Belfast Telegraph

Troubles tensions 'at heart of racism problems'

By Chris Kilpatrick

A leaked draft report detailing a 10-year strategy to tackle the scourge of racism blames underlying sectarian tensions from the Troubles.

The draft report, A Sense Of Belonging: Delivering Social Change Through A Racial Equality Strategy For Northern Ireland 2014-2024, was prepared by the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers and sets out six "shared aims" to combat and eliminate racial inequality in Northern Ireland.

The strategy was first discussed seven years ago. A draft of the report states racism here – which has soared over the past two years – is part of the fallout from the Troubles and sectarianism.

Attitudes created during the Troubles are now impacting on minority communities here, the report says.

And it is warned "unresolved tension" will continue while a "one size fits all" approach is taken to immigration at Westminster.

"We acknowledge the link between sectarianism and racism, and we recognise that we cannot hope to tackle one without tackling the other," the authors said.

"The Executive will continue to work towards an immigration policy that recognises and takes account of our different needs and concerns here."

The report – leaked to BBC's The View – follows calls from politicians to "get serious about sectarianism and racism".

Peter Osborne, chair of the Community Relations Council, said it was vital the strategy be "robust and courageous".

"There has certainly been an increase in race hate and I'm not entirely sure why that is.

"We need to have a co-ordinated approach to it. The fact we haven't a racial equality strategy, still, after seven years is an indictment of government," he said.

If accepted by the main parties, the strategy will go out for consultation shortly.

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