Stormont 'should be bulldozed' says Bernadette McAliskey

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StormontImage source, PAUL FAITH
Image caption,
Northern Ireland has been without a government since the power-sharing institutions collapsed in January 2017

Former civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey has called for Stormont to be "bulldozed".

She criticised what she said were inadequate political efforts in Northern Ireland to enshrine human rights and said people were benefiting from racism.

Power-sharing between the parties at Stormont collapsed in January 2017.

Ms McAliskey became the youngest ever MP in Mid-Ulster in 1969 and was a founding member of People's Democracy.

She made the comments in Dungannon at a conference marking the first civil rights march 50 years ago from Coalisland to Dungannon.

"We are on a hiding to nothing changing racism and sectarianism," she said.

"I run out of patience with that house on the hill. We deserve better and we should bulldoze the place."

In the 1960s, Ms McAliskey was a leading figure in the student civil rights movement, which drew inspiration from similar action in the US.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association highlighted discrimination against Catholics over issues like jobs and housing and sought voting rights for all.

Ms McAliskey said racism and sectarianism were "like rapidly spreading ragweed".

"If you take your eye off them in any time or place or generation they will reassert themselves, every single day," she said.

Image caption,
Bernadette McAliskey, then Bernadette Devlin, became the youngest female MP in 1969

She said people do not understand racism in the way they do sectarianism.

"We are the victims of sectarianism, the whole community, and we are the beneficiaries of racism," Mrs McAliskey said.

"We have to change how we view the past, not simply how we view the present or the future, or we don't understand the need to fundamentally change."

She said legislation addressing racism is not enforced properly and claimed Stormont had treated the Human Rights Commission with "abject disrespect" and failed to create a Northern Ireland Human Rights Act.

"We are fundamentally racist. We think we know a great deal of history and we know none."