As the leaders of the political parties begin their next round of meetings community organisations have come together to call on them to finish the job and deliver a working agreement on parades, flags and the past.
The organisations, who work with all kinds of people from rural and urban communities across Northern Ireland including children, older people, families, minority ethnic communities, mental health and poverty, have united with a clear message - people want progress.
Seamus McAleavey CEO at NICVA who called the groups together said “It is essential that accommodation is reached on how to deal with the past and other issues. This is a prerequisite for a stable political operating system which can instil confidence and trust and deliver social and economic policies that benefit all the citizens of Northern Ireland. We believe that now is the time to get agreement on these vital issues before the momentum and focus created by the Haass talks disappears completely. ”
Duane Farrell, Director of Policy at Age NI said “older people across Northern Ireland have lived through its darkest times and are clear that they want something different for their children and their grandchildren. They tell us quite clearly – there can be no going back. They want to see the Northern Ireland political parties show mature leadership to create a new and better future where older people can flourish.”
Koulla Yiasouma, Director at Include Youth said “At a time when too many young people are unclear where their first proper job is coming from, we are urging leaders to do more to provide leadership and stability, making communities more cohesive and our politics more positive. Children born in 1998, the year of the peace agreement, are fast reaching adulthood. Decisive steps are needed to ensure unresolved issues from the past are fully addressed and a peaceful stable society guaranteed for future generations.”
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said: "Six months have now passed since the inconclusive end to the Haass Talks. Many victims feel betrayed by political leaders who are unwilling or unable to agree a process on the past that can really deliver truth and justice. Enough is enough – parties and governments must now deliver for all Troubles victims and all of wider society."
Fergus Cooper, Head of Save the Children in N. Ireland said “In Northern Ireland times are getting harder and families are under enormous pressure to make ends meet. And it’s getting worse. Political parties need to reach agreement on dealing with our past so we can deal with the very real challenges of families now and give our children a brighter future.”
Professor Peter Mc Bride, CEO at the Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health said "There is no doubt that the conflict here has had a profound impact on the mental health of our population, and every delay in getting resolution to these outstanding issues has a human as well as a political cost. We are crying out for our political leaders to reach an accommodation that allows us all to move forward with the vital task of building peace. The stakes are too high, and the consequences of failure too frightening for us not to do all in our powers to reach a resolution."
Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI said: “There are many important and pressing social and economic issues such as welfare reform that we need to resolve and the issue of flags, parades and dealing with the past are a drag on both our political process and local communities. Our political leaders need to resolve these so that we can move on the bread and butter issues which really matter to people”
Patrick Yu, the Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said “Ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland ask political parties to show leadership and accommodation to resolve this final chapter of the conflict. Racism is an extension of sectarianism. One cannot be solved without the other. We would like to see our children, whether it is black or white, brown or yellow living, learning and playing together without boundaries or fear.”
Anne Marie McClure, Chief Executive at Start360 said “Progress on important issues like youth unemployment and how our education and youth services are delivered is being held back while we await the outcome of party talks. The current stalemate does nothing to ensure a brighter future for our young people.”
Kate Clifford, Director at the Rural Community Network said “we see first-hand the difficulties communities face in the absence of guidelines around parading, flags and dealing with the past. We are all too aware that local solutions and local programs to address these concerns have met with limited success in the absence of a political resolution. RCN would urge the political party leaders to come together to find a resolution to these issues which continue to hold our communities both urban and rural back from developing lasting peace.