Community Relations Week 2011

Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 6 June 2011.

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Photo of Sydney Anderson Sydney Anderson DUP 2:30, 6 June 2011

2. asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister for their assessment of the success of Community Relations Week 2011.  (AQO 2/11-15)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Members will be aware of the programme of events that were organised to mark community relations week during the last week of May. I know that many Members attended those events. The annual programme has now passed its ninth year and has steadily grown to a point where, this year, over 150 events took place across Northern Ireland. Its aim is to highlight the issues and challenges facing our diverse communities. Junior Minister Bell and junior Minister Anderson attended the forum for cities in transition, where they had the opportunity to address and engage with local and international delegates. Junior Minister Bell also addressed community relations week’s flagship event, the Community Relations Council’s annual policy conference. There, he reinforced the Executive’s commitment to bring forward policies and funding opportunities that will seek to reduce division and deprivation within our communities while encouraging economic growth and employability.

I was particularly pleased to join over 400 members of the local community from differing political and ethnic backgrounds who were participating in a football-fest organised by Charter for Northern Ireland and supported by Belfast City Council. That event highlighted the power of sport in developing relationships and improving understanding between our local communities and diverse cultures.

The community relations week serves as a reminder of the good work of countless community groups, volunteers and public bodies who are committed to tackling the problems of division in our communities. It gives fresh impetus to the determination that most of us share to eradicate the divisions and hatreds that prevent so many from enjoying the benefits of the peaceful, prosperous and fair society that we are continuing to build.

I thank publicly all those who contributed to community relations week. I congratulate them on the success of their events and wish them well in the progression of their future projects.

Photo of Sydney Anderson Sydney Anderson DUP

I thank the First Minister for his detailed answer. Building on the kind of community relations that most people desire is part of a process that has not yet been completed and which can be affected, positively or negatively, by all manner of events on the ground. Given the number of public inquiries and apologies that have come from the United Kingdom Government in relation to the past in Northern Ireland

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Please come to a question.

Photo of Sydney Anderson Sydney Anderson DUP

Does the First Minister agree that the decision taken recently by the Dublin Government to guillotine the workings of the Smithwick inquiry has the potential to set community relations back? Rather than trying to draw a veil over this involvement in the Troubles, there needs to be a full inquiry to benefit relations with Northern Ireland.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

There are many issues occurring within and impacting on our community that have an effect on the relationship. As far as the matter that the Member refers to is concerned, I spoke with the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter. We talked about the issue, and he has given me an assurance that there will be no curtailing of the activities of the inquiry and that the dates had been set with the views of the Smithwick inquiry people taken into account.

I think that everybody recognises that the first people to be on their feet complaining if there were curtailment of any of the inquiries that were being carried out in this jurisdiction would be those in the Irish Republic. People are right to be alert to those issues and to make it clear that there is an obligation to ensure that the inquiry is handled in a fair and transparent manner. Those who have questions should be given every opportunity to ask them, and the representatives of the two families involved should not be restricted in any way in how they take forward the issues that their solicitors will bring to the inquiry. We will continue to monitor events, but I have a firm assurance from the Justice Minister.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I join the First Minister in congratulating all those who were involved in the very successful community relations week. Given that a more robust CSI strategy was one of the recommendations from community relations week, will the First Minister confirm when the CSI consultation responses and their independent analysis will be made available to the OFMDFM Committee?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

For all of us, every week should be community relations week. I hope that the Member will play his part in that.

As far as the CSI strategy is concerned, a meeting took place among party leaders after the election and before the appointment of Ministers. At that meeting, we discussed a number of policy issues that had not been resolved, one of which was the CSI initiative. We agreed that a representative from each of the five parties in the Assembly will look at the timetable and the key issues involved. As far as the OFMDFM Committee is concerned, the deputy First Minister and I gave a commitment to provide it with all the submissions that have been made. At present, we are carrying out an analysis of the submissions, which we intend to publish along with a commentary on them. The analysis should be available on our website and can be made available to any Member who wants it.

Photo of Colum Eastwood Colum Eastwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

Given that community relations week is run by the Community Relations Council, what role will it play in taking forward the Department’s work on a shared future?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

The Community Relations Council has played a pivotal role. Obviously, the future role of the Community Relations Council will be more closely defined when the Assembly as a whole looks at the CSI strategy.