By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 July, 2018
A prominent member of the DUP has hit out at Bishop Donal McKeown over his address at the Unity of Purpose rally on Fahan Street, Derry in which he appealed for an end to sectarian attacks and rioting in the Bogside.
However, DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused the bishop of providing a rationale for the rioters.
“Bishop Donal McKeown has on two separate occasions, while condemning the rioters, made references to ‘not demonising’ those carrying out the attacks and to ‘their disadvantages’.”
“Many people who are law abiding and raising families, despite lots of disadvantages, are deeply concerned at the bishop’s comments which, however well meaning, could be interpreted as a rationale for rioters,” Mr Campbell claimed.
He added, “We must give no grounds whatsoever for a belief that law breakers have cover from someone trying to explain their motives in a way they can take justification from.”
In his address, Bishop McKeown pleaded for calm in the Derry after six nights of unrest and rioting in the city. He told those involved in clashes with the PSNI that nothing could be built with petrol bombs.
Addressing residents, politicians and clergy from across the political and religious divide who assembled at Butcher Gate, Bishop McKeown warned the rioters, “You cannot claim to love your country and at the same time cause pain and destruction to the people who live there.”
He stressed, “Nothing can be built with petrol bombs or stones thrown in anger.”
But he also said the assembled crowd were gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges.
He said those “in comparatively comfortable positions of leadership need to remember that a lot of our fellow citizens feel left out. They do not see the last 20 years as having benefitted them.”
Bishop McKeown acknowledged that some communities that suffered much in the past are still suffering disadvantage. “There are young people who feel life is passing them by and looking down on them.”
But, he added, if there was one lesson that the people of this city had learned over the years, it is that violence and destruction do not help anyone. They do not advance any cause.
“We have discovered that talking is the only way that builds people up. Destruction and aggression end up damaging the very communities that some people claim to be defending.
“Tonight, we have gathered, not to condemn anyone, but to build bridges. We want a city where everyone feels they have a future. We have lost too many people because they had lost hope in the future. We believe that we have the human resources to create a community where all our fellow citizens feel included. We believe that everyone here has something unique and valuable to contribute to a better future.”
The Bishop of Derry said those who had assembled for the rally were there because “we love this city and all its people”.
“We seek the welfare of all. But we are determined that this great city will not be drawn back into a repetition of the terrible years of awful suffering and loss. We will speak out against those who promote only destruction and despair. Nothing can be built with petrol bombs or stones thrown in anger. The foundation for a happy future will be built on dialogue and inclusion.”
Concluding, Bishop McKeown made an emotional appeal.
“Tonight, on behalf of so many in our city, I say the people of Derry deserve better than violence; the people of Derry are capable of so much better than violence; the people of Derry are proud of their city and want to welcome people here, not frighten them off. In the city of the three bridges, can we start mending bridges tonight and walking forward together?”