Martin McAleese meets with loyalists

Daily Ireland
8 Feb 2005

The husband of Irish President Mary McAleese met
loyalists yesterday, just days after his wife compared
the ‘irrational hatred’ of Catholics in the North of
Ireland to the ‘irrational hatred of Jews’ in Nazi
Mary McAleese immediately apologised for the comments
made during her recent visit to Auschwitz to mark the
60th anniversary of the liberation of the Polish
concentration camp.
However, some loyalists warned that her words had the
potential to ruin the previously good relationship
they enjoyed with the McAleeses.
There were also doubts that, following the comments,
Martin McAleese’s next meeting with the Protestant
Interface Network and the Ulster Political Research
Group at Stormont Castle might not have gone ahead.
However, determined to mend broken bridges, loyalist
leaders sat down with Mr McAleese yesterday to discuss
their work along Belfast’s interfaces.
Sammy Duddy, the UPRG north Belfast spokesman, said
the meeting went ‘exceptionally well’.
He said, “The whole issue surrounding Mary McAleese’s
comments was hardly mentioned and it has in no way
affected our relationship with her or Martin. I
believe that Mrs McAleese was misquoted last week and
I’ve told people within the loyalist community that
umpteen times. It’s not her form to make comments like
that. She has taken many risks in meeting loyalist
leaders and has even risked her own reputation.”
Mr Duddy also had kind words for the Presidentís
He said, “Martin McAleese is a gentleman, one of the
best and as straight as a die. I would have no problem
walking through Rathcoole, the loyalist estate where I
live, with either of them.”
Mr McAleese’s meeting with the Protestant Interface
Network and the UPRG lasted almost an hour.
Loyalist leaders from all around the North attended,
as did a number of MLAs. The event was sponsored by
the office of the senior Ulster Unionist Reg Empey.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair had also been invited but could not attend.
The audience in Stormont’s Long Gallery was shown a
video of the work that loyalists do to maintain calm
along Belfast’s interfaces. The video showed loyalists
talking to the parents of children about the potential
dangers of interfaces.
Speaking before going into the event, Reg Empey said,
“I understand that they [the loyalists] wanted to
express their views to MLAs.
“They approached me and I agreed to act as a sponsor.
I supported the idea of giving them an opportunity to
express their views on interfaces.
“Interfaces are a big issue and they have every right
to give their views on something they work with on a
daily basis.”

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