Community Relations ‘central to Alliance manifesto’

Community relations will form a central part of Alliance’s election manifesto, Alliance Leader David Ford said today, at the start of Community Relations Week.

Mr Ford said that five years after the Agreement was signed, unionism and nationalism were moving further and further to the extremes, rather than working together in the common interests of the whole community.

Mr Ford stated: “In 1998, people voted for a new beginning. There was much hope that, through working together, community relations would improve. Instead, we have had five years of wasted opportunities.

“Unless we begin to seriously address the twin evils of sectarianism and segregation, they will eventually destroy the Agreement and everything that has been achieved so far.

“The healing of our communal divisions must be the greatest priority for our political institutions, and so this issue lies at the heart of Alliance’s manifesto.

“Only a strong Alliance presence in the Assembly can offer positive solutions, and ensure that the other parties begin to address, rather than merely manage, the so-called ‘benign apartheid’ that blights our society.”

The Manifesto Pledges will include:

·Alliance will develop a new community relations strategy for Northern Ireland. This should challenge how we live, work and play together as a community.

·Alliance will require all government departments and public sector agencies to have a duty to actively encourage de-segregation and communal integration, through appropriate policies. This includes areas such as planning.

·Alliance will introduce a new form of policy proofing, called Policy Appraisal for Sharing over Separation (PASS). This would ensure that the impact of any new policy upon community divisions would be assessed and taken into account.

·Alliance will appoint an Integration Monitor. This person would be charged with monitoring progress on the above proposals, and producing an annual audit of the costs of providing separate facilities.

·Alliance reiterates its support for the work of the Community Relations Council, and would significantly increase the budget granted to it, in order to expand its project work. Alliance would increasingly concentrate community investment funds on projects with a strong cross-community element.

·Alliance will achieve a target of 10% of children being educated in integrated schools by 2010. We set out how we will accomplish this in the Education section of this manifesto.

·Alliance will make the promotion and maintenance of mixed housing an explicit objective of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

·Alliance will urge the police and criminal justice agencies to adopt a more pro-active policy of protecting and serving those individuals who choose to mix with others, in the name of preserving a common civic space.

·Alliance will enforce the civil duties on public agencies, such as the Road Service and the Housing Executive, to ensure that their property is free from paramilitary, sectarian or racist flags, murals and graffiti.

·Alliance will ensure that public sector agencies build more leisure, educational, health, social and community facilities with an explicit objective to encourage mixing. Best practice should also be developed, regarding the design of the urban environment, in order to maximise cross-community mixing.

·Alliance will promote Northern Ireland as a distinct region within a decentralising British Isles and an emerging Europe of the Regions.

·Alliance proposes that new symbols be devised to give expression to this regional identity, including a new flag for Northern Ireland. Greater use should also be made of the European flag.

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