ALLIANCE is set to challenge the Office of First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to publish its community relations strategy.
OFMDFM is known to have received a research paper in January, but has failed to publish any draft proposals since April.
Accusing the Executive of trying to ‘bury’ the report, Alliance Deputy Leader Eileen Bell said that the party will be attempting to table a motion calling on OFMDFM to publish the policy review report, which has already been submitted to Ministers.
A response was expected before the summer recess, but so far none has been forthcoming. Last week, the Deputy First Minister said a paper would go to the Executive in the near future, although similar statements have been made since April.
Mrs Bell said: “This review was completed in January, with a response due in April. Then it was said to be ‘imminent’ – but there is still no sign of it. The Community Relations Strategy, which for Alliance is a crucial part of the Programme for Government, is supposed to be finished by the end of this year.
“But with two months’ consultation yet to begin and Ministers to reach agreement after that, I think this is yet another OFMDFM target that will be missed.”
“This strategy was the alleged reason for the Executive not doing anything directly about flags and graffiti when Alliance pushed the issue earlier this year.”
“We need to get back on track, as suspicions are growing that the Community Relations Strategy is being put on the long finger.”
“When questions are asked in the Assembly, all we hear are platitudes about how documents or consultation is ‘imminent’. Frankly, that no longer holds credibility, but if the Executive cannot give us a strategy, then Alliance will demand that the public is shown exactly what has been done since last year and the recommendations that OFMDFM is now sitting on.”
“This is far bigger than just supporting local initiatives in local communities.”
“We need a firm strategy to counter sectarianism and promote community relations, and this should underpin everything the Executive does. This is clearly not the case at the moment. If it was, it would be given the proper priority.”