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OFMDFM “Shared Future” proposals do not reflect modern NI

May 17, 2013

In the latest “Together Building a United Community” proposals from OFMDFM there remains very little detail, but also a particular concern that a “united community” concerns only bringing together “Protestants” and “Catholics”. This does not reflect the reality of modern Northern Ireland.

Firstly, modern Northern Ireland, not least in inner-city areas, is also home to recent immigrants from other countries and to people who simply cannot be reasonably identified as “Protestant” or “Catholic”. Implicit in what little we have seen of the proposals is that people who do not neatly fit into one “side” or the other should be forgotten about. This simply does not reflect the contemporary situation.

Secondly, there is more to the issue than faith. For example, not only is the sectarian divide reinforced by the education system, but so is the class divide – is there any chance of agreement on education reform? Health inequalities continue as a marker of social and economic disparities – is there any chance of a serious anti-poverty strategy? There are often rivalries merely between neighbourhoods. Segregation exists along many more lines that the “traditional” ones. What have the proposals to say about all of this?

A serious set of “Shared Future” proposals would pay a lot more attention to the reality of the present. There is a lot of positive work going on in community relations, but the challenge is to bring people together in a “united community” from all sorts of backgrounds, not just along a single dividing line. That is the objective – can our political leaders rise to it?

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