‘Still a lot of work to do’ says Northern Ireland Community Relations Council following weekend bonfire and Feile incidents

Events at a Derry internment bonfire and west Belfast’s Feile an Phobail have been a “reminder there is still a lot of work to do” in community relations here.

hat is the assessment of the current chair of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council who described the incidents as “disappointing”.

Martin McDonald told BBC NI’s Evening Extra the current strategy and policies for building community relations across the province need to be looked at “afresh”.

His comments come as the former head of the organisation Peter Osborne said there needs to be “big leaps forward” to get rid of division in society.

The two men were commenting after an internment bonfire lit in Derry’s Bogside has led to condemnation over the burning of posters, poppy wreaths, and election posters.

The Sinn Fein mayor of Derry has condemned “displays of hate” and the PSNI is investigating the incident amid reports of shots being fired.

There has also been controversy after a Wolfe Tones concert at the weekend’s Feile led to IRA chanting.

Mr McDonald said: “I have to admit events over the last few days have certainly been disappointing and they are a reminder there is still a lot of work to do within the field of community relations.

“While the Community Relations Council has been in existence for 30 years… as a society we are never going to be totally cured.

“I give the analogy in terms of healthcare. We have always needed doctors we have always needed hospitals and we are always going to need impact and direction to deal with issues as they arise.

“We provide about £1.2m to support core groups across the country to work with local communities to build good relations.

“The message we try to give to the people we work with is good relations is everybody’s responsibility.”

Former chair Mr Osborne had earlier said we need to “acknowledge what has happened” over the weekend.

“Most people here do want to not let their children and grandchildren inherit what they grew up with and experienced,” he said.

“In order to do that, we need to reset the sort of ambitions we have with some of the policies and strategies.

“We need to get rid of a segregated society, we need to get rid of division, we need to start taking big leaps forward.

“Even when we do that, we will still have setbacks. The last few days is just what has happened continuously, it is not going to regress us into something terrible, but we do need to acknowledge what has happened.”

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