Hatred still alive and kicking in our communities: Bell

As a former peace activist and community worker, I am saddened by the current situation in Northern Ireland today.

In spite of ceasefire declarations, numerous IRA statements, interminable negotiations, and even an attempt at devolved Government, there continues, nearly daily, intimidation, evictions, disruption, riots, outright violence and murder.

Some may take misleading comfort from the fact that, in some areas, there are less torture beatings or large explosions, and that life is better when compared to the worst days of the ‘Troubles’.

But sectarianism, hatred of difference, and fear of diversity or change is still alive and kicking in our communities. The blame game is still played out, the police are still ‘piggy in the middle’, and fear and vulnerability is everywhere.

We still persist in labelling each other ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’, ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’, ‘loyalist’ or ‘republican’, even when we are talking about those whose lives have been taken. This is disturbing, in that it gives the impression that if we label victims, then it’s okay if it was ‘them’ instead of ‘us’.

For example, in a recent incident in North Belfast, a politician said he wanted to wait for more information before commenting. As if it had to be: (a) sectarian and (b) blameable on the ‘other side’ to be worthy of remark.

A crime is a crime. What is wrong is wrong.

It is depressing to see that this fact is not being recognised by our so-called political leaders.

Indeed, if we are going to halt the downward spiral into lawlessness, breakdown and anarchy, then we need to stop the madness of being selective about crimes.

We must act, each of us, in ways to ensure that those who murder, rob, rape, intimidate, engage in drug trafficking or cause mayhem in our streets are stopped. This means speaking out — without qualification — against all such acts, providing adequate policing resources, and pushing for more convictions.

It is up to us to not accept the perception that crime doesn’t pay.

It is time for real co-operation, to come together at all levels, so that those who break the law in any way are held accountable.

We need to use all the energies previously spent on blaming and condemning others, for a common purpose of lawfulness and a genuinely shared society, where all can enjoy peace, stability and opportunity.

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