The Programme for Government, which was agreed by all the political parties in the Executive, refers to a ‘shared and better future’ and that should be our desire for
Northern Ireland. A shared future will be a better future.
Unfortunately, we have not yet secured political agreement on a strategy for cohesion, sharing and integration but rather than wait for that I have decided to press on and make a ‘shared and better future’ one of the priorities in my own department. Indeed I believe that culture and sport have a very important role to play in shaping that shared future.
Some years ago the Community Relations Council identified three core principles as essential for a shared future and those were equity, diversity and interdependence. That is what I mean when I speak about a ‘shared and better future’. Equity means that it is a future where people are treated fairly and equitably. Diversity means that it is a future where we recognise and respect difference. Interdependence means that it is a future where there is social cohesion. We need all three if we are to have a 'shared and better future' and anything less will not work.
Our current departmental business plan makes reference to it and I am looking at ways to promote it in a practical way through the arms-length bodies under my department. I want to see the outworking of those three core principles in culture, arts and leisure.