Question Time: Office of the First Minister and deputy Minister Monday 23 June 2014

The proposed Racial Equality Strategy for 2014 – 2024 was top of the agenda during today’s questions to First Minister, Peter Robinson. The consultation document for the strategy is now available online and the consultation will last until October 2014. The First Minister is determined that all instances of racial tension are addressed especially when it involves intimidation, attacks and hate crimes. The PSNI have reported an increase in racially-motivated hate crimes in the last year and it is hoped that the new strategy will confront the growing problem. Mr Robinson believes that “the real requirement is to change people’s mind-set to ensure that we have a welcoming environment in Northern Ireland for people from all racial backgrounds”. Action points will be addressed upon completion of the consultation process.

Barry McElduff then asked for an update on the Sexual Orientation Strategy. Junior Minister, Jonathan Bell, confirmed the commitment to developing the strategy. The first phase of the consultation process ended at the start of June and the content of the responses will be used to create a draft strategy. The Executive will then agree the draft, which can then be published and the second consultation phase can begin.

The First Minister also answered questions on the Gender Equality Strategy, Delivering Social Change signature projects and the Bright Start childcare scheme. During topical questions, Cathal Boylan asked the First Minister about his party’s commitment to implementing the Haass proposals in the near future. Mr Robinson ensured that “this party is serious about dealing with the three outstanding issues of parades, flags identity and the past” and he hopes that all parties will engage in discussions with the intention of “getting outcomes that can get widespread support across the parties and with the community”.

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