It is Community Relations Week, and that is important.
Community Relations in Northern Ireland are (I write this cautiously as I have nothing better than instinct to go on) marginally better than they were and better than they are in England. Yet they are still far from “good”.
It remains the case that too often in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) an “entitlement culture” predominates in preference to a more charitable and frankly more reasonable outlook. We are determined to pursue our “entitlements” – be it to build a mammoth bonfire, stick a load of flags up or even simply block a road construction project of clear overall community benefit through a spurious legal challenge. Much of this is done just to make ourselves feel powerful in our own little group, without the slightest consideration for anyone else, nor indeed for what is simply reasonable behaviour in a diverse society.
In England, the evidence is that matters are far worse. Particularly in post-industrial urban areas of the North and Midlands, people are often completely segregated by racial and national origin, leading separate lives. “Multiculturalism has failed” say many, but the truth is, outside London, few places have actually tried it. Separate schools, sports, residential areas, shops, even TV channels lead to a dangerous segregation and a total lack of cohesion.
Community Relations as a topic is, therefore, more important than ever right across the UK. It is far from a “soft option”. Actually, it is ever more essential.