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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Witness likens unionists to Nazis
Fr Alec Reid
Fr Alec Reid said Catholics had been treated 'like animals'
The Catholic priest who witnessed IRA decommissioning has compared the unionist community to Nazis for their treatment of Catholics in the past.

Father Alec Reid's remarks were made at a public meeting in south Belfast also attended by Reverend Harold Good, the Protestant decommissioning witness.

"They (Catholics) were not treated like human beings. It was like the Nazis' treatment of the Jews," he said.

Willie Frazer of the victims group Fair walked out of the meeting in protest.

Fr Reid said that not only unionists had grievances over the past, nationalists had them too.

"The reality is that the nationalist community in Northern Ireland were treated almost like animals by the unionist community," he said.

The meeting was being held at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, and about 200 people were in the hall to hear what the witnesses had to say.

Victims representative William Frazer
Victims representative William Frazer walked out

After Wednesday night's 90-minute meeting Mr Frazer - who claimed Protestants were butchered by Catholics during the Troubles before storming out - said he was incensed by the priest's remarks.

"I did fly off the handle but I could not sit there and allow him to accuse the unionist people of persecuting the Roman Catholic community for the last 60 years. That is far from the truth," he said.

"That is not to say Catholics have not suffered but so have the Protestant community.

"He was wrong and bitter and his republican attitude came out when he called us Nazis."

'History'

Mr Frazer, who lost five members of his family including his father during the Troubles, added: "Two of my uncles fought in the Second World War."

After Mr Frazer left Fr Reid told the audience he had "said some very hard things about the unionist community, which I think are true".

"There is something else I believe. Their history in the last 60 years put them in a position after partition that they did not want.

"They were forced to treat nationalists the way they did."

Fr Reid told the audience that the nationalist community would have acted in the same way, had the roles been reversed.

'Last gun'

Last month Fr Reid and Rev Good acted as witnesses to the republican paramilitary group's final act of disarmament.

The head of the arms decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain, said that he was satisfied the weapons "put beyond use" represented "the totality of the IRA's arsenal.

Referring to this Fr Reid told the meeting the men who oversaw IRA decommissioning were guarded by a man with a loaded assault rifle.

The gun then became the last weapon in the terror group's vast arsenal to be put beyond use.

"The man handed it over and got quite emotional," he said. "He was aware that this was the last gun."

Fr Reid is a long-time confidant of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

He arranged ground-breaking talks between Mr Adams and then SDLP leader John Hume.

This led to a common nationalist approach and, in time, to the 1993 Downing Street Declaration.




SEE ALSO:
Decommission witnesses in profile
26 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland



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