Northern Ireland

Executive's cohesion plan 'lacks clear vision'

Proposals for tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland may not go far enough to heal old divisions, according to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

A consultation on the Executive's Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration runs until 29 October.

Trust spokeswoman Celia McKeon said the goal of reconciliation had been replaced by "mutual accommodation".

She said it was "far from clear this vision is sufficiently compelling to prevent resectarianisation of society".

The social policy group commissioned University College Dublin's Institute for British-Irish Studies to carry out a comparison of the new strategy and its 2005 predecessor, A Shared Future.

'Simplistic view'

"This is particularly important when the 'peace dividend' begins to wear off and when economic hardships begin to bite," she said.

"With the looming spending cuts, this is even more pertinent."

The report found the policy also took a "simplistic view" of people's culture and identity as unchanging, rather than as "a process of ongoing choices".

Ms McKeon said: "While this may suit political parties with a deeply-rooted sense of conflicting priorities based on ethnic division, it overlooks the potential social benefit from processes that question traditional cultural identities."

It also suggested four proposals to reorganise the community relations infrastructure were all weaker than the existing mandate of the Community Relations Council.


The proposals were published in July, having been delayed for about two years due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein over how to proceed.

Sinn Fein argues that equality considerations must be at the root of community relations strategy and is suspicious of any approach which appears to define the Northern Ireland problem as a conflict between "two tribes".

The DUP has been reluctant to extend any strategy to deal with gay rights and sexual orientation.

Progress on the strategy was a key demand from the Alliance Party before its leader, David Ford, agreed to take the job of justice minister as part of a deal to devolve justice powers to Stormont.

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