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Sesame Street Ltd

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

4. What discussions he has had with Sesame Street Ltd on programmes to improve understanding between young people of different traditions in Northern Ireland. (79738)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has met representatives of Sesame Street Ltd to hear of their plans to develop a series of programmes in Northern Ireland to challenge sectarianism and racism, and he will shortly be raising the issue with the director-general of the BBC.

Does the Under-Secretary appreciate the work of the international parts of the charity Sesame Street with youngsters in Israel and Palestine? It has got youngsters from both sides of a strong religious divide to work together and understand each other. Will my hon. Friend continue his efforts to ensure that people from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland get together? The strongest weapon of those who promote religious bigotry is ignorance. If we can get more knowledge and understanding between the communities through using the charity, it will reduce violence across the community divide.

My hon. Friend is right. Sesame Street is a highly respected international broadcaster with a global brand and a global outreach. It has done tremendously good work in the middle east, South Africa and elsewhere, and everyone would welcome its engagement in Northern Ireland as part of building the shared future that we all want.

I welcome the fact that Sesame Street Ltd will operate in Northern Ireland, but will the Minister also address the issue of other scourges of our young people apart from sectarianism, such as drug and alcohol abuse, diet and sexually transmitted illnesses?

I very much agree with everything the hon. Lady has said—and that is very much part of what Sesame Street has done. Another issue that could be added to the list is the upsurge in hate crime and racist violence in Northern Ireland recently. I know that she shares with me an absolute abhorrence of such crimes, and if Sesame Street can play a part in tackling any resurgence of racism and hate crime, it will also be welcome.