Reid's Battle Plan for War on Bigotry; New Laws Pledged for Hate Crimes and Racketeering
Byline: STEPHEN DEMPSTER
THE Government yesterday announced new laws to crackdown hard on sectarianism and terrorism on the streets of Northern Ireland.
Secretary of State John Reid revealed new hate crimes legislation would be introduced in the Province, making sectarianism a criminal offence, while Home Secretary David Blunkett said a raft of new measures to target terror networks would come before Parliament soon.
The dual announcements received a broad welcome from the Province's political figures, who said the new terrorism legislation must be rigidly enforced in Ulster and noted the significance of the draft legislation in light of the conflicts in north Belfast.
In a hard-hitting speech denouncing sectarianism, Dr Reid told delegates at the Labour Party Conference that ''manifestations of hatred, whether based on racism or sectarianism will be criminalised''.
He said the Province's image had been ''tarnished'' by the ''disgusting spectacle'' of loyalist protests against Catholic primary school children and their parents in Ardoyne.
''It is the right of every child to be educated free of intimidation and harassment and, whatever the cost, this Government will protect that right,'' said Dr Reid.
''If we are going to hate in Northern Ireland, let's hate those things we should hate - poverty, unemployment, deprivation and sectarianism - not those people in the next street with a different religion.
''Those - on either side of the divide - who can't leave behind their hatred and bitterness can't be allowed to blight the lives of others.''
Mr Blunkett's anti-terrorist proposals included plans to make it an offence for banks and other financial institutions to fail to report transactions, which they knew or suspected of being linked to terrorist activity.
And Dr Reid warned the laws would be used in Ulster to target the new breed of terrorist gangsters.
He said some had made the transition from violence to democracy in the Province but others were still ''stuck in the quagmire of violent corruption''. …