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“Our response should not be to manage cuts; our ambition needs to be greater” – Address by Gerry Kelly MLA

23 September, 2010 - by Gerry Kelly

Sinn Féin Junior Minister and MLA for north Belfast Gerry Kelly today launched the “2010 North Belfast Respect Programme”. The programme includes conferences, historical tours, lectures, discussions, debates and other activities all aimed at developing awareness around political, social, economic and cultural issues affecting today’s society.

Speaking at the event, which was held in the Groundwork offices this morning Mr Kelly delivered the following address;

“I am really pleased to be invited to this launch of the 2010 North Belfast Respect Programme. Unfortunately Junior Minister Newton is unable to be here and he sends his apologies, along with his best wishes for today’s event.

We both recognise and value the very positive work being taken forward by all the people involved in the design, development and implementation of this year’s Programme. Well done to all of you.

OFMDFM has responsibility for promoting good relationships and tackling poverty both across and within communities in North Belfast and we are committed to doing so with the aim of making it a safe, secure and prosperous place to live and work for everyone.

For two long these policy areas have been seen to be distinct and separate. However I firmly believe that poverty and social exclusion sustains division and conflict.

I believe that there is an urgent need to redress the historic patterns of deprivation which have beset the community of North Belfast.

I deliberately use the term the community as I believe that we share more in common than what separates us.

The impact of unemployment is felt the same in families across north Belfast regardless of where they live. The lack of opportunity for our youth affects all our young people and the fear of anti social and criminal behaviour impacts on all communities.

I believe that the way to create real long lasting and sustainable change is by acting together to redress deprivation. We are stronger when every section of our community act together for the betterment of all.

I would reject the suggestion that one section of the society or one neighbourhood can be regenerated at the exclusion of another. Inequality will only sustain the potential for conflict. We target disadvantage were it arises on the basis of objective need.

The Executive are agreed on the three priorities of promoting economic growth out of recession, safeguarding frontline public services and tackling disadvantage.

We also have an economy in crisis and a Tory led government that believes that you can cut your way out of recession.

This will be a real challenge as some have bought into the Tory approach and it will be the working class, the communities of Ardoyne, Old Park, New Lodge, Tigers Bay and Mount Vernon that will bear the greatest cost for the greed of bankers and developers

Our response should not be to manage cuts. Our ambition needs to be greater. We need to ensure that all in our community has the opportunity to play a full role in society. All have the opportunity for employment and to prosper. All can live free from anti social and criminal behaviour. This is what the community expects and deserves.

OFMdFM are currently developing a programme to be targeted to those areas with the highest levels of disadvantage. It is not a secret programme as some have suggested and we have made plain our intention to make good on the commitment to target the most disadvantaged communities.

We would like to work with communities to develop responses to tackling unemployment, dereliction and building safe and sustainable communities. We would hope to have formal consultations as the programme is being developed.

It is in this context that OFMDFM is providing support to this year’s North Belfast Respect Programme as it creates a positive environment for local people supported by the voluntary, community and statutory sectors to explore these relevant issues and develop solutions.

I’ve had a look through this year’s programme which runs over the next five weeks and there is truly an excellent series of worthwhile and informative events and activities on offer. I have no doubt that there will be something to interest everyone and I hope that people will participate in as many events as possible, not only to show their support for the Respect Programme, but to also gain a greater understanding around many of the political, social, economic, historical and cultural issues which are important within the community here in North Belfast and ultimately to make this year’s Respect Programme a real success.

Thank you.” CRÍOCH

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