Category: Archive

Priest’s Nazi comments sparks furor

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The row dominated the Northern Ireland news agenda and airwaves for a week, culminating in Willie Frazer, founder of FAIR, a group lobbying on behalf of victims of the IRA and serial protester at many events where Sinn Fein is represented, making an official police complaint.
The priest, the Rev. Alex Reid, has often been called the instigator of the peace process for bringing the former SDLP leader, John Hume, and Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, together for talks in the late 1980s.
He continued to play a vital, but backstage, role in the process right up to the present day – invariably refusing requests for press interviews or any publicity. During one rare interview he said he profoundly disagreed with the physical force traditions of Irish republicans, dating back to the 1798 rebellion and the Easter Rising.
Reid was one of the two clergy witnesses to the IRA’s final act of decommissioning last month and made his controversial comments at a hot and heavy cross-community debate in south Belfast.
Speakers from the floor accused Reid’s religious order, the Redemptorists based at Clonard Monastery in West Belfast, of harboring IRA men and of hiding republican guns. The priest then apparently lost his temper.
In the space of less than 20 seconds, he had accused unionists of treating Catholics like animals and, after more barracking from the floor, said their treatment had been akin to the way the Nazis treated Jews.
More sympathetically to unionists, he said their history over 60 years had put them in a position “they did not want.” Unionists had been “forced to treat nationalists the way they did”, he said, and nationalists, put in the same position, would have reacted the same way.
Despite an immediately and unqualified apology, unionist leaders denounced the comments as sectarian, and denied there had been any serious discrimination against Catholics.
The DUP said Reid’s comments showed he lacked credibility as an independent observer of IRA decommissioning and was further reason to be skeptical and hesitant about accepting republican bona fides.
DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, said sectarianism was “endemic” among nationalists, and that it helped to explained “their desire to prevent our cultural expression.”
North Antrim DUP Assembly member, Ian Paisley Jr., said Reid had “insulted an entire community” and that his comments had been “deeply offensive.”
“His description of life in Northern Ireland over the last 35 years will not be recognized by unionists as being factual or accurate”, said Paisley.
“Mr. [sic] Reid”, he said, “needs to take the scales from his eyes and wake up to the awful reality of the IRA campaign to murder and maim innocent people simply because they were Protestants.
“There is no doubt that this outburst will add weight to those who believe that Alec Reid, like Sinn Fein/IRA, is only interested in advancing the traditional Provo agenda,” he said.
The Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey, said the unionist community was “absolutely appalled and deeply shocked” by the comments. “His comments have destroyed the community’s confidence and trust in the decommissioning process,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey, who has been responsible for the party’s outreach work towards unionists, argued Fr. Reid had merely been pointing out “the elephant in the room.”
Maskey also hit out at Frazer’s move in making an official complaint to police. “Surely after a summer which has witnessed a campaign of sectarian violence from unionist paramilitaries, the police have more to occupy their time than a pointless witch hunt,” he said.
“Whatever about the choice of language from Fr. Reid, some sections of unionism are to a large degree in denial about the past and its role in the conflict over the past 30 years.
“Are the police now also going to open investigations into the anti-Catholic statements articulated by unionist political leaders and the DUP in particular over the past 30 years?
“Statements that were used by unionist paramilitaries as justification for killing innocent people over many years? Fr. Reid has apologized for his choice of words last week in a heated public meeting and that should be left at that.
“Unionist politicians need to have the debate about the origins of the six counties and the institutionalized discrimination which did exist and the role of all of this in creating conflict,” Maskey said.

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