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Promoting  Good Relations Locally:  Experiences from  Northern Ireland Aisling Lyon, University of Bradford
Overview of Presentation <ul><li>Background to promoting good community  relations locally in Northern Ireland </li></ul><...
1a) Background: N. Ireland Act (1998) “ 75 (1)  A public authority shall ... have due regard to the need to  promote equal...
1b) ‘A Shared Future’ (2005) “ The Government’s vision for the future of Northern Ireland is for a peaceful, inclusive,   ...
1b) ‘A Shared Future’ <ul><ul><li>“ ... t ransformation of local communities requires action at the local level ” </li></u...
2a) North Downs Borough Council <ul><li>Eastern part of Northern Ireland,    close to the capital Belfast; </li></ul><ul><...
2b) Good Relations Working Group <ul><li>Members are elected councillors, selected in    accordance with the political mak...
2b) Good Relations Working Group <ul><li>Excerpts from the Good Relations 3-Year Action Plan: </li></ul><ul><li>Undertake ...
3) Some General Observations <ul><li>Good Relations Working Group is an integral, high    profile part of the municipality...
<ul><li>Thank you. </li></ul><ul><li>Aisling Lyon, PhD Candidate </li></ul><ul><li>Department of Peace Studies  </li></ul>...
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Promoting Good Relations Locally in NI - Aisling Lyon

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Promoting Good Relations Locally in NI - Aisling Lyon

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  • “ 75 (1) A public authority shall, in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland, have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity: a) between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation; b) between men and women generally; c) between persons with a disability and persons without ... (2) ... public authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group. _____ The remit is wider – good relations in general, not just inter-ethnic (recognises that there are also intra-ethnic disputes and also between other parts of the community)
  • Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland - March 2005 The policy starts by setting out the government’s vision for the future of Northern Ireland.   The Government’s vision for the future of Northern Ireland is for a peaceful, inclusive, prosperous, stable and fair society firmly founded on the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust and the protection and vindication of human rights for all. It will be founded on partnership, equality and mutual respect as a basis of good relationships.
  • It says: “ While actions to promote good relations between and within communities in Northern Ireland will be driven forward by central government, transformation of local communities requires action at the local level. ”   Creation of a national Good Relations Challenge Programme – a permanent programme for the promotion of good relations in municipalities. Each municipality to develop a 3 year local good relations plan. The plan will be linked to the Government’s wider action plan on promoting good relations throughout Northern Ireland There is no legal requirement for municipalities to have Community Relations Officers of committees, but in order for them to get community relations funding from the government, they need to have them. And so, currently all 26 municipalities have them.
  • It’s a pretty typical municipality and there is no special reason why I am using this example as a case study, apart from that I happen to know someone who is a local councillor there and was happy to talk about how the municipality promotes good relations!
  • 2nd point - Community representatives are often invited to also participate in meetings and to provide expert knowledge on issues discussed; This varies from municipality to municipality. In Belfast City Council, for example, community representatives are formal members, in addition to locally elected representatives. It has 22 members – 6 are local councillors and the rest represent local faith groups, NGOs and the business sector, who apply for the position and are selected by current committee members. Members are elected councillors: why? Northern Ireland is a heavily politicised society and most people hold strong political views. According to one member of this Group, he thought it was naive to think that local community members would not be politicised or manipulated by the political parties. If this is the case, he said, why not have everything out in the open and let the membership include local councillors? The advantage to this, he thinks, is that the municipal council is obliged to take direct responsibility to promoting good community relations and can therefore be held accountable for what they do. By being a direct part of the municipal council, the work of the Group is taken seriously by the municipal council and its work is held to account. It also means that the Group receives the necessary administrative support to make things happen. - Having elected representatives involved in discussing potentially contentious issues in a formal, democratic way also means that the discussion of such issues is transparent and this helps re-establish trust within a diverse community and between political parties. Such an approach also helps build the capacity of political leaders to be able to have such discussions with rival parties in a constructive, democratic way. Support from the Good Relations Officer: “doesn’t think the Group would function without them” The support of the Good Relations Officer is really essential. They form the bridge between the Working Group members and the local community, and between meetings the Officer is out meeting people in the local community and identifying issues for the Working Group to discuss. They also allow things to happen between meetings – recommendations are followed up.
  • First point, for example, in Northern Irish history the anniversary of a lot of sensitive political events are coming up soon. 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War (July – November 1916), which is a date very important for the Protestant community as many Northern Irish soldiers died defending the British Empire overseas. 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising (April 1916) – an attempt by Irish Republicans to rise up again British rule in Ireland and to establish an independent Irish Republic – obviously important for Irish Catholics, which Protestants would remember this as a time the Catholics betrayed the British Empire. The Group discusses how best to commemorate history events which are still very much contested in society in a constructive way.
  • Good Relations Working Group is an integral, high profile part of the municipality’s agenda; - Initially, I was surprised that members of Working Group were elected councillors, but I can see the advantages this arrangements brings. The work of the Good Relations Working Group is taken seriously – is given the profile it deserves – and becomes an integral part of the municipality’s work. Acknowledgement that ‘good relations’ is not just about promoting good relations between different groups, but also within them. In Northern Ireland, for example, relations within the two main communities are sometimes more intense than they are between them. It also recognises that the responsibility to promote positive community relations is not just the responsibility of those with ethnically mixed communities, but for everyone. (Note all 26 municipalities in Northern Ireland are legally required to promote good relations, not just those with particularly diverse local communities. Good Relations Officers are essential for the effectiveness of the Working Group: “they can’t function without them.” Local activity plans form part of a wider, strategic approach to promoting positive community relations nationally.
  • Transcript of "Promoting Good Relations Locally in NI - Aisling Lyon"

