28/01/2005

McAleese faces unionist anger following 'fascist teaching' remark

Irish President Mary McAleese faced the wrath of unionist politicians today after she claimed some Northern Ireland children were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews.

The remarks were made in an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme shortly before the President attended ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.

Talking of the Nazi regime, she said: “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.”

The DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr hit out at the comments claiming Mrs McAleese had “deliberately vilified an entire community” and that the timing was “quite sick”.

“How dare she attempt to make a comparison between the protestant community and the Nazi fascists of the last century,” the North Antrim MLA said. “McAleese just has to look a little closer to her own community for something similar to fascism. She has deliberately vilified an entire community. The timing of the comments is quite sick. At a time when we remember the dead she uses the opportunity to have a go at the Protestant community.”

Senior Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey also criticised the comments describing them as “outrageous”.

“Firstly, it shows a total lack of understanding and sympathy for Jews under the Nazis; and secondly, it shows deep-seated sectarianism,” he added.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the President said: "President McAleese was responding to a question about intolerance and where that leads.

"She spoke about how great acts of human cruelty have grown from hatred and intolerance and how these sentiments can impact negatively on our children and have massive implications for the future."

Mrs McAleese, who was born in Belfast, joined with concentration camp survivors and over 40 heads of state for memorial ceremonies in southern Poland on Thursday.

(MB/SP)

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