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T5. Mr Dickson asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister, given the major gap that has appeared in the policy and advocacy role for ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland due to the lack of funding for the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), what the Executive Office will do to ensure that that policy and advocacy role can be fulfilled and to state whether a recovery programme exists for NICEM. (AQT 420/16-21)
I touched on this earlier. The point is that NICEM applied for funding along with everybody else and was not successful. It was given feedback and then appealed the decision, but the original decision was upheld. I would point out that, since NICEM came into existence, a plethora of new organisations has emerged. They represent different ethnic groups across Northern Ireland, and we are a much more diverse place than we ever were before. I do not think that there will be a "gap" in that sense. I think that that gap has been filled by other organisations that are participating with government in the racial equality subgroup. They are making sure that their voices are heard and representing the views. Whilst it is disappointing for NICEM — I paid tribute to Patrick and do so again — a sufficient number of new groups have emerged to make sure that nobody is left behind and that the voice of ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland is heard at the highest level.
I thank the junior Minister for that response. He is correct that a number of new groups have emerged, but I think that the clue is in the title of NICEM: it is the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities. It is the umbrella organisation for all the organisations that he referred to. It is important that that umbrella role is retained in Northern Ireland to represent all those new, emerging voices.
If you talk to representatives of some of the other organisations that have emerged, they will tell you that, sometimes, they saw NICEM not so much as an umbrella, but, increasingly, as in competition with different groups. That is not what it initially set out to be.
I am confident that, through the racial equality subgroup, and through all those different organisations and communities making sure that they work with and implement the racial quality strategy, they will be represented and listened to. Whilst I again acknowledge the role that NICEM has played over many years in Northern Ireland, at times as a lone voice, that is no longer the context in which we operate. We have a number of new organisations that will make sure that that work continues as we move forward.