    1. 1. Promoting Good Relations Locally: Experiences from Northern Ireland Aisling Lyon, University of Bradford
    2. 2. Overview of Presentation <ul><li>Background to promoting good community relations locally in Northern Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>Legal requirements for all municipalities </li></ul><ul><li>Promoting good relations locally: a case study of North Downs Borough Council </li></ul><ul><li>Some general observations </li></ul>
    3. 3. 1a) Background: N. Ireland Act (1998) “ 75 (1) A public authority shall ... have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity : a) between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation; b) between men and women generally; c) between persons with a disability and persons without; ... (2) A public authority shall ... have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.
    4. 4. 1b) ‘A Shared Future’ (2005) “ The Government’s vision for the future of Northern Ireland is for a peaceful, inclusive, prosperous, stable and fair society firmly founded on the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust and the protection and vindication of human rights for all. It will be founded on partnership, equality and mutual respect as a basis of good relationships. ” Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland ( March 2005 )
    5. 5. 1b) ‘A Shared Future’ <ul><ul><li>“ ... t ransformation of local communities requires action at the local level ” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Creation of a national Good Relations Challenge Programme f or the promotion of good relations locally; </li></ul><ul><li>E ach municipality to d evelop a 3 year local G ood R elations P lan . The se plan s are l inked to the G overnment’s national action plan ; and </li></ul><ul><li>E ach municipality to have a C ommunity R elation s O fficer , which support s municipalities, and have the capacity to deliver small grant making programmes . </li></ul>
    6. 6. 2a) North Downs Borough Council <ul><li>Eastern part of Northern Ireland, close to the capital Belfast; </li></ul><ul><li>Approximate population of 75,000; </li></ul><ul><li>9% Catholic community, 85% Protestant community; </li></ul><ul><li>Adopted a 3 year Good Relations Plan </li></ul><ul><li>Employs a Good Relations Officer (based in the Chief Executive’s Office); </li></ul><ul><li>Funds a small grants programme; </li></ul><ul><li>Has a Good Relations Working Group. </li></ul>
    7. 7. 2b) Good Relations Working Group <ul><li>Members are elected councillors, selected in accordance with the political make-up of the council; </li></ul><ul><li>Community representatives are often invited to also participate in meetings and to provide expert knowledge on issues discussed; </li></ul><ul><li>Group is an integral part of the municipal council; </li></ul><ul><li>Regular meetings, usually every 4-6 weeks; </li></ul><ul><li>Support is provided by the Good Relations Officer; </li></ul><ul><li>Members are reimbursed for their expenses. </li></ul>
    8. 8. 2b) Good Relations Working Group <ul><li>Excerpts from the Good Relations 3-Year Action Plan: </li></ul><ul><li>Undertake consultation with local community on issues affecting good relations; </li></ul><ul><li>Develop guidance on how to deal with contentious local issues, e.g. the use of community flags; </li></ul><ul><li>Oversee management of the good relations grant scheme to fund small community projects; </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>E ncourag e community dialogue and support local reconciliation programmes; </li></ul><ul><li>  D evelop opportunities for shared and inter-cultural education at all levels of the educational system . </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    9. 9. 3) Some General Observations <ul><li>Good Relations Working Group is an integral, high profile part of the municipality’s agenda; </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Good relations’ is not just about promoting positive relations between different groups, but also within them; </li></ul><ul><li>Good Relations Officers are essential for the effectiveness of the Working Group - “they can’t function without them”; </li></ul><ul><li>Local activity plans form part of a wider, strategic approach to promoting positive community relations nationally. </li></ul>
    10. 10. <ul><li>Thank you. </li></ul><ul><li>Aisling Lyon, PhD Candidate </li></ul><ul><li>Department of Peace Studies </li></ul><ul><li>University of Bradford, UK </li></ul><ul><li>a.m.lyon@bradford.ac.uk </li></ul><ul><li>078 546 882 </li></ul>
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