ic Derry - Sinn Fein Out to Smash Coleraine Glass Ceiling

Sinn Fein Out to Smash Coleraine Glass Ceiling Nov 21 2003

Sinn Fein assembly candidate for East Derry, Cliona O'Kane has said the party is determined to break through the 'sectarian glass ceiling' in Coleraine and offer nationalists and republicans there the chance to have real representation.

Speaking of the feedback received from her Coleraine canvass teams Ms O'Kane said that her party is breaking new ground and entering new areas, the culmination of three years planning work.

She said: "Since the establishment of the Dungiven Sinn FÈin Advice Centre three years ago we have been developing a network of party workers to cover all parts of East Derry, concentrating on those areas where in the past our party has not had a structured presence on the ground.

"We identified the Borough of Coleraine as a strategic priority. During this campaign we have canvassed every inch of Coleraine Bann, Central, East and Skerries including Harpur's Hill and the Ballysalley estate."

She continued: "The initial response was one of surprise to see such a strong Sinn Fein canvass in places we had never been before, followed immediately by a warm welcome and an outpouring of grievances about the plight of the republican and nationalist community in Coleraine.

"I was particularly moved by a middle aged gentleman who became quite emotional on the doorstep. He insisted that we went inside for fear we might be seen.

"He recalled an experience from the early 60's when as a child he was learning to read and write at St. Malachy's Primary School in Coleraine. "Accompanying his mother whilst shopping he saw a sign in a window, which read 'Two shop assistants required, RC's need not apply'.

"When he loudly asked his mother what a RC was, she hurriedly bundled him home in fear of her life."

Cliona O'Kane continued:

"He told me that beneath the surface, nothing much had changed in the town over the years 'Coleraine is not a comfortable place for Catholics and it never was. We just have to keep our heads down, say our prayers and get on with it' he said.

"The Coleraine canvass was quite different than any other ward issues of basic human rights, institutional sectarianism and loyalist intimidation were raised time and time again as a priority.

"In other areas where Sinn Fein has had a presence, particularly at council level, the key issues were typically unemployment, government neglect West of the Bann, rural regeneration, under investment in the road and rail infrastructure, drug abuse and so forth."

She added: "In Coleraine the right of people to live free from sectarian harassment is the issue. This is one of the five pledges I have made in my Election Communication.

"Many of those canvassed complained that Coleraine Housing Executive seemed to have adopted a secret agenda to quietly re house Catholics from flash point areas, where in some cases they have lived for generations, instead of addressing the root of the problem, sectarianism.

"One young mother told me that the town is littered with loyalist paramilitary flags and painted kerb stones from New Market Street to Ballysalley and by flying the union flag 365 days a year outside their offices, Coleraine Borough Council are sending out a dangerous message. The loyalists thugs interpret this as licence to intimidate."

The Sinn Fein candidate added: "The vast majority of the people we spoke to commented on the bravery of nationalist and independent councillors, clergymen and community leaders from the town, many of whom have had their property attacked and families terrorised in the past, who have lobbied for years to make this town inclusive.

"Despite their efforts they have not cut the mustard, they have failed to deliver. It is time the republican and nationalist people of Coleraine elected Sinn Fein to smash the glass ceiling of sectarianism in this town. They have an opportunity to do so next Wednesday."

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