15/01/2004

Belfast City Council launches 'good relations' strategy

Belfast City Council has launched a strategy aimed at helping stamp out racism and sectarianism in the city.

The new strategy, which is titled ‘Good Relations Strategy – Building Our Future Together’, was drawn up by the Good Relations Steering Panel, which included councillors from all parties, council officers, church leaders, trade unions, business leaders and the Community Relations Council.

The strategy aims to promote fair treatment, understanding and respect for people of all cultures and faiths across the city.

Belfast's Lord Mayor, Martin Morgan welcomed the new strategy. Speaking at the launch at the City Hall, he said: “The vision for Belfast outlined in this strategy is an ambitious one. It is for a city where people can live and work together with respect and understanding and without fear or mistrust.

“Recent racist attacks in our city and the ever present spectre of sectarian conflict must by rooted out as it has a detrimental effect on our ability to attract visitors, tourists and inward investment.”

However, Councillor Morgan recognised that implementing the strategy would not be easy: “There will be many challenges and difficulties along the way and we have some very controversial issues to deal with, both inside the Council and in the city. But we must give leadership, grasp the nettle and be brave enough to face up to our responsibilities.

Councillor Tom Ekin, who chairs the Good Relations Steering Panel added: “The council has already set up a Good Relations Unit and appointed two officers to lead our work and develop contact with a wide variety of community and voluntary groups in Belfast. In addition, all council employees will be trained in community relations and cultural diversity issues.

“We have also set up a Good Relations Fund, amounting to £220,000 this year, which will promote community relations and celebrate cultural diversity in this area.

“I am pleased to report that we have already received applications for excellent projects including promoting community relations work for young people in North Belfast, tackling sectarianism in sport and celebrating cultural awareness.”

Councillor Ekin concluded: “Making a difference in Belfast will be a slow process but I believe we have a real opportunity to make a difference, to move forward and to help us all to build a better Belfast, built on positive community relations.”

(KMcA)

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