Belfast Telegraph

Stormont racism plan 'needs to be a lot more robust'

By Claire Williamson

More than 20 organisations have joined together to call for Stormont's plan to combat racism to be more "ambitious, far-reaching and robust".

The much-delayed document was launched by the First and Deputy First Ministers in June.

It came after a spate of vicious racist attacks and open intimidation across Belfast.

The group – which includes the Community Relations Council, Equality Commission and the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities –has identified a raft of key issues they have said must be addressed.

These include the need to urgently reform race relations legislation and recognition of the essential contribution Black and Ethnic Minority communities make to Northern Ireland.

They also want a clear action plan to tackle inequality in education, employment, accommodation, health and welfare.

Group spokeswoman Kasia Garbal said: "The Racial Equality Strategy, which has been many years in the making, is intended to be the NI Executive's masterplan for tackling racism, which has become more and more a feature of our society in recent years.

"However, it is clear that the final strategy needs to be more ambitious and requires a much more comprehensive evidence-base and robust action plan.

"There is work to be done to achieve a strategy that is up to the important challenge, and that is why we have come together as a group to produce this document to help organisations and individuals to respond to the consultation."

Community Relations Council chairman Peter Osborne urged politicians to take on board the points in the Common Platform.

"Political leadership like that will help ensure policies are ambitious and far-reaching so that government and civic leaders can deliver actions and services within communities that will make a real difference."

Background

Seven years after work began, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness published their long-awaited proposals on racial equality in June. The strategy was supposed to be the Executive's masterplan for combating racism, yet it has been stalled since 2007. The intended publishing date in 2011 was missed and it has taken until now to produce the draft proposals.

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