Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Alliance Party share vision for future

OFMDFM say that releasing the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy, that has been ongoing, through consultation on the draft then review, almost as long as I have been back in Northern Ireland, at a time that all three are breaking down is the wrong timing. However, today the Alliance Party have issued they vision of what that shared future should be.

The main points, as highlighted in The Executive Summary, that they look to cover are:
  • Economics of a Shared Future
  • A Shared Approach to Education
  • Sharing the Spaces in which we Live, Work and Play
  • A Shared Culture
Yes flags are part of what they have to say but they have placed it after the economy, our young people and their education, housing and public space.

They have said that public space does not mean neutral space, in that there should not be no go areas for anyone. Now currently for those that are respectful of other cultures, and that is something that the document also points out there being more than two, are able to freely go about wherever they choose. Of course the Belfast Agreement allows anyone to identify as British, Irish or both (there has since been an increasing growth in those that identify as neither).

On the subject of cultures the Alliance Party lay out that:

The language of "two communities" or "both communities" always ignored people who either could not, or would not, be simply labelled as unionists or nationalists, Protestants or Catholics. Some come from mixed marriages, are part of ethnic minorities, or simply choose not to be described in such terms, preferring a more complex, multicultural and pluralist self-identification. Many Protestants and Catholics, and unionists and nationalists, often have more in common with people across the perceived 'divide' than they do with each other. Above all, violence in support of the 'two communities' idea has forced generations of people into choices about security which have embedded hatred and condemned others to silence and marginalisation.

Our community is becoming increasingly diverse. The old simplicity that there are two sorts of people here, where Protestant = British = Unionist, or Catholic = Irish = Nationalist, can no longer be the basis of progress. The emerging vision of a united community, based on both equality and good relations, allows for a society at ease with its diversity. We recognise within this context that some people may adopt multiple identities. The increase in the numbers of people describing themselves as 'Northern Irish' in the 2011 Census is indicative of this rapid change.

The arrival of new minorities has changed the visible face of our towns and cities and brought new opportunities and challenges. The emergence of other identities, such as the vibrant Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, which cut across the traditional divide, has marked a clear and positive shift in attitudes, and the importance of change to address issues of disability now shapes public policy and
expectations. Society stands to benefit in a situation where people can hold open, mixed and multiple identities, can experience different cultures and express their individual creatively. We now have a new opportunity which we cannot afford to miss.

Therein lies an issue that the majority of our parties do not find it easy to step away from. Their politics, and political thinking has been defined in purely them and us opposites. But I know from being part of that LGBT community most especially that in order for those types of situations that do not fit into the historic them and us situations that people are able to work together to achieve what they need to.

This should apply to the lack of jobs in our inner city working class areas, whether on the Newtownards Road or off the Falls Road. The should apply to housing which has become ghettoised since the late 60s. Growing up in the area of Bangor I did with a Catholic Church and school nearby and Catholic neighbours meant I knew they were no different from me. They bled from football injuries, just as they would go in hard for the tackle like us. They also served in the RUC (as was) just like my great grandfather had in the RIC in often tense situations where their lives where in danger sometimes from their own community.

Some things are certain though. If we cannot work out a way to live together, we cannot maximise our economic potential. If we cannot live beside each other, we will only further entrench our fears and not move on from our past. If we cannot let our children learn beside each other before they turn up at University, it will be another generation that reaches adulthood in ignorance of the diversity of culture that we live in.Without respect for our differences we are nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment