A word count on the term ‘Shared Future’ in press releases from British and Irish political parties might produce some impressive numbers, but little or no hint of what it might actually mean in practice.Just glimpsing the parties’ responses to the document demonstrates just how far apart they are:
– The Alliance Party, for instance, believes that “government, statutary agencies and, indeed, civic society should actively encourage de-segregation and communal integration, and develop the appropriate policies”.
– The DUP declined to make a response.
– The SDLP saw “equality of opportunity” as key, as well as commitments to fight poverty.
– Sinn Fein saw it primarily as applying to ‘relations between the communities of people on the island’.
– And the UUP saw the best outcome of A Shared Future as “a pluralist society”, whilst questioning the value of past community relations initiatives.
Not much basis of a shared understanding there then?
Of course, all these matters are intensely political, requiring complex decisions about what are likely to be come scarcer government resources and which in practice should probably be left for politicians to fight over what is specifically in and what is specifically out. But the enormous gap in basic understanding between all these responses run the risk of bringing the concept itself into disrepute.
As with the apparent breakdown in the international rules ‘code’, it risks becoming a meaningless sound bite or marketing tool, if there is are not some effort to arrive at ‘shared understanding’ as to what ‘a shared future’ could functionally mean in practice.