North's cohesion strategy 'fatally flawed'

North's cohesion strategy 'fatally flawed'

The good relations strategy in the North is fatally flawed, the Assembly heard today.

It fails to provide a framework for a shared future, SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie added.

The draft 'Cohesion, Sharing and Integration' strategy was debated at Stormont today.

Ms Ritchie said: “The recently published Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration document fails to provide any sort of shape or framework for a shared and reconciled society.

“It is fatally flawed and lacks conviction – full of lofty aims but no real proposals for achieving them and major omissions.”

Progress on the so-called shared future strategy was a key demand from the Alliance Party before its leader David Ford agreed to take the job of Justice Minister.

Under the strategy the Executive pledges to urgently address the “physical and community division created by interfaces”.

Ministers will also be committed to tackling “the visible manifestations of racism, sectarianism, intolerance and other forms of prejudice”.

They will also adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to incidences of, and reasons for, attacks motivated by sectarian, religious, racist or hate prejudice.

These include those on symbolic premises, cultural premises and monuments. Another goal is to take action which will address sectarian behaviour at spectator sports events.

Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister junior minister Robin Newton admitted the document could not transform relations overnight.

“It offers leadership to the entire community and taking the negative approach will do no one any good in this community,” he said.

“What we will see from taking this attitude is that it will create further division in this society. I would urge a positive response rather than a negative one.”

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