Focus shifts to peace conference and community projects

After weeks of paramilitary violence and civil unrest the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) is refocusing its efforts on the benefits of the current peace process.

Over the past month, First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan had been involved in countering sectarian agitation, but today marks an attempt to further underscore the benefits of devolved government.

OFMDFM ministers Denis Haughey and James Leslie attended an international conference in Londonderry organised by the Towards Understanding And Healing Project, during which they stressed some of the steps being taken by the devolved administration towards the development of a peaceful society within Northern Ireland.

The conference, entitled 'Peace is Tough', brought together around 200 politicians and political activists from around the world.

Mr Leslie sounded a note of caution saying that the peace process must be given time to withstand the strain of the "inevitable" situations that will occur to "put pressure on that settlement".

He added that some progress has been made towards building the society that "we all wish to see". Mr Leslie was hopeful that the multi-billion pound plan for regeneration unveiled last May by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister would have a significant impact on local communities, which was only made possible by ministers sharing a long-term view.

The Minister continued: "The search for peace is not just the responsibility of politicians. It must involve wider elements of society including business, community and other sectoral interests if it is to be a true and lasting peace.

Mr Haughey reiterated those sentiments and acknowledged that "victims, with justification, may sometimes believe that their suffering is by-passed in the search for peace". He said that we all have a "fundamental duty to ensure that those who have suffered most as a result of conflicts are not denied the benefits of peace”.

Also today, the OFMDFM have announced the allocation of £250,000 funds for north Belfast community programmes. Nine projects are set to benefit and the newly established North Belfast Community Action Unit will administer the funds.

Evelyn Cummins, Head of the North Belfast Community Action Unit, said: “This sends a strong signal that we are determined to make a difference to the communities in north Belfast. These funds will help local people to bring about a better quality of life, working in partnership to develop young people.”


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