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Racism challenges are very real and urgent – Gerry Kelly

31 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA today described the challenges facing us in the battle to stamp out racism here, as very real and urgent.

Speaking at the NICEM (NI Council for Ethnic Minorities) AGM, Mr Kelly said:

"For too long many people have argued that we don't have a race relations problem here. The argument that racism simply isn't an issue is so seriously flawed that it is hard to imagine it ever having been used.

"While progress has been made, sectarianism, racism and intolerance are still too evident. They mar our reputation, blight our economic prospects and have a corrosive effect on our society."

The Minister stressed that the new political landscape offered opportunities for dealing with these challenges. He added:

"Our ultimate goal is to achieve a more peaceful, just and prosperous society. It is imperative that we all embrace the opportunity to create a better future, based on tolerance and respect for cultural diversity.

"The rate at which demographic changes are taking place is now faster and we are almost daily witnessing increased diversity amongst the people who live here - and that is a good thing.

"As an Executive we very much welcome people who have come to share their skills and labour with us and will factor this into all our thinking and planning.

"The nature of the challenges we face reminds us that change will not happen overnight. There are no quick fixes. However, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to tackle racial inequality and discrimination. We are in this for the long haul." ENDS

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