Speaker Marks Good Relations Week With ‘Together’ Event At Parliament Buildings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 21 September 2023

Reference: SO 01/23/24

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, has today hosted an event to mark Good Relations Week 2023. The event, which has the theme of ‘together’ celebrating the multi-cultural nature of society here, included guests who shared their personal experiences of living in Northern Ireland.

The event included MLAs from across the Assembly, representatives from organisations working in the sector and representatives of relevant groups and agencies.

Speaker Maskey said: “This event provides a platform to welcome the fact that we have recent newcomers to our society, that there are people who came here from other countries and have called this their home for decades, and that there are many others who have family heritage from other countries but have been born here and wear it as a badge of pride.

“All too frequently, the public and media focus on the ethnic and racial diversity in our community comes in context of responding to negative incidents including attacks and intimidation.

“Of course, it is right and necessary that all of us – politicians, public agencies and the community as a whole - call out, and condemn, those attacks and hate crimes committed by a minority. However, there is a responsibility on the greater number of us to put forward a positive agenda in proactively embracing and welcoming the diversity of this community and the benefits that brings.”  

He added: “We should start from the point of thinking of them all equally as our friends, colleagues and neighbours.

“The fact that they may come from a different place, speak a different language or have a different colour of skin is something for us to welcome as adding to the breadth of perspectives and positive influences on us all.

“It is something to embrace for the benefits it brings to all of us socially, culturally and economically.

“In the past there may have been a perception that decisions in this society may have been primarily driven by our traditional political divisions.

“It has of course always been much wider than that.

“However, as we move forward, it will absolutely be the job of this Assembly, and a new Executive, to govern, plan for and support everyone in this diverse community, and the huge diversity of needs within it. 

“We recognise that there are challenges facing us all in relation to how this society adapts to its increasing diversity– including confronting racism in our society and the level of community funding available. 

“It is important that we take those challenges on in the context of being clear that ethnic and racial diversity in our community is something we welcome, something we encourage and something we want to develop for the future.”

As part of the event, four participants spoke about their personal experiences. Guests were then encouraged to speak about the ongoing work to promote a positive image of what multi-culturalism and the challenges that still remain.



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