PM and US envoy back NI's Community Relations Week

Building a shared future

Prime Minister Tony Blair, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and US special envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process, Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, have thrown their support behind the Community Relations Council's Community Relations Week.

Statements from the three politicians were unveiled at a special showcase event for Community Relations Week at Belfast's Clifton House on Clifton Street on Monday April 10, 2006. Community Relations Week takes place April 24-30 and will feature more than 150 events run by the Community Relations Council (CRC) as well as by public, voluntary and community bodies.

CRC chief executive, Duncan Morrow, said that he was delighted the political leaders were supporting the work taking place. 'Community Relations Week is in its fifth year, and it is a great boost to receive endorsement from such esteemed quarters for the tireless work that takes place all year round to build a shared future,' he said.

Speaking about Community Relations Week, Prime Minister Blair said that it is an important opportunity to recognise work to repair division. 'Nothing is more important in Northern Ireland than repairing the divisions of the past and building trust between the communities,' he said. 'I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my support and gratitude to those in all communities who work so hard to achieve that end.'

'Community Relations Week in particular gives us a chance to recognise the longterm contribution of the Community Relations Council and thank them for the commitment they have shown down through the years, in good times and bad,' Mr Blair continued.

'But it is equally important for me to include the work of the many dedicated people from the community and voluntary sector in this message. It is they who make a real difference at a local level, week in, week out.

'I hope this week's events will not just show the wide range of activities that go on at a community level, but also encourage many more people to become part of building a new civic society.

'As with everyone who is part of Community Relations Week, I believe in a vision for a peaceful, inclusive, prosperous, stable and fair society in Northern Ireland, a society founded on partnership, equality and mutual respect,' Mr Blair added.

Mr Reiss said: 'Throughout my visits to Northern Ireland, I have been impressed by the tireless commitment of ordinary men and women who are dedicated to building pluralism and tolerance in the region. It is often the 'unsung heroes' who make the most positive contribution in any thriving, confident society.

'Many in Northern Ireland have taken risks to challenge sectarian behaviour, plan an integrated school, reach out along a peace-line, or commit to small acts of daily courage. So, I am delighted to support Community Relations Week as an opportunity to showcase achievements to date and to collectively seek creative ways to build on this remarkable progress,' Mr Reiss continued.

'I applaud the continued work of the Community Relations Council in helping to build trust and confidence among communities, and I wish every success to all involved in events in the week,' he added.

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland will participate in Community Relations Week. Events, across all six counties, include the launch of guidelines by the Housing Executive to tackle issues of flags and sectional symbols, a major policy conference organised by CRC to look at the current status of the government's 'A Shared Future' document, an SDLP conference to look at tackling racism and sectarianism, an event by the Ulster Unionist Party to celebrate the diversity of society in Northern Ireland and an event organised by the Youth Council to mark the contribution of young people to the building of a shared future.

Other events include an exhibition of photographs taken by young people working together across the Fountain/Riverview interface in L'Derry and a cultural awareness conference in Fermanagh organised by Fermanagh District Council, the Fermanagh Churches Forum and the Women of the World group.