Newton Emerson, with a great comment on an issue raised rather pointed by President Obama [a man now liberated from the burdens of power, and uncommonly free with his views on many thing] which appears to have eluded several other commenters. [Though not our Pete! – Ed] :
Integrated education was the example he praised of progress towards a Northern Ireland identity, though many nationalists see that as precisely integration’s problem.
Some of this fear is misplaced ignorance. A common belief that integrated schools do not teach Gaelic games or Irish is wrong and always has been. But nationalists have a point that schools unique to Northern Ireland will inevitably foster a Northern Ireland identity, which challenges those who ultimately do not want Northern Ireland to exist.
It now appears the SDLP has confronted this challenge. New leader Colum Eastwood has taken pains to say he wants Northern Ireland to work. The party’s Assembly manifesto commits it for the first time to integrated education. Obama’s question in London was from the SDLP youth vice-president, who welcomed his answer. A cynic might suspect this was all rather unsubtle as well.
But the majority of Northern nationalists are represented by Sinn Féin, a party that cannot even bring itself to say “Northern Ireland” and whose Minister for Education was found by a judge two years ago to be pursuing “the opposite” of his duty to encourage integrated schools.