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Think tank vows ‘real solutions’

John Alderdice

John Alderdice

The blame game for failure to make progress on community relations in Northern Ireland should be replaced by action, the head of a new think tank said.

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building will be launched on Friday in Belfast.

Its directors include former Northern Ireland Assembly speaker Lord Alderdice and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

Chief executive Eva Grosman said: “Everybody is finger pointing at OFMDFM (Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister) and the disfunctionality of the department and the system, we have to regulate the market, we have to pick up and run things as a civic society.

“We cannot wait any longer or engage in a blame game or wait for someone else to do something.”

Disagreements between Sinn Fein and the DUP have been blamed by political opponents for delays in passing measures like a racial equality strategy.

Ms Grosman said she envisaged her organisation acting as a bridge between the community and its leaders, pointing to the high profile of some supporters.

Mr Donaldson was heavily involved in political talks chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass aimed at reaching five-party agreement on parades, flags and dealing with the legacy of the past.

He is also associated with efforts to export the lessons of post-conflict Northern Ireland to other countries.

John Alderdice is a former leader of the Alliance Party who helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He now works at Oxford University where his posts include directorship of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict.

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building is hoping to collaborate with Oxford and Harvard University in Boston on researching alternative political structures for Northern Ireland.

Ms Grosman added: The core of our operation will be talking with communities, politicians and civic leaders within Northern Ireland to help unblock some of the blockages which are emerging at the moment.

“Our long-term ambition is to become a think tank, to provide political support to work with existing groups and try to move things forward.”

One of its first pieces of work will be the relaunch of the Unite Against Hate campaign which will bring various organisations involved in tackling racism together.

The chief executive said: “Because of our independence we can be quite reactive in providing real solutions to problems.”

 
 
 

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