community leaders, particularly those from within the unionist community, must use their influence to bring an end to this paramilitary and criminal activity.

"We are waiting to see delivery of the commitments in the IRA statement of July 28th. The process of demonstrating that the IRA commitments have been delivered requires verification, and we accept that it will take a certain amount of time.

"Once this is in place we would expect the unionist parties - and in particular the DUP as the largest unionist party - to engage constructively on the restoration of inclusive institutions in Northern Ireland and the full operation of the North-South Ministerial Council."