Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We must find a way to heal old divisions

Given the troubled history of Northern Ireland it is hardly surprising that finding a collective vision on how to develop a shared future is a daunting task.

Just because violence, by and large, has ceased does not mean that the sectarian divisions of the past have been forgotten or bridged. While recognising the difficulties in forging a new cohesive, united society, it is still disappointing that the blueprint produced by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has received such a universal thumbs down.

This document has had a very long gestation period, but the time spent on it does not appear to have been well spent. Those who work in the field of community relations and trying to achieve community harmony feel it is not fit for purpose and requires radical surgery. That is scathing criticism from those working on the front line although it has to be accepted that no matter what vision is proposed, it will have its critics.

On the credit side at least there is a document on the table and it contains some strategies which could form the basis of the way forward. While there have been calls from some critics for the politicians to show greater leadership on the issue, the politicians can point out the strides they made in creating a devolved power-sharing administration with former sworn enemies now working hand in hand. That, perhaps, has been the most encouraging development of recent years and sets an example for the rest of society to follow.

But the politicians should also listen to their critics and attempt to involve as wide a range of people as possible in turning the blueprint into a strategy for the future which everyone can buy into. As it stands, it falls some way short of community acceptance. Sharing living spaces, schools and facilities and acknowledging and accepting each other's cultural icons are essential ingredients for a shared future and those issues should not be dodged or ignored.

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