Northern Ireland

NI anti-sectarian proposals criticised

Plans by Stormont to tackle sectarianism have been criticised in an open letter to the NI first and deputy first ministers.

Over 150 people have put their name to the letter calling for Stormont to radically change its proposed strategy on how divisions can be healed in NI.

The proposals for tackling sectarianism, racism and hate were published in July.

Consultation on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) finishes on Friday.

People who have signed the letter include reconciliation workers, victims of violence and civic leaders.

Image caption The plans were published in July

They include Alan McBride who works with the victims group, Wave, IRA decommissioning witness the Rev Harold Good and ex-rugby star Trevor Ringland.

The letter said that "we express our deep dissatisfaction with the poverty of vision in the consultation document".

It said that "it holds out only a future of sustained segregation, defying the clear public aspiration that we live, work and are educated in common".

"We call for the rewriting of this document, in collaboration with independent experts, with clear aims and objectives and concrete programmes and projects to realise them."

A spokesperson for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said the consultation "has been an open and extensive one and we have very much valued the opportunity to engage with people in this important debate".

"We welcome all comments and contributions received throughout the course of the consultation and these will all be considered within the wider analysis of the consultation responses as we seek to further develop the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration."

Public meetings on the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration took place during September.

The Stormont Executive pledges to urgently address the "physical and community division created by interfaces" as a key goal of the draft strategy published in July.

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 take action which will address sectarian behaviour at spectator sports events.

The document had been delayed for around two years due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein about how to proceed.

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.

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