Equity Diversity Interdependence
Promoting a Peaceful and Fair
Society based on Reconciliation
and Mutual Trust.
DAN KEENAN, Northern News Editor
PROPOSALS TO tackle sectarianism drawn up by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness fall far short of what is needed, a consultation conference has heard.
Dawn Purvis, the former leader of the UVF-aligned Progressive Unionist Party and now an Independent, said the proposals should be “returned to sender”. The plan was “very disappointing after waiting so long”.
Dolores Kelly of the SDLP said the document should be binned, while Alliance spokesman Stephen Farry said the proposals needed “a lot of fixing”. Duncan Morrow, head of the Community Relations Council, said plans drawn up by the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister “fail to scratch the surface of what’s needed”.
The conference, attended by a range of people from the community and voluntary sector, was designed to focus attention on the need for a coherent response to the document. Dr Morrow welcomed the fact that the plan, Cohesion, Sharing and Integration was out for consultation, but said it needed to tackle a “signature weakness” in Northern society.
“There is nothing in it about the past, nothing in it about education, nothing about a significant attempt to tackle economics, and I think that at this significant time economics is the big question. Without a coherent strategy for reconciliation, Northern Ireland just looks like another basket case, and economics is likely to remain in the doldrums. We need a coherent strategy which ties together a peace-building process with an economic process and that is not there in this document,” he said.
The council, the primary body responsible for funding and development of intercommunity relations practice and policy in Northern Ireland, invited Bernadette McAliskey and former senior UUP figure Alex Kane to offer “alternative views” as to the next step in the drive to formulate an anti-sectarianism policy. Mrs McAliskey told the conference to applause that the North needed “a move away from parallel living” by local communities.
However, she added that the plan was “about political control by political leaders and destroying controls on them – the Equality Commission and the Human Rights Commission”.
Referring to a policy to end sectarianism and division, she said: “We need one, but this isn’t it.” Mr Kane said that if the proposals were the price paid to entice the Alliance party to take the position of justice minister, “then they had been sold a pup”.
The plans “do not answer any questions and were not meant to answer any questions”. He added that “direct rule even in its most arrogant form was better than this institutionalised crap”.
Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionists said the job of formulating anti-sectarianism policies was best done by people other than politicians.
However, Sinn Féin and the DUP countered the criticism, saying the publication of the plan was only the start of a process.