Belfast Telegraph

DUP/Sinn Fein plan not fully worked out for shared future

By Liam Clarke and Leslie-Anne McKeown

Two peace groups have raised a note of caution at Sinn Fein and DUP plans for a shared future.

The Community Relations Council (CRC) and the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) have been responding to the document, called Together; Building A United Community, which has not yet been accepted by the other parties who are still considering it.

"We want to give it a fair wind but some ideas are not fully worked out and will need to be fleshed out," a CRC spokesman said.

CRC chairman Tony McCusker pointed out that the other Executive parties had not yet accepted the proposals.

"Anything short of a united stance by the Executive will ... imply the community is expected to achieve a unity which is beyond the politicians," he said.

The CRC will have some of its functions moved to a new body called the Good Relations and Equality Commission if the proposals are implemented.

This new body is built around the Equality Commission, which regulates fair employment.

The CRC warned that it "must be more than a change of name" and questioned whether some of the new body would be able to both act as both an adviser to government and an independent assessor of governments' actions.

A CRC spokesman said it would continue to publish its annual Peace Monitoring Reports, funded by the Rowntree Foundation, regardless of new arrangements.

Meanwhile, the IFI has questioned the feasibility of one the document's headline proposals, to demolish the so called "peace walls" at communal interfaces and trouble spots within 10 years.

Set up in 1986 to promote economic and social advance, and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists, it is mainly funded by contributions from abroad.

"Interface walls can only be removed when the time is right and that time will be determined by the communities themselves," said Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman of the IFI, which has been running a peace walls project as part of a new three-year strategy to tackle segregation and promote reconciliation and integration.

The overall cost of division in 2001 cost Northern Ireland around £1bn.

Dr Johnston said: "As peace building has evolved, so too have the challenges and much work is still needed to address prevailing sectarian tensions. The community transformation strategy recognises the new reality on the ground and looks to support communities that are still affected by the threat of violence. It is particularly focused on addressing the root causes of sectarianism."

Belfast Telegraph


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