Profoundly disturbing that sectarian attitudes still prevail - The Irish News view

Case of brothers Adrian and Alister Douglas challenges us all to think about religious bigotry

Brothers Adrian and Alister Douglas appeared at Craigavon Magistrates Court in connection with an incident on April 30 which led to them being charged with attempted criminal damage and attempted theft.
Brothers Arian (34) and Alister (37) Douglas from Lurgan admitted their roles in intimidating a woman from her home in the town

It is profoundly disturbing that, despite all the huge progress which has been made in terms of peace and reconciliation within our divided society, religious bigotry can still be found as a malevolent presence on regular occasions.

While no section of the community has ever had a monopoly on sectarianism, it is clear that it maintains an entirely unacceptable hold on elements connected to loyalism in some districts.

It is usually kept somewhere below the surface, but from time to time, the behaviour of individuals who are filled with an illogical hatred for those from other backgrounds crudely surfaces.

The appalling case of the brothers Adrian and Alister Douglas, who set out not just to threaten but on the basis of the evidence to physically attack a young Catholic mother, was dealt with at Craigavon Crown Court earlier this month.

Danielle Skelton was quietly looking after her then two-year-old child at their home in a mainly Protestant part of Lurgan when the burly pair, both in their 30s, arrived outside in broad daylight, after drinking heavily while watching a Glasgow Rangers match on television in April of last year.

Danielle Skelton in her home. BBC
Danielle Skelton was forced to leave her home. Picture: BBC

The terrifying nature of the ordeal which followed for Ms Skelton cannot be disputed as the attempt by the brothers to force their way into the house, while shouting vile sectarian abuse, was all captured on a doorstep video.

She did not even know the perpetrators but their crude language proved they were plainly well aware of her religion, as they kicked and banged at her door, and tried but fortunately failed to destroy the evidence by pulling off the fixed camera.

Adrian Douglas was sentenced to 10 months in prison, after admitting intimidation, while Alister Douglas, who admitted aiding and abetting his brother, was given a suspended sentence, and there will be a widespread belief that both terms were very much on the lenient side, given that Ms Skelton and her son were traumatised and forced to move out.

The hope must be that better leadership will be witnessed in some key areas and old enmities will not necessarily transfer to younger generations

It is only a matter of weeks since very similar attitudes were exposed as a number of defendants were convicted of offences linked to a repulsive song enthusiastically chanted in an Orange hall about the murder victim Michaela McAreavey.

The hope must be that better leadership will be witnessed in some key areas and old enmities will not necessarily transfer to younger generations, who may be better educated and have more opportunities to interact positively with people from different traditions.

However, we all have to ask ourselves if privately or publicly we are holding views which when taken to another level in any way relate to the shocking scenes in Lurgan and Dundonald resulting in the recent prosecutions.