Sectarian divisions cost more than money…

David Gordon has managed to get a hold of the Deloitte report ‘Research into the financial cost of the Northern Ireland divide’, surrently being ‘sat on’ by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Apparently the new devolved adminstration is trying to put some clear blue/green water between themselves and the previous Direct Rule adminstration. Below, Michael Wardlow CEO of NICIE argues that the cost of maintaining separate futures, particularly in education, is avoiding Northern Ireland’s overwhelming need: ie to build trust within and between its two main communities. Sinn Fein, for one, were not convinced, seeing ‘Shared Future’ in direct opposition to ‘Equality’. By Michael Wardlow

The recent report, ‘Research into the financial cost of the Northern Ireland Divide’ drawn up by Deloitte reveals that £1.5bn from the public purse is spent annually to run a divided society. Although the economic implications are significant, the real cost of separation and division over the past 40 years must also be measured in terms of the lives lost, families devastated, opportunities missed, the thousands of young people we have exported, the businesses which have been destroyed, and perhaps most significantly, the damage to the fragile trust which existed between the people who represent what we call the “two traditions”.

The report, although commissioned by a previous administration, reflects a stark reality for which we are all culpable. There is no place for the culture of the bystander – a view which denies any personal responsibility for process of history, where we see this outcome as some one else’s fault.

We are all charged with moving our society ahead, and if the report indicates anything, it is that the future must be shared. We cannot accept any form of cultural apartheid, however neatly choreographed that may be. There is no longer any room for the notion of ‘equal but separate’ being acceptable. The future is not one in which we can work out allocations of schools, health provision or housing on a “one for you and one for me” basis. Hard decisions need to be taken based on real need.

We do not have £1.5bn to reinvest as the nature of government allocations means that the block of funding is mostly predetermined. We do, however, have the opportunity to ensure that the programme for government is predicated upon and audited against sharing over separation. We should only do apart what we cannot do better together. Why continue to accept that we need 165 additional school bus runs because of fear of what might happen if the two traditions, Catholics and Protestants, happen to be on the same bus at the same time? While not playing down the safety issues of this, it remains a fact that the pupils who are educated in 61 integrated schools in Northern Ireland are living proof that children from the different traditions can travel in harmony together on the same bus at the same time!

The report draws a series of tentative conclusions on education, including “greater collaboration across the schools sectors and consolidation within the schools estate” which, it suggests, could “result in savings”. This makes common and economic sense. Education provision needs to be based on community audits and area based planning in local areas involving all the education sectoral interests as recommended in the Strategic Review of Education by Sir George Bain. It is our view that this recommendation should also involve parents and not reside with the education stakeholders alone.

There is a gathering momentum threading its way through opinion polls that indicates that people in Northern Ireland are willing to share and want more sharing to take place between communities. The NI Life and Times Survey 2005 revealed that 79% of respondents, if they had the choice, would prefer to live in a mixed religion neighbourhood; 87% would prefer to work in a mixed religion workplace; and 61% would prefer a mixed religion school. Furthermore, a deliberative poll in Omagh conducted by three major Universities – Stanford University, USA; Queen’s University in Belfast; and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in January 2007, clearly indicated that people want more sharing with 71% specifically stating that they would support integrated education.

In the recent elections, the Northern Ireland voters sent a clear message to our local politicians: they wanted our political parties to work together and share the collective responsibility to run the region. Since devolution, we have watched the politicians take a courageous lead at Stormont to develop a power sharing executive. However, building trust must also take place at local level, within and between local communities.

If the Deloitte report does anything at all, it should serve as a call to action.
All of us have been part of the past and all of us, in one way or another, whether as “actor” or “bystander”, have some responsibility for bringing us to where we are today. More importantly, however, is that all of us take one small step towards creating a society based on sharing and not predicated upon separation. It was in that way that the movement for integrated schools began and is maintained.

Michael Wardlow is Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education

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  • Gareth

    Integrated schools in their current form at the current time are a good idea, but in the long term are an extra duplication alongside a pre-existing duplication. Who is actually standing in the way of integrating what we already have? And I’m not sure that having joint classes from different schools as per previous reports into education reform is really a practical idea.

