Belfast Telegraph

Racial equality strategy is finally launched in Northern Ireland ... after seven-year delay

By Adrian Rutherford

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have published their long-awaited proposals on racial equality – seven years after work began on the document.

The draft strategy will now go out to public consultation.

It is understood the consultation period will run until October.

The First and Deputy First Ministers urged people to make their voices heard.

Peter Robinson said: "Nobody should be judged on the colour of their skin, their political or religious background or race.

"This consultation is an opportunity for all sections of our community to voice their views on how to make Northern Ireland a society that respects diversity.

"The Executive is committed to stamping out all forms of racism and to making Northern Ireland a peaceful and tolerant place where everyone feels welcome and valued," the First Minister added.

Mr McGuinness said the Executive is determined to promote equality, mutual respect and tolerance for all people in society.

"We must develop a society where racial equality and diversity is supported, understood and respected," he said.

"Social, cultural and religious diversity should help build bonds between people not create conflict," he said.

"The Executive is determined to tackle racial inequality head on, however, we can't do this alone.

"Through this consultation document we seek to gather a wide range of views from anyone with an interest in racial equality."

The racial equality strategy was supposed to be the Executive's master plan for combating racism in Northern Ireland, yet it has been stalled since 2007.

The racial equality panel was set up by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's office in November 2010 with the task of overseeing the new revised strategy. From September 2011 until November 2012 the panel didn't meet at all.

The intended publishing date in 2011 was missed and it has taken until now to publish the draft proposals.

The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities welcomed the document's release.

Its executive director, Patrick Yu, said: "Despite the unacceptable delay we are delighted that the Racial Equality Strategy is now out for public consultation.

"If Northern Ireland is to enjoy a prosperous peaceful future we need a robust Racial Equality Strategy that is evidence based and grounded in human rights and equality standards.

"Such a strategy must have clear targets, action plans and be adequately resourced for full implementation."

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