Republican News · Thursday 09 March 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Equality debate in Down

A public debate, titled Nationalist Equality, Can It Be Delivered? was organised by Mourne Residents for Equality at Glassdrummond AOH Hall south of Newcastle, County Down on Saturday, 4 March.

The event, the first of its kind in the area, drew an interested crowd and heard from Sinn Féin Assembly member Michelle Gildernew, Independent councillor Breandán Mac Cionnaith and Fermanagh human rights activist Joe McVeigh. The discussion was chaired by local journalist Finian Cunningham.

Alex Attwood was to have flown the SDLP flag for the night but failed to turn up, which Breandán Mac Cionnaith referred to when he spoke. The Garvaghy Road man accused the SDLP of sitting on the fence and saying nothing when it came to important issues and that unionists saw the SDLP's silence as ``acceptance'', thus giving the unionists encouragement.

Mac Cionnaith said the current political impasse had come about because originally the Good Friday Agreement contained, ``a unionist veto that the British government would support. The next agreement we negotiate should exclude this unionist veto.''

As to whether nationalist equality can become a reality, Mac Cionnaith believed that as partition was the root cause of the inequality, then until partition is removed equality can't become a reality.

Michelle Gildernew, pointed out that although the marching issue had become the single issue that focused minds on the inequality of nationalists in the Six Counties, there were other issues.

She pointed out that Catholic people are still two and a half times more likely to unemployed than their Protestant counterparts and that inequality in housing was still an issue.

Gildernew also pointed to the ongoing refusal of Belfast City Council to fund the St Patrick's Day Parade and to the case of barristers Seamus Treacy and Barry McDonald, who are fighting a court case not to swear an oath ``promising to serve and honour'' the British queen.

Joe Mc Veigh said that the Good Friday Agreement was not a nationalist document, but ``it had the potential for achieving equality'', which was why the unionists, ``backed by the British, brought it down. They played the Orange card.'' He advocated a united, nationalist front to push for the nationalist agenda and urged middle class nationalists to support the campaign for equality.

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