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Alliance joins call to overhaul 'shared future' blueprint

By Raymond Kilpatrick

The Alliance Party has thrown its weight behind a campaign to have a flagship strategy aimed at fighting sectarianism in Northern Ireland overhauled.

Last Friday the Belfast Telegraph highlighted the opposition to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) policy in an open letter printed in this newspaper.

In the letter 150 prominent figures from across the province — including experts working in the area of reconciliation — demanded the blueprint be rewritten.

They say it goes nowhere near far enough in tackling divisions in housing and education.

In the letter they argue the First and Deputy First Ministers’ “shared future” blueprint “dispiritingly assumes that Northern Ireland’s conventional politically-driven identities will survive indefinitely — and indeed should command respect”.

And last night the Alliance Party backed those calls, highlighting two aspects of the CSI policy they see as problematic.

Progress on the so-called “shared future” strategy was a key demand from the party before its leader David Ford agreed to take the job of Justice Minister earlier this year. Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said: “Northern Ireland needs a strong policy for tackling divisions and segregation and building a cohesive, shared and integrated community.

“This requirement is particularly pressing at a time of economic and financial challenge. Alliance continues to stress the financial and economic costs of division and the opportunities that would lie in a shared future.”

The CSI strategy, which was unveiled in the summer, pledges to urgently address the “physical and community division created by interfaces” in the province.

Those who signed the letter of opposition included IRA decommissioning witness the Rev Trevor Good, ex-rugby star Trevor Ringland of the Small Step Group, and Catherine McCartney, whose brother Robert was beaten to death outside a Belfast bar in 2005.

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