Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Ford's stance right over shared future

For a senior politician David Ford doesn't handle criticism well, often going into defensive mode or threatening to walk away leaving chaos in his wake.

But his decision to pull the party out of a committee discussing the way forward on combating sectarianism and division in this province seems a justifiable one. Alliance is concerned that the two major parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, are not really serious about coming up with a viable and constructive document on building a shared future.

While no one has seen the new Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy, the two major parties have form to back up Alliance's claim. Their previous attempt to draft a strategy was rejected in a public consultation exercise two years ago and the feeling remains that neither of the major parties wants to confront their constituents with hard choices which could be unpopular.

Of course Alliance is also bristling over remarks by the First and Deputy First Ministers which claimed that Alliance was the stumbling block in coming up with a new strategy. Mr Ford obviously does not want to end up like former Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey who was pilloried for his policies, which were later quietly adopted when a DUP Minister took the post. Alliance is not going to be anyone's fall guy and the party's stance poses a challenge to the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Any new strategy must move beyond wishful thinking and nice sound bites about the need to live together in harmony. It must include targets, take risks and challenge all sides of the community to resolve differences in a constructive way. In fairness to the politicians they have given a lead, but they must also confront those who are not prepared to follow that lead, even if they are their own supporters. Alliance, given its history, has the most believable record on integration and sharing and it is now up to the other parties to show that they are wholehearted in their attempt to create a new cohesive society.

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