Community Relations Council New Year Message

02 January 2018

29th December 2017

2018 could be seminal year for Northern Ireland, says CRC Chair

2018 could well be a seminal year for the peace process the Chair of the Community Relations Council (CRC) said today (Friday 29th December, 2017).  He said the two governments needed to rediscover their concerted and often visionary approach of the past to help move the process forward.

In a New Year message, Peter Osborne says that 2017 helped crystallise significant challenges to community relations and peace building, but the next 12 months may provide opportunity out of crisis for the peace process to strengthen and make step change.

Mr Osborne says: “2018 could well be a seminal year.  There is no inevitable forward flow to the peace process.  But there are times when a critical point is reached; times for big decisions and step change.  2018 may be the year to push on or run the risk of a withering impact.

“Opportunity can come out of crisis.  2018 may be the year for a seminal and positive step change.  It needs leadership, will and imagination.

“Civil society is well placed to deliver seminal change, but it needs support from a functioning and motivated political sector.

“We are 20 years into a 50-year plus peace process, and we must continue to invest energy, focus, time and funding.  We must keep moving forward with a clear and credible path for reconciliation that overcomes a debilitating disillusion; and that deals with issues including segregated housing, segregated education, and how we commemorate the past. And whilst much positive work is happening in these areas, much more needs to be done.

“This is not a game, and everyone with a stewardship and safeguarding role needs to realise those responsibilities. Input from the two governments has always been critical.  It is in all our interests that they rediscover their concerted and often visionary approach of the past.

Mr Osborne said the current challenges and environment made this the most testing period in a generation including still segregated housing and education, walls still dividing communities, legacies issues left unaddressed, continued high tolerance of illegality, paramilitary attacks, a resourcing crisis in community relations, high levels of hate crime, and the biggest issue emerging from left field, the UK moving towards its exit from the European Union. But the opportunity for significant progress is still there.

Mr Osborne highlighted some of the positive work being done in communities in Northern Ireland as a cause for hope. This includes the ‘Buddy Up’, programme which is part funded by the Community Relations Council. An innovative local peacebuilding programme co-ordinated by Community Relations in Schools (CRIS), it was the first group from Northern Ireland to receive an Intercultural Innovation Award, which it collected in New York having beat stiff competition from almost 1,400 applications submitted from 130 countries across the globe.

The initiative, which runs as a collaborative project between CRIS, Edenderry Nursery School and Holy Cross Nursery School in North Belfast, engages children, parents and families to build meaningful relationships and friendships while learning and achieving together. The project documents an alternative narrative that is being written by the families who live on either side of the interface.

Mr Osborne concluded by thanking those working to sustain peaceful relationships in these challenging times.

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