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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 21:43 GMT
McAleese urged to cancel visit
Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese has been criticised by unionists
Unionist politicians in Belfast have called on Irish President Mary McAleese to cancel her planned visit to the Shankill area later this month.

Two weeks ago, Mrs McAleese said children were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews.

She later said she was "deeply sorry" for the offence her remarks had caused.

The DUP, Ulster Unionists and Progressive Unionists released a joint statement on Friday saying the apology had not undone the offence.

The statement said: "As the elected representatives of the Shankill area, from all the unionist parties, we would call on Mary McAleese, the president of the Republic of Ireland, not to proceed with her planned visit to the Shankill area later this month.

"Her recent comments about Ulster Protestants caused great hurt and offence to the unionist community and her subsequent apology has not undone the damage she has caused."

Mrs McAleese made the comments before attending ceremonies marking 60 years since Auschwitz was liberated.

She said the anti-semitism that existed for decades had been built upon by the Nazis.

"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, for example, 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," she said.


However, Mrs McAleese later said she regretted her remarks.

She said she was "personally absolutely devastated" by the furore, that her critics had been "absolutely right" and acknowledged she had been clumsy and had hurt people.

"I was trying to make a point about the job that we in our time have to do, in a sense to vindicate the dreadful, dreadful, awful consequences of Auschwitz, the things that we have to do to prevent sectarianism and racism in our own time," she said.

"I said that people in Northern Ireland who taught their children for example, to hate for example Catholics, and I should have gone on to say, and Protestants, because the truth of the matter is that, of course, sectarianism is a shared problem."

Inaugurated as the Irish head of state in 1997, Mary McAleese is the first president to come from Northern Ireland.

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