Stephen Farry MLA said: “Alliance acknowledges the progress that has been made around a community relations policy for Northern Ireland. In the past all initiatives in this field have occurred under Direct Rule. It is important that local political institutions take ownership of the development and delivery of future strategies.
“There was little wrong with the Shared Future strategy, but it was understandable that the DUP and Sinn Fein would want to fashion their own document on the restoration of devolution. The problem is that we then had three years of drift. A strategic vacuum means poor and uncoordinated policy-making and funding decisions. Alliance has been pleased to help to move the process along.
“The draft programme published in July was agreed by the Executive for consultation, but a number of parties have voiced significant concerns at the content.
“For Alliance, we do recognise the significance of government talking about themes such as shared space, the financial cost of duplicated services, addressing the misuse of symbols, and cultural matters.
“However, the document is currently deficient in three broad areas.
“First, the document in its vision falls well short of the concepts of cohesion, sharing and integration that are used in its title. There is no attempt to define these concepts, or relate them to other critical concepts such as reconciliation or interdependence.
“Second, there is not a sufficient recognition of the economic and financial costs of continued divisions and the opportunities that will come from a shared society.
“Third, there is an absence of detail relating to an action plan, containing details on policy priorities, targets, timetables, resourcing and evaluation criteria, plus delivery mechanisms.
“A process of public consultation is now underway, sparking a healthy debate. It is now critical that the Executive takes the outcome of this consultation fully into account into a revised Programme. It is to be hoped that the debate in the Assembly can be constructive and focus minds on what has to be done.”