North's Community Relations Policy In Disarray

The DUP has said a Sinn Féin paper on community relations is "not a basis for building trust or confidence".

Just days after the former NI top cop, Sir Hugh Orde expressed his disappointment that "the shared future strategy is not right at the top of the public agenda", the DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson has responded to the publication of the republican party's policy document "pertaining to the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy".

He said in a press statement today that the DUP has taken the step of publishing "for public consumption" the late 2008 draft of the strategy to demonstrate the key differences from Sinn Féin's latest policy position, as unveiled by SF's Martina Anderson.

Yesterday, they released their document after the DUP had previously accused them of holding up the Stormont Executive strategy on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.

As a result, Jeffrey Donaldson said a shared future was not "created by imposing their template rather than a template based on a broad consensus".

In response, Sinn Féin said they are not to blame for delaying the Executive strategy.

But Mr Donaldson said it demonstrated "key differences" and noted: "The policy document which Sinn Féin has launched has been approved and cleared by nobody but Sinn Féin," he said.

"Whereas the document which I am making available for public consumption has been formulated through intensive discussions over a substantial period of time not only inside OFMDFM but also, amongst the Community Relations Council, the Equality Commission and representatives of the ethnic minority community," he explained.

Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin spokesperson on equality, launched the party's 43-page document after First Minister Peter Robinson blamed SF for a long delay in publishing the community relations strategy.

Ms Anderson said there was "justifiable concern" about the delay and that political recrimination was wrong. She called for "mature political leadership" from all parties.

She added that her party was committed to an approach based on equality before adding: "Unfortunately this has not always been forthcoming from all parties."

She insisted the substance of the paper reflected the party's approach in engagements with the DUP and was "a genuine effort to agree an appropriate cross-party Executive strategy".

Earlier, the Executive's failure to produce a community relations strategy was criticised by the former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde in an interview he gave just before he left his job.

As reported on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "It's hugely disappointing the shared future strategy is not right at the top of the public agenda. It hardly seems to be on the agenda at all."

Meanwhile, there continues to be disagreement over devolving powers over policing and justice to Stormont, following an only partially successful trip to Downing Street yesterday.

See: Still No Justice Agreement


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