Speaking today at an INCORE Conference on Politicians and Community
Relations, Alliance Party General Secretary and Justice Spokesperson Dr Stephen Farry, has called for a new vision for community relations to be placed at the heart of any package emerging from the Leeds Castle Talks.
Dr Farry stated:
“For too many people, the underlying concept behind the Agreement was of separate but equal communities living side by side in peaceful co-existence – a ‘benign Apartheid’.
“Community relations issues were paid lip-service in the Agreement, and Alliance had to fight hard to get some commitments to a shared future into the Joint Declaration. They were not a priority for the Assembly. Alliance voted against several programmes for government for their failure to adequately address the divisions in our society.
“Thankfully, more and more people are now recognising the limitations of conflict management, and are now promoting the concept of a shared and integrated society where our citizens can live and learn, work and play together in safety.
“Community relations must be seen as something more than simply dolling out cash. It is about changes in policy, and almost every part of government and civil society has a role to play.
“It is about providing facilities to meet people’s preference to mix with each other, and backing that up with the necessary security to protect these choices. Obvious areas for action are integrated education and mixed housing.
“Community relations may not be as sexy as arguments over decommissioning or policing, but it is the most fundamental element of building a peaceful and stable future.
“Therefore, it is important that community relations are given their due place and treated as a key issue in the forthcoming discussions at Leeds Castle.”