Bit by bit? Latest approach to tackling sectarianism

Theresa Villiers' speech earlier on Monday is the latest in a series of comments from the secretary of state about an economic package under negotiation with the Stormont Executive.

London ministers hope this deal will be agreed within the coming weeks, prior to the G8 summit due in June.

While the deal was first reported as London wielding a stick over the heads of intransigent Stormont ministers, it wasn't long before the Northern Ireland Office clarified that what they had in mind was more of a carrot, providing extra support to the Executive.

On Monday, the secretary of state described the negotiation as a two-way street, insisting that the more ambitious Stormont is when it comes to a shared future, then the more assistance Westminster will feel able to provide.

The layman might think that the obvious big gesture for Stormont to make would be to publish the long delayed Cohesion Sharing and Integration strategy, a draft of which the BBC obtained back in January.

However, publishing the whole document might be fraught with difficulties.

As the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness explained at a Stormont Castle news conference at lunchtime, the parties are still nowhere near resolving their differences on major issues like flags, parades and the past.

If a document was published with yawning gaps on these key issues, then it might just invite a wave of criticism.

So the latest thinking is that, in tandem with any Westminster financial deal, Stormont ministers might try to implement some less contentious community relations initiatives.

The secretary of state and the first and deputy first ministers declined to be drawn on any specific projects on Monday.

But talking to teenagers at the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Ms Villiers spoke enthusiastically about shared education, while the Irish foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, hinted that both Dublin and London might be ready to add to the proposed 150m euros (£127m) Peace IV programme.

The January draft of the Stormont community relations paper included ideas for, amongst other things, anti-sectarian classes, a buddy scheme for nursery and primary school children and an annual cultural awareness day.

Whether any of these proposals are in the mix for the latest "bit by bit" approach to a shared future isn't clear at this stage.

Around the BBC