Belfast Telegraph

Robinson raps shared future critics

Peter Robinson has rounded on his political critics during a shared future debate at Stormont.

The First Minister claimed they were stalling on the issue during a fractious debate at the Assembly.

The DUP leader and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have announced proposals including dismantling all Northern Ireland's peace walls within a decade and measures encouraging shared education and living.

Mr Robinson said: "I am fed up to the back teeth with the foot dragging, the whinging, the stalling, sometimes even an attempt to politick and posture." He added: "Of course we want everybody to come with us on this journey. If they don't, they should step aside."

He said the leaders were doing what the community wanted. "The community wants us to move forward. The very heart of this is good relations, wanting to see our community as one, united and moving forward. I believe that we do have a generation that is keen to see change and is urging politicians to move forward," he said.

The First Minister accused some critics of pontificating about a shared future and alleged they leaked anything said in confidence. Among the plans unveiled last week is the target of bringing down all of Northern Ireland's peace walls by 2023. Another project is to establish a "united youth programme" in which 10,000 people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training would be given a one-year placement with a stipend. The three components of the programme would be good relations, good citizenship and steps into work.

An all-party group with an independent chairman is to be established to deal with contentious issues like flags and a good relations strategy is to be published next week.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said: "We are becoming depressed by the poverty of ambition coming from OFMDFM on their plans for a shared future. The plans that were outlined last week fall well short of what is needed to deliver a genuine shared future for everyone." SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said the public must be consulted on the proposals. "It is abundantly clear from this morning's performance that the First Minister is both unhappy and uncomfortable allowing scrutiny and taking difficult questions on his own proposals," he added.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: "The First Minister says he has received positive feedback since the announcement last week, but I can tell him I was at a meeting in north Belfast last night and the only comment was negative, concerning the community's fears that the peace walls that make them feel safe will be demolished without their consent."

Jennifer McCann, Sinn Fein OFMDFM junior minister, said at an equality conference: "Our vision is a united community based on equality of opportunity, the desirability of good relations and reconciliation."


From Belfast Telegraph