  • DC

    Shinners not sharing but seem very content to live off heavy British subvention…?

  • Pounder

    Wasn’t this the £1.5 Billion that the Alliance Party where universally slagged off for suggesting? I remember several regulars here slagging us off for mentioning it in the media. I’m off not to listen to “Hate To Say I Told Ya So” by The Hives.

  • observer

    the catholic mainted sector and integrated sector should be scrapped entirely. State provision of education is already “integrated” ie the is no religious impediment for anyone to attend a state school.

    If people dont want their children to be educated by the state they should pay for for that choice

  • I felt more than a nauseous spasm reading this article.

    The NI administration gets 60% of its income from Westminster. That’s £6B or £3,000 a head more than is raised in local taxation. Although NI is no longer classed as a region of special economic need, there is a further €1B over seven years, and a further half billion to ease the “peace process”.

    Currently all that is sloshing around, mainly lubricating the public sector. The Government directly employs about a third of the work-force, for two-thirds of the economic output. Nearly 28% of the working-age population is economically inactive (the UK average is some 21%). All of that, by-the-way, from, the Financial Times.

    The Executive, quite understandably, has its mouth on the tit for as long as possible. But the day of reckoning is fast approaching.

    Meanwhile, child poverty is 30%. Some wards in Derry and Belfast have 90% on benefits. That’s the E&SRC Report.

    Democratic Dialogue reckons 30% of NI households to be “poor”, 2% just out of poverty, and 12% vulnerable. That’s half-a-million, including 150,000 children.

    None of that is news: that £1.5B a year goes on papering over the denominational divide is. Just as well all our entrenched die-hards can live on religious opium.

  • oldruss

    Speaking of segregation, does the NIHE still maintain “two lists” for placement in public housing estates it maintains? There was a time when there was a Catholic list and a Protestant list, and one received housing placement based upon the type of estate in which one chose to live, thus perpetuating an already heavily segregated housing pattern in the north, especially in Belfast.

    “4.5 Has the Public Sector Housing System Encouraged Integration, Segregation or Neither?”
    “(d)NIHE do not have a policy of promoting integration. An early annual report states:

    “We believe that people should have a maximum freedom of choice in where they wish to live. The Executive does not believe that forced integration is any more desirable than a policy of deliberate segregation. We can only hope that the provision of an attractive mixture of housing and a change of the sociopolitical as well as the physical environment may ease the problem of polarisation. (Smith and Chambers 1991)

    “Such a policy means that the status quo persists and that the segregation of Protestants and Catholics becomes the norm. Singleton (1985) comments on the practices of the Executive:
    Segregation of Protestant and Catholic has led to an implicit recognition of the inevitability of allocating dwellings on the basis of “two” waiting lists, one Catholic, and the other Protestant. . . The NIHE has in many instances had no option but to sort its waiting lists into Roman Catholic and Protestant and provide separate housing sites in different parts of town for the two groups.”
    F. Gibson, G. Michael, D. Wilson, “Discrimination and Housing”, CAIN, (1991).
    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/discrimination/gibson3.htm

  • Garibaldy

    So apparently a shared future – i.e. creating the space where Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter can come together and explore and act upon their shared interests – is anti-equality and anti-republican. So apparently republicanism is not after all about integrating and uniting all the citizens of the island in pursuit of their common interests but actually is about keeping yourself separate from the Prods but with the same rights while you outbreed them.

    Sectarian nationalism at its most sickening.

  • sportsman

    Garibaldi; whats wrong with that? The foundation of NI was based upon the numbers game and this game was played by the unionists through discrimination to maintain a prod majority. Now Catholics are approaching a majority all of a sudden this numbers game becomes “sickening”. You couldnt make it up!

  • Garibaldy

    Sportsman,

    The sectarian numbers game was sickening in the foundation of the state, and remains so today. I judge these things not by the actions of the reactionary and discriminatory state created after 1920, but by the principles of republicanism.

  • June 76

    Of course division costs money – it’s just that since 1922 Unionists have preferred not to draw to much attention to that fact.

