Belfast Telegraph

Community relations 'key to agenda'

Good community relations should be an integral part of the equality agenda, Presbyterian Moderator Norman Hamilton has said.

Dr Hamilton responded to the Northern Ireland Executive's proposals on cohesion, sharing and integration.

"I want to make a clear call for a change to the equality legislation so that good community relations are an integral part with the same standing as other parts of the equality agenda," he said.

"The equality agenda has clearly brought huge benefits to us all by increasing opportunity and outlawing discrimination. It is self evidently clear that good relations cannot be built on inequality."

He said equality can be delivered with little apparent improvement in good relations.

"This is a dangerous position to be in, for it takes us in the direction of wanting, making - even turning - our society into a relationship free zone, and one that is dominated by the impact of law, tribunals, commissions, and monitoring," he added.

Dr Hamilton described the Executive paper on cohesion, sharing and integration as hugely disappointing.

"The strategy was fatally flawed at the outset because the very people who would be at the centre of delivering a cohesive and integrated society were excluded from its design.

"And since it looks increasingly unlikely that they can be brought on board for its delivery, then surely this strategy document is all but dead, with little hope of it being resuscitated."

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