Acknowledging religious and cultural diversity in an antagonistic society
The challenge of Northern Ireland
in Tolerance and diversity in Ireland, North and South
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The Belfast Agreement of 1998 was grounded in explicit declarations of commitment to reconciliation and the first Northern Ireland Programme for Government made pledges to address community divisions and cultural diversity as a priority. However, the political priority of re-establishing devolved government to Northern Ireland resulted not only in the explicit renegotiation of some of the inter-community safeguards within the Agreement but in the neglect of the inter-community elements of policy. Since 2007, the devolved executive has reached a standstill on education, failed to agree an acceptable policy on community relation, shelved commitments to a Single Equality Bill and a Bill of Rights, and, divided on flags, emblems and on dealing with the past, failed to agree policy on parades and cultural rights, and is on the brink of abolishing the housing executive while agreeing to a single-identity carve up. The largest parties in Northern Ireland have moved rapidly away from reconciliation and produced a government of parallel sectarian interest shared out between authoritarian single identity parties. This chapter explores the ideology and practice of abandoning inter-community reconciliation and considers the proposed alternative approaches to pluralism and their potential consequences.

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