A new report has found Catholics in the north of Ireland are still experiencing sectarianism.
In research commissioned by the Equality Coalition, the report’s author Dr Robbie McVeigh found that disparities still exist between Catholics and Protestants. He said government departments should be challenged to either explain the disparities or end them.
Dr McVeigh said any government plans to further tackle sectarianism must acknowledge how partition took place “in order to deny equality to Catholics”.
His report found that sectarianism in decision-making was a contributing factor to the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont three years ago. It highlighted concerns about a decision by then culture minister, the DUP’s Paul Givan, to scrap a £55,000 Irish language scheme - which allowed low-income families to attend summer schools in the Gaeltacht - before Christmas in 2016. The grant scheme was reinstated after an outcry.
The report also highlighted a report on a government scheme to refurbish community halls in the north which was widely regarded as advantaging the Orange Order and other unionist institutions.
Dr McVeigh said the issue of sectarianism needed a fresh approach.
“We need an approach which re-centres the commitment to equality and human rights of all citizens – Protestant, Catholic and ‘Other’ - who meet at the interface of sectarianism in the very particular circumstance of the Northern Ireland state,” he said.
“At the core of this approach is the recognition that tackling sectarianism is about building a radically different future rather than reconciling people to the present – a present that remains contested, unequal and profoundly sectarian.”
Meanwhile, a Catholic church in Larne has been paint bombed in what Sinn Féin has described as a “blatant sectarian attack”
Paint was thrown over the building overnight. It was discovered at St MacNissi’s Parish Church in the Agnew Street shortly after 10am Mass on Sunday.
Local representatives condemned it as an “inexcusable” attack that left the Catholic population in the town “gutted”.
Sinn Féin Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Oliver McMullan said that he was receiving reports “on a weekly basis” about sectarian incidents in Larne.
“It is part of an orchestrated campaign against the nationalist people in Larne. While other places are moving on, it is still happening in Larne,” he said.
“I am getting reports every week of sectarian attacks in Larne, verbal attacks, physical attacks. There seems to be nothing getting done.
“The church will be cleaned up but the Catholic population is gutted by this. You don’t touch a church.”