Catholics join Lodge in attack on McConnell
JACK McConnell has succeeded in uniting the Orange Lodge and the Catholic Church in anger by freezing them out of his bid to stamp out sectarianism in Scotland.
The First Minister will unveil an action plan on religious bigotry tomorrow, laying out moves to provide anti-sectarian classes in schools and legislation to control religious marches.
However, the launch of the plan has already become mired in a furious row, with both Catholic leaders and Protestant marchers claiming they have been deliberately ostracised.
Both only learnt of tomorrow's announcement through an e-mail from the Scottish Executive on Friday, which informed them that they would only receive a copy of the plan when the First Minister spoke. They claim this flies in the face of promises that they would be fully involved in the action plan.
McConnell's campaign against sectarianism was launched last year at a summit at Glasgow University attended by leaders of all the main religious groups and the Orange Order.
He said then: "I am looking for a joint commitment from all organisations represented today that they will get rid of anything that could cause offence within their organisations."
However, those organisations now say that since then the entire programme has gone to ground.
Ian Wilson, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said: "We are very disappointed that so little has followed from the summit that was held almost a year ago. There was a promise that a working group would be set up and we would have thought that he would want us in some way involved, but we have been out in the cold."
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "Cardinal O'Brien participated in the February event but has not been asked to participate in anything since, so there is a feeling that momentum has been lost over the past year."
The launch tomorrow has raised concerns within both the Catholic Church and the Orange Order because of its choice of venue. McConnell will visit St Mirin's RC primary school in Glasgow to conduct the launch. Catholic leaders are angry at his decision as they resent any suggestion that sectarianism and Catholic schools have any link. "It is an inappropriate choice of venue," said one source.
Wilson also questioned the choice of venue. He said: "He is launching it in a Roman Catholic primary school which is bizarre given that there are those who say that segregated schools have a contribution to make over this."
McConnell's action plan is expected to cover four areas - schools, sport, religion and marches - in which ministers aim to take forward policies.
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