McAleese 'sorry' over Nazi remark

Mary McAleese has been criticised by unionists

Mary McAleese has said she is "deeply sorry" for the offence her remarks comparing Nazi hatred with Northern Ireland have caused.

The Irish president said Protestant children were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews.

She said she was devastated by the reaction which her remarks generated and acknowledged she had been "clumsy".

Mrs McAleese made the comments before attending ceremonies marking 60 years since Auschwitz was liberated.

President McAleese said the anti-semitism that existed for decades had been built upon by the Nazis.

"They gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred of Catholics, in the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different colour and all of those things," she said.

However, the president clarified her remarks on Friday.

She said she was "personally absolutely devastated" by the furore, that her critics had been "absolutely right" and acknowledged she had been clumsy and had hurt people.

"I was trying to make a point about the job that we in our time have to do, in a sense to vindicate the dreadful, dreadful, awful consequences of Auschwitz, the things that we have to do to prevent sectarianism and racism in our own time," she said.

"I said that people in Northern Ireland who taught their children for example, to hate for example Catholics, and I should have gone on to say, and Protestants, because the truth of the matter is that, of course, sectarianism is a shared problem.

"The fact that she used the word Catholic suggests that people on the other side were Protestant," said Gordon
Linney, Archdeacon of Dublin.

She said some people had accused her of making a connection between Protestantism and Nazism.

"That's a dreadful assertion and indeed if anybody took that from it I should have to say that I would be very, very, very deeply sorry indeed.

"I was trying to make a point and I made it very clumsily indeed. I am the first to put my hands up and say I made it very clumsily indeed."

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr said her original comments had been irrational and insulting.

Responding, Mr Paisley Jnr said: "So much for bridge-building Mary.

"Her comments are completely irrational and are designed to insult the integrity of the Protestant community and damn an entire generation of Protestant people."

Ulster Unionist assembly member Michael McGimpsey said he accepted President McAleese's apology.

He said the matter should now be closed.

"I called for a clarification and I called for an apology and she has taken both of those steps and it seems to me, as far as I'm concerned, having done that it would be crass of me not to accept that she has done what was called for," he said.

"So as I say in my opinion therefore we will try and put this matter behind us and let the thing rest," he said.

Remarks defended

The former Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, Gordon Linney, also criticised her comments.

"Frankly, I was shocked and saddened because... of her choice of words," he said.

Mark Durkan said the president had a "record of bridge building"

However, President McAleese's remarks have been defended by senior Catholic clergyman, Monsignor Denis Faul.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the Holocaust could teach everyone "lessons about the danger of unchecked prejudice and unchallenged persecution".

Meanwhile, the Orange Order has cancelled a meeting with Mrs McAleese.

The Grand Lodge of Ireland said it would not take up her invitation to come to Dublin in March, to discuss the concerns of Orangemen in the Republic.

i was never taught to hate catholics as i grew up in a mixed estate loughveiw white city my friends where catholic and i learnt at early age diff between catholic and nationist or repulician so for the president of the rep to compare me with a nazi is biggoted
Thank you for your comment William. You were indeed fortunate to have been raised the way you were, and I think Mary McAleese was referring more to the stereotypical situation in general and not to someone specific such as yourself who was lucky enough to have escaped being indoctrinated with prejudice at an early age. Prejudice is a two-way street, and Protestant children are not the only ones to be raised with it, as you know. I think you hit the solution for it by stating that you were raised in an integrated atmosphere where you were allowed to find a common ground rather than to focus on differences.
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