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Cost of division too high to bear

Protesters on Belfast's Twaddell Avenue and Crumlin Road have just celebrated 500 days of protest. In the same time, the cost of policing them has risen to £12m. We should use this milestone as an opportunity to reflect on causes and costs of a divided society.

I belong to a generation who were spared the most violent aspects of the Troubles. Yet, I still live in a deeply divided society. Our schools, communities and political parties remain segregated down religious and cultural lines. It is no wonder that tension and mistrust still exist.

The overall price of division is huge. We pay for separate schools, leisure centres, community groups and health care facilities. An independent report put the annual cost of the divide at £1.5bn.

But it's easy to be critical and more difficult to agree solutions. That said, we can agree on a future focused on fully integrating our communities. We must have shared housing, schools and services, to ensure we live in a united, peaceful and prosperous society.

JASON O'NEILL

Alliance Party candidate North Belfast

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