26/02/2003

Racial inequality forum launched for NI

A new race relations forum for Northern Ireland is among a number of measures introduced by the government yesterday aimed at tackling racial inequalities in the province.

The measures also include the publication of the Northern Ireland Race Equality Strategy consultation and the publication of the government's response to the recommendations of the Promoting Social Inclusion Working Group Report on Travellers.

Speaking at Parliament Buildings, NIO Equality Minister Des Browne said: "This package of measures gives a clear signal to everyone that we are committed to taking forward the work already commenced in tackling the inequalities faced by people from so-called minority ethnic communities."

The Northern Ireland Race Equality Strategy is designed to alleviate the many difficulties faced by minority ethnic people and lays out suggestions for the implementation of the final strategy.

The government's response to the Promoting Social Inclusion Working Group Report on Travellers follows on from the 33 detailed recommendations laid out in the Promoting Social Inclusion Working Group Report on Travellers. This Report made specific recommendations for improving the disadvantage faced by members of the Traveller Community.

The Race Forum, details of which are contained within the Race Equality Strategy, will provide an opportunity for statutory and community/voluntary organisations to work in partnership on the development of a finalised strategy and its action plan. It is hoped that the first meeting of the Forum will be held this Spring and at that meeting several thematic groups will be established to give specialised focus to particular issues.

Des Browne added: "I am determined that suspension will not delay further the realisation of the vision developed by the Executive… it is vital that all stakeholders are prepared to engage fully with the process in an imaginative and innovative manner. We must approach all the issues from a fresh perspective and with an open mind."

The SDLP equality spokesperson Patricia Lewsley welcomed the move as an "important and positive step forward".

(GMcG)

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