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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Fr Andrew McNally is a curate at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Cookstown, Co Tyrone Image of Fr Andrew McNally

We probably live very parallel lives in the rural area. For example, when I was in a rural parish, I was given the sense very strongly that as a Catholic I belonged to the Catholic community, and that, therefore, there are ways of acting and behaving as a Catholic in that community. And we were very definite as to where, for example, you went shopping - there were shops of a similar nature and you went to this shop because it was run by a Catholic, and there was a sense that 'Well, you don't go to that shop there because it's run by a Protestant'. And similar in other areas of business, you were given the sense of 'You belong here, you belong to us and you give us your business, and you don't give your business to them'. So there was very much a sense of belonging to one community and not to the other and therefore there was hesitation with regards to crossing over to the other.

And did you feel comfortable with that social arrangement?

At one stage I fitted in fairly well with that, but when I was changed from there and moved somewhere else, and when I reflected on it, I reflected that 'Gosh, I have been involved in a sectarian system'. And that's my observation. If somebody asked me 'Am I sectarian?', I don't think necessarily that that's the right question because I might try to say 'No, I'm not sectarian'.

More importantly is 'To what extent do I participate in a sectarian system?', and what we have in Northern Ireland is a sectarian system. And I am constantly a part of that system, and what I need to do is to reflect on it and say 'In what way am I participating in the sectarian system?' And when I'm only taking the part of one community, one part of the community without the other, then I am acting in a sectarian way. All I need do to maintain the sectarian system is nothing, because if I do nothing, the sectarian system remains and, as a Christian, I believe that we have a responsibility to move beyond sectarianism.

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