23/09/2010

Communities Are 'Shared Neighbourhoods'

Fourteen housing areas from across Northern Ireland have been announced as the latest participants in a major £1m initiative designed to support and encourage 'shared neighbourhoods' across Northern Ireland.

The Shared Neighbourhood Programme, which is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and the Department for Social Development and managed by the Housing Executive, works with existing communities.

With the announcement that a further 14 communities have committed to the Programme, its initial aim of developing 30 shared neighbourhoods over a three year period has been achieved. The news means that over 60,000 people in Northern Ireland now live in a shared neighbourhood.

Speaking at the event Social Development Minister Alex Attwood (pictured) said: "The Shared neighbourhood Programme has provided a template for promoting and supporting shared neighbourhoods. I want to take this a step further and embed the ethos of a shared neighbourhood at the heart of housing delivery.

"There is much more to do, driving the need for reconciliation and healing and going forward together. This is a good example of how every citizen and local neighbourhood can show the way."

Also commenting at Wednesday's event, Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland asked Government to learn from the experiences of the Shared Neighbourhood Programme.

He said: "We are marking the very significant achievement of our initial goal of 30 shared neighbourhoods in three years, but we are also mindful that much work still needs to be done in order to help communities here to learn, work and live together as part of a shared and integrated future.

"While we have made great progress as a society in the last decade, we must deal with the reality of living in a society where for the most part we continue to learn, work and live based on traditional sectarian divisions. While sectarian violence may be less of a feature in our daily lives, it still takes great courage to openly commit to becoming a shared neighbourhood.

"The individuals working within the thirty neighbourhoods in the Shared Neighbourhood Programme continue to experience some very real difficulties and challenges in pursuing the vision for their communities."

The 14 communities whose participation in the Shared Neighbourhood Programme was announced today are: Forthspring, Belfast; Mount Vernon & New Lodge, Belfast; The Village, Belfast; Belvoir, Belfast; Sallagh Park, Larne, Co.Antrim; Armoy Village, Co. Antrim; Drumbeg/Drumbawn, Co. Fermanagh; Fivemiletown, Co. Fermanagh; Claudy, Co. Londonderry; Castledawson, Co. Londonderry; Blackhill/Riverside, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone; Killyleagh, Co. Down; Dunmurry, Co. Antrim; and Cavanleck, Co.Fermanagh

All of the participants are already working towards becoming genuinely shared spaces. Participation in the Shared Neighbourhood Programme will provide access to grants to celebrate diversity and bring together people, from all backgrounds, who live in these areas. Participants also benefit from community relations training, community consultations and support to design their own Neighbourhood Charter and deliver their own Good Relations Programme. Practical on the ground support is also provided by the Housing Executive through a dedicated team of Cohesion Advisers.

(GK/KMcA)

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