I have previously welcomed the publication on 23 May 2013 by the NI Executive of a new strategy ‘Together: Building A United Community’. The publication of the strategy is an important acknowledgement of the ongoing blight of sectarianism across communities in Northern Ireland and recognition that building a shared society will require a comprehensive response across political, economic, civic and social life.
I welcome in particular the proposal to establish an All-Party Group, with an independent Chair from outside of the political parties, to consider and make recommendations on difficult matters including parades and protests; flags, symbols, emblems and related matters; and the past. The recent agreement by former US Special Envoy Richard Haass to Chair these all-party talks on contentious issues is an important development.
The Government will continue to support all efforts by the NI Executive and political leaders in Northern Ireland to promote reconciliation. The priority now, in my discussions with members of the Northern Ireland Executive, is to encourage and support them in implementing the Strategy and the work of the All-Party Group to its fullest extent, both in terms of promoting an ethos of respect and reconciliation and in implementing fully the individual practical proposals as set out in the Strategy.
I have discussed the Northern Ireland Executive initiative in my ongoing contacts with the Secretary of State, with the leader of the Alliance Party David Ford MLA and with the First and deputy First Minister and other Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.
In my discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with the First and Deputy First Minister, and with other members of the Northern Ireland Executive including the newly formed NI21 party, I will continue to encourage all parties to seize the opportunity provided by the new Together Building a United Community Strategy and by the All-Party talks to accelerate the realisation of a cohesive and united community based on tolerance and respect in Northern Ireland.