Time for Change...
With regard to community relations there has been a growing sense of foreboding that there is not much political will to get beyond the much touted "benign apartheid" that we currently experience (no matter what statements are made to the choir about Catholic schools by the First Minister). Many within the group have particularly expressed grave concerns regarding the current DUP/Sinn Fein-drafted consultation document on "Cohesion, Sharing and Integration" (CSI Belfast... "We will be fooled again"), with many believing that the proposed strategy not deliver a shared future... To that end the following open letter was drafted for interested parties to add their names to. It has recieved a significant amount of coverage today both in print and on TV and Radio... The question is, will the First and Deputy First Minister's pay any attention?
We, citizens of Northern Ireland from diverse backgrounds, believe that the only viable future for this region is as an integrated society in which individuals are free to define their unique identities in their interactions with others, in a culture of tolerance which can enrich the lives of all.
In this context, we express our deep dissatisfaction with the poverty of vision in the consultation document Cohesion, Sharing and Integration, which holds out only a future of sustained segregation, defying the clear public aspiration that we live, work and are educated in common.
The document dispiritingly assumes that Northern Ireland's conventional politically-driven identities will survive indefinitely - and, indeed, should command respect - without regard to the much more fluid multi-ethnic and multi-faith world we now inhabit.
In particular, we express concern that the consultation document threatens the abolition of the Community Relations Council, whose arm's-length status from political control allows it to address all aspects of the challenge of intolerance - funding, research and development - in an holistic manner, in dialogue with practitioners.
We call for the rewriting of this document, in collaboration with independent experts, with clear aims and objectives and concrete programmes and projects to realise them.
We are conscious that no issue can currently be discussed outside of the economic crisis and the prospect of unprecedented public expenditure cuts.
This makes it imperative that Northern Ireland become a culturally dynamic and open society, with effective and efficient public services accessible to all.
Declan Allison, Nigel Arnold, Cllr Tim Attwood, Prof Arthur Aughey, Fergal Barr, Rebecca Bell, Michael Boyd, Paula Bradshaw, Dr Fran Brearton, Orna Brennan, Prof John Brewer, David Brown, Dr Dominic Bryan, Richard Buchanan, Eileen Cairnduff, Tom Cairns, Rev David Campton, Martin Carter, Eileen Chan-Hu, Sue Christie, Paul Collins, Laura Coulter, Keith Crossan, Kerena Crowe, Dave Cullen, Jude Cumiskey, Seamus Davis, Eamonn Deane, Prof Brice Dickson, Sam Donaldson, Damian Donnelly, Jonathon Donnelly, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Karin Eyben, Seamus Farrell, Stephen Farry MLA, Niall Fitzduff, Prof Frank Gaffikin, Prof Tony Gallagher, Neil Galway, Dr Gladys Ganiel, David Gardiner, Chris Gibson, Roz Goldie, Rev Harold Good, Darragh Graham, Edwin Graham, Mahvash Graham, Eva Grossman, Brandon Hamber, Harry Hamilton, Katie Hanlon, Derek Hanway, Dr Jeremy Harbison, Gemma Harkin, Gareth Harper, Afnan Hashemi-Zadeh, Paul Haslam, Dr Katy Hayward, Maureen Hetherington, James Holmlund, Prof Joanne Hughes, Richard Irvine, Dr Neil Jarman, John Kelly, Prof Liam Kennedy, Tony Kennedy, David Kerr, Lauren Kerr, Libby Keys, Alastair Kilgore, Heather Kilgore, Irene Kingston, John Kyle, Colm Larkin, Trevor Lindsay, Leon Litvack, Liam Logan, Prof Edna Longley, John Lowry, Anna McAlister, Damian McAteer, Alan McBride, Eamonn McCallion, Claire McCann, Catherine McCartney, Brian McClinton, Andrew McCracken, Alan McCully, Tony McCusker, Conall McDevitt MLA, Philip McDonagh, Paul McErlean, Gary McFarlane, Karen McFarlane, Robert McGarry, Dympna McGlade, Julian McGrath, Mary McKee, Nuala McKeever, Bebhinn McKinley, Dr Helen McLaughlin, Margaret Lee, Karen McMinn, Tony McMullan, Peter McNeice, Dr Sara Dybris McQuaid, Sinead McShane, Ellen McVea, Barry Magee, Alan Mains, Bill Manwaring, James Marshall, Dr John Milliken, Sheila Mitchell, Ann Moffett, Ciara Moorehead, Neill Morton, Robin Morton, Ray Mullan, Dr Joanne Murphy, Yvonne Naylor, Kevin Neary, Cllr Deirdre Nelson, Dr Paul Nolan, Anne Odling-Smee, David Oldfield, John Peacock, Ian Parsley, Kate Pettis, Claire Pierson, Micheal Poyner, Alexander Redpath, Les Reid, Norman Richardson, Trevor Ringland, Yvonne Robinson, Andrew Scott, Brian Scott, Noel Sheehy, Gerry Skelton, James Smyth, Paul Smyth, Sam Somerville, Denis Stewart, Robin Stuart, Dan Sweeney, Sara Templer, Gerry Tubritt, Deirdre Vincent, Brian Walker, Maeve Walsh, Sinead Walsh, Michael Wardlow, Cllr Billy Webb, Tony Weekes, Philip Whyte, Lisa White, Prof Rick Wilford, Dr Robin Wilson, John Woods, Denise Wright