Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Church slams anti-sectarianism plan

Church leaders have slammed the government's blueprint for tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

The Church of Ireland has told First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that their Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy aimed at bridging community divisions will not work.

In a damning report on the proposed legislation it said the plans had "serious shortcomings" and would fail to provide a shared future.

The Church today published in full its response to the CSI proposals.

"We find that CSI lacks an underlying ethic or ethos and a genuine vision of what our shared future might look like," it said.

"In such a situation it is difficult to address specific policy areas as these are either not present or, where they are suggested, are often neither consistent nor coherent."

It added: "Regrettably it appears that party politics have overtaken a genuine opportunity for OFMDFM (the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister) to deliver a convincing blueprint for the future.

"The inclusion of so much detail on existing policies masks the serious shortcomings that exist in CSI with regard to future goals and aspirations.

"It is the view of the Church of Ireland that CSI fails to articulate a vision of, programme for, or pathway to a genuine reconciled future for Northern Ireland."

The Church appeared to back the view of critics who claim the CSI envisages a 'separate but equal' future for Protestant and Catholic communities.

Its response said: "CSI seeks to promote and maintain a position of equality between two historically divided communities at the expense of community relations and reconciliation.

"The absence of the language of reconciliation is deeply regrettable."

The Church's submission acknowledges that it is important not to overlook the political and social progress made in Northern Ireland over recent years.

But it claimed the CSI document "appears to reflect party political mandates following existing divisions and risks perpetuating the failings of the past at the expense of the future".

It noted the lack of a timeframe for the implementation of some goals and a lack of clarity as to what are goals and what are aspirations, with key areas such as housing and education insufficiently addressed.

The Church said the language used in relation to equality rights, tolerance and prejudice is inconsistent.

The submission also found that the role of the local churches and faith based communities are largely absent from the document.

The Church proposed that "the need for peace and reconciliation should take precedence over party politics" and that "collaborative work must and can be done across political and religious divides".

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