The Alliance Party has put forward a series of proposals aimed at ending segregation and prioritising integrated services and facilities across Government. Party Leader David Ford announced the plans in response to the Government’s Shared Future framework document released in March 2005, which committed the Government to start publishing triennial proposals, as of this autumn, to turn this new, integrated vision into reality.
The South Antrim MLA stated: “Departments, agencies and funders must stop treating integration as if it is some form of social engineering. There is nothing artificial about integration. What is artificial is the provision of segregated facilities and grant schemes which merely promote division.
“The financial and economic incentives for change are unanswerable. The Secretary of State himself has estimated that around £1 billion is spent annually — equivalent to our entire education budget — on the provision of segregated facilities and managing the resultant divisions. Effectively, we are paying regional rate hikes, tuition fees and extra water charges just so Government can carry on its sectarian carve-up. This is truly nonsensical.
“However, through the Shared Future document, the UK Government has now formally accepted the Alliance argument that managing a divided society through some form of ‘benign Apartheid’ is unsustainable. It is now recognised that the only way forward is through the creation of a future where people can live and learn, work and play together in safety.
“This is a significant shift in approach, but new changes are needed to a range of policies and practices into order to turn the new vision into reality.
“The promotion of good relations must now be mainstreamed. All Departments and agencies have a role, and must be held accountable for any failure to deliver. They should stop treating integration as an ‘additional strand’, and instead treat integration as the only strand, bringing to an end segregated services and facilities.
“Alliance has a unique position – now accepted by Government in principle – that it is important to go beyond merely tackling the symptoms of sectarianism, and get at the causes. It is also important to go beyond platitudes, and turn words into concrete action.”