14/05/2019

Study Calls For Stormont Dept To Tackle Sectarianism

A new report has recommended that a dedicated government department is set up to tackle sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

The 50-page review by Ulster University contains proposals on how various sectors, including Government, business, trade unions, education, the community and voluntary sector, policing and justice and the arts can work collectively to foster a greater collaboration and understanding across communities.

A civic body to inform the debate on community reconciliation, the creation of a Youth Assembly to give young people a voice and consideration to lowering the voting age to 16, and a practical commitment from the main churches and faith groups to engage further and support others in anti-sectarianism projects also form part of the recommendations.

The proposals were compiled after extensive consultation with a range of sectors by Professor Duncan Morrow on behalf of a committee administering the Sir George Quigley Fund - a fund created by Ulster Bank to promote social wellbeing in honour of its former chairman who also had a distinguished career as a senior civil servant and leader before he passed away in 2013.

They also include Business Community Support for the funding of cross-community programmes including the establishment of a fund for community and social benefit and progress, the inclusion of anti-sectarianism projects in Corporate Social Responsibility programmes and a cross-community initiative that promotes technology and tech innovation.
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The review was launched at a conference at Ulster University's Belfast campus today, Tuesday 14 May, by Senator George Mitchell who was involved in shaping the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This brought a cross-section of leaders together to propose effective coordination of all anti-sectarianism projects for maximum, sustained impact.

The recommendations also include proposals to build further on the role and impact of sport and the arts, to include festivals of diversity and participation in alternative and non-traditional sports across communities.

Report author Professor Duncan Morrow commented: "The deeply tragic events of recent weeks sharpen the focus on just how dangerously close we remain to this residual threat. The young people taking part reflect the hope and optimism that we all hold for Northern Ireland, but we have a duty of care and leadership to ensure that the expectation, aspiration and potential of the next and future generations is met and not stifled by sectarian polarisation. We hope that the Review's recommendations will make possible the step change needed."

Ronnie Kells, who chairs the Quigley Fund committee, added: "We acknowledge the extremely positive contribution made over the years by many individuals and organisations to address sectarianism, often working silently and unrecognised. Regrettably sectarianism still lingers at the heart of our society and acts as a barrier to prosperity and as an insult to a civilised community This scourge of several generations will persist unless resolute and sustained action is taken to address it. Everyone has a role to play in addressing this problem- it is not the sole responsibility of government or for the political parties in Northern Ireland. Civic society needs to work with them to ensure it is placed at the top of the public agenda alongside the economy as a key priority. We trust that our conference will help to establish the foundations for a credible solution driven by collegiate and concerted civic leadership and action."



(JG/CM)

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