Belfast Telegraph

Split on how to tackle sectarianism

Political talks aimed at tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland have been rocked after government ministers publicly clashed on the issue.

Alliance leader David Ford, who holds the sensitive Justice portfolio, pulled his party out of negotiations claiming the DUP and Sinn Fein were merely creating the "illusion" of progress.

The row has now escalated after First Minister Peter Robinson rejected the criticism, accusing the Alliance Party of failing to compromise and branding his government colleague "boycotter Ford".

The split comes as the DUP and Sinn Fein are also under pressure over a north Belfast redevelopment plan which critics claim has failed to meet the chronic need for housing in the area's Catholic community.

Mr Ford said the case was an example of a carve-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein taking the place of allocation on the basis of need. Sinn Fein said the deal had secured progress after a long stand-off with the DUP's housing minister and accused the Alliance Party of holding a minority view on the way to deal with division.

But Mr Ford said: "This plan is about the further segregation of housing under a purely notional framework of sharing. It exposes the real dangers of the reality of new policy commitments not matching the rhetoric deployed.

"We have now lost our faith in the integrity and value of this process. This must be a debate for the whole society, because it is about our future. From now on, we believe that the debate about how we achieve a genuinely shared future should take place in public, not behind closed doors. No more illusions."

Mr Robinson hit back and said he was surprised and disappointed.

"Throughout this process there has been political sniping by David Ford, along with no serious attempt by his party to achieve a shared agreement on good relations," said the DUP leader.

"In addition, the Alliance Party requested a delay or postponement of the meetings on at least seven occasions despite David Ford questioning the commitment of others. The Alliance party only produced a list of so-called 'red line' issues at the meeting on Monday despite sitting at the working group since last September."

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