This is a guest post by MoreMediaNonsense
The sad news of renewed outbreaks of republican violence in Northern Ireland should bring renewed focus on the causes of the province still being so religiously divided, especially as it is likely some of the new “Republican heroes” may be young people brought up since the GFA probably in divided communities .
One of the reasons for that is that NI’s schools are still very largely divided along sectarian lines. As it says here :
“Although integrated education is expanding, Northern Ireland has a highly-segregated education system, with 95% of pupils attending either a maintained (Catholic) school or a controlled school (mostly Protestant). Controlled schools, however, are open to children of all faiths and none, as are Catholic schools (Catholic describes the way the school is run but the students do not have to be Roman Catholic to attend). Teaching a balanced view of some subjects (especially regional history) is difficult in these conditions. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), a voluntary organisation, promotes, develops and supports integrated education in Northern Ireland.”
What should be done about this ? Apart from supporting NICIE (see recent campaign by Barry McGuigan and Pat Jennings here) should other measures be taken ?
Given the severity of the social separation caused by segregated schooling I think there is a case for taking religious schools out of the picture entirely in NI. This would obviously be difficult to do and would probably in the first instance involve the Catholic church relinquishing full control of its schools while taking up seats on governing boards of the non Catholic schools. Such a measure would be difficult to sell to nationalists although Sinn Fein as a nominally secular Left wing party really shouldn’t have an issue. Also the power of the church has been waning in recent years in Ireland due to scandals and a generally more secular mood. It should do the right thing and take the first step for the good of the community as a whole.
The next step would be to manage admissions according to the sectarian makeup of an area. Again this would be difficult but surely not an impossible task.
The alternative as I see it is a dreary future of sectarian educational segregation and all the social problems that leads to. Who would want to live in such a country ?