Crowe and Good Friday Committee in groundbreaking visit to Belfast
Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, visited community groups in North and East Belfast on Thursday and Friday, with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
The All Party delegation visited the Duncairn Partnership in North Belfast, the Short Strand Community Forum and Partnership, the East Belfast Methodist Mission, the Andy Tyrie Interpretative Centre in East Belfast and the Resurgam Trust in Lisburn. They also attended the formal opening ceremony by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of the Skainos Centre in East Belfast.The Skainos event was also the first time that Martin Mc Guinness formally atttended an event in the predomately loyalist area
Speaking after the ground breaking visit Deputy Crowe said:
“This trip to visit community groups in North, South and East Belfast was very informative and I would like to thank the Committee and Senator Martin McAleese for organising the meetings.
“The visits allowed us to see the quiet and positive work that is being doing at community level in both nationalist and unionist areas, and to hear about the mechanisms that are in place to defuse sectarian and other tensions in some of these interface areas.
“Our Committee received a tremendously warm welcome in Belfast and has had a series of insightful discussions with community representatives on the ground, in which their honesty, courage and determination shone through. We heard upbeat and candid presentations on practical initiatives that have contributed so much to maintaining peace.
“All of these areas suffer from social deprivation, a lack of services and high unemployment. It is important that they feel engaged with the political system and that politicians are listening to their many difficulties.
“The ongoing work being carried out under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is not threatening to any group, and is trying to create a shared space among nationalists and unionists in the north and on the island of Ireland..
“While there has been progress in the GFA’s implementation there are still large and important areas that are outstanding and need to addressed urgently
.Acknowledging the gains of recent years, our Committee is conscious of the problems that endure in these communities. Despite many years of an embedded peace process, the peace walls in interface areas across Belfast not only remain, but some are higher now than they were in 1998. Hearing firsthand the issues of unemployment, lack of educational attainment and drugs related crime from community leaders, I pointed out many of the parallels with problems faced in working class areas in many constituencies south of the border.
“I would like to personally thank all these community groups for welcoming all of us to their centres to see at first-hand the important and positive work they are doing.
I am fully committed as are my colleagues, to advancing the concerns we heard , such as improving institutional arrangements to ensure that the funding available filters down to the communities that need it most. We are also in agreement to continue our face to face engagement with those at the vanguard of promoting reconciliation, tolerance and mutual respect between loyalist and republican/nationalist communities and those many other communities experiencing difficulties across the island.”