Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated: “Northern Ireland needs a strong policy for tackling divisions and segregation and building a cohesive, shared and integrated community. This requirement is particularly pressing at a time of economic and financial challenge. Alliance continues to stress the financial and economic costs of division and the opportunities that would lie in a shared future.
“Alliance does welcome the consultation on a ‘Made in Northern Ireland ‘ good relations policy. In the past, all community relations initiatives had occurred under Direct Rule. There was nothing wrong with the Shared Future document from 2005 but it was understandable that the DUP and Sinn Fein would wish to shape their own policy with the restoration of devolution in 2007. The problem has been three years of policy drift as those parties have failed to agree on any way forward until earlier this year.
“A platform for progress is now in place, but in many ways the current draft programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration is flawed. This consultation exercise is critical and it is incumbent upon the Executive to take on board the views received from wider society and to commit to significant redrafting before finalising any policy.
“It is positive that the current draft acknowledges important concepts such as shared space, mixed housing, tackling abuse of flags and other physical manifestations of divisions, but the problems with the document lie in two broad respects.
“First, there is little attempt to define key concepts such as ‘cohesion’, ‘sharing’ and ‘integration’. ‘Good Relations’ is placed in a secondary position to equality. In the absence of a clear aim to create a shared society, there is a danger that an assumption of fixed identities and communal blocks could lead to a ‘separate, but equal’ future.
“Second, there is lack of detail with respect to delivery in terms of an action plan, with targets and timetables, resource allocations, benchmarking and monitoring, and the institutional structure. Without this what comes before could be empty words.”