Northern Ireland leaders outline new peace plan

May 10, 2013 at 12:17 AM
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BELFAST, Northern Ireland, May 10 (UPI) -- First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy, Martin McGuinness, have outlined plans to bring young people together across sectarian lines in Northern Ireland.

At a news conference Thursday at Stormont Castle in Belfast, the two leaders said they recognize how deep the divisions are, The Irish Times reported.

"Whilst recognizing there are no easy answers we are committed to attempting to find long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of the community we serve," they said in a joint statement.

Robinson is leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and McGuinness a leader of Sinn Fein and a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Their most ambitious proposal is to remove the "peace walls" separating Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast, Derry, Lurgan and Portadown. They set a deadline of 2023 to get the walls down.

Their plans include setting up summer camps to bring young people from working-class Catholic and Protestant backgrounds together, establishing joint schools and sports programs. They hope to provide cross-community volunteer work for 10,000 young people.

Other plans include setting up an all-party group with a non-political chair to discuss emotional issues like parades and flags.

In December, the Belfast city council voted to limit the number of days the British flag would be flown at city hall, setting off weeks of violent demonstrations by loyalists. At the same time, dissident republican groups have carried out bombings and attempted bombings.

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