Junior Minister's Speech- Launch Of The Media Initiative For Children- Respecting Difference Research 13th October 2010


Thank you for your kind invitation to be here today at the launch of this exciting piece of work.

It gives me great pleasure to be representing OFMDFM this afternoon.

I extend a special welcome to the representatives of the International Network on Peace Building with Young People and the USA representatives of the International Advisory Group.

Today’s Northern Ireland is an evolving society.

It is expanding in the diversity of its population, its faiths, its habits, its accents and its possibilities.

We are a modern society gearing itself up for the opportunities that tomorrow will present.
And it is my honest opinion that it makes for a better and healthier society.

Initiatives and research such as this must be at the forefront in our quest to make sure that children are given the opportunity to discuss and acknowledge the similarities and differences between themselves and others. They also need to be able to express more effectively feelings associated with similarities and differences, including those of feeling left out.

This initiative will help children to understand the meaning of acceptance and respect for others.

And initiatives and research such as this must be at the forefront in our quest to make sure that those who only want to turn back the hands of time do not succeed.

We are faced with an unenviable task but it is not one that we can shirk from.

All of us, as parents, grandparents, teachers, politicians and academics owe it to our children to make sure that  they grow up with a sense of identity, a sense of community and a sense of pride of who they are and their heritage and legacy.

But never at the expense of any other sector of our society.

We must allow for pride and celebration in our joint cultures but each side must genuinely respect the other.

Northern Ireland continues to grow into a 21st century cosmopolitan place to live.

There is no place for hatred, no sense in suspicion and no future in fear.

Our Department is currently conducting a consultation on the proposed Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.

I urge you all to get involved and make your opinion heard.

This is a key policy area that can help build, in a positive way, how we shape and behave in our shared society. 

To prevent us from repeating the past we must seek to change opinion at a root and branch level.

We must educate the younger generations and establish areas where different cultures can meet and mingle in mutual regard and respect.

This research will be able to give us a clear and smart approach to help us achieve that goal.

It brings light and clarity which will enable us to identify and tackle negative behaviours in the most impressionable and influenced section of our shared society, our children.

I applaud the researchers for their excellent work and commend the research.

Thank you very much.