    I find it remarkable that the same people who advocate division and separation as the solution to the of the island of Ireland’s problems, advocate integration and homogeneity as the solution to Northern Ireland’s problems. There is of course the one obvious vehicle for the “shared future” – the inevitable solution that Ken Bloomfield feels that some of us are still not ready to speak about.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Garibaldy

    A rather untypically crude- and false – reading of Sinn Fein’s position. Take more time to read the position of Sinn Fein and you’d realise that the party’s stance is critical of the ‘Shared Future’ document and how the Direct Rule administrators implemented it in the north.

    Being critical of a document entitled ‘Shared Future’ doesn’t make republicans opposed to the noble aspiration itself.

  • Garibaldy

    Chris,

    I did read the press release to make sure I wasn’t commenting on something I hadn’t read. I understand your point about being criticial of a document with that title doesn’t mean being critical of the concept. But I fail to see how the shared future document is anti-equality. Unless one counts equality as meaning the freedom to have equal but separate resources and development. That seemed to me to be the logic from which Martina Anderson’s statement flowed. If I can say so, it also seems to be the logic of many of your own posts here, particularly regarding sport and culture. And it’s logic that I can’t fit with my own reading of the republican tradition. Perhaps however I am misreading both the statement and your own position.

  • Turgon

    I am sure some money can be saved and I am also sure that there are very many other benefits to breaking down division.

    I must admit though on the subject of schooling; if Roman Catholic parents wish to send their children to an RC school that is their right and as tax payers they should really have that right respected and yes payed for.

    On the housing. Yes the segregation in housing is a problem and probably a major drain on money but if people do not feel safe in mixed areas and demand peace walls again I think it is unreasonable to deny them. Most of us probably live in nice middle class areas where such problems do not occur. These middle class areas are also often very divided on religious grounds (even more so on socioeconomic grounds). I suspect it would take many years before some any peace walls come down and I must admit although laudable there is something a bit social engineering about that estate in Enniskillen with its in built balance.

  • DC

    “I find it remarkable that the same people who advocate division and separation as the solution to the of the island of Ireland’s problems, advocate integration and homogeneity as the solution to Northern Ireland’s problems. There is of course the one obvious vehicle for the “shared future”

    So you’re only prepared to re-align services and share if there’s a united Ireland?

    I mean, essentially, it’s really saying that service-delivery policy has not been commensurate with need hence the skewed service provision leading to unnecessary excessive expenditure.

    If you’re saying that you’re not prepared to share services until there’s a different administration then I think you’ve a tendency leaning on fascism in terms of your love for a certain style of statehood.

    Economic sense, regardless of your sought after State, should lead us all to save money, in areas where savings can be made, in order to re-invest to create better services.

    Services, of course, accessible to the benefit of its users, whatever administration it may be.

  • June 76

    DC,

    I made no comments about realigning services in a united Ireland or in the run up to it, on the contrary I simply pointed out the inconsistency in other’s arguments. Actually I think that you will find that it is Sinn Fein that is saying that “..service-delivery policy has not been commensurate with need..”

    “I think you’ve a tendency leaning on fascism in terms of your love for a certain style of statehood”, You don’t really do irony, do you?

  • Turgon @ 10:40 PM:

    Two problems with that little lot.

    If one parent expects the Exchequer to finance a choice of sectarian school, does that not justify another demanding the right to a child being subsidised at (say) Eton? Or a flat-footed, overweight daughter to go to ballet school (don’t laugh: as a local councillor, I had to sit on that panel)?

    And, on the matter of housing, can we not admit that the terms and conditions of social housing in NI are totally out-of-line with anywhere else in the UK? But that the rest of the UK is being asked to finance that?

    In any event, the great housing divide is a sickening indictment of prejudice (backed up by a bit of gangsterism). Let’s try an example: a commune of lesbians/ rehabitilated paedophiles/ ex cons/ Somalis demands segregated housing because they have been threatened, victimised, discriminated against … take it from there, if you can.

    The original David Gordon story (which came, I see but did not register, legitimately through the Alliance Party, using Freedom of Information disclosure) was an appalling indictment of our past recent history in NI. But what is, if possible, worse, is that the Office of the First Minister and his Deputy saw common cause to keep it suppressed.

    Meanwhile, there is a limit on how long the Westminster and EU money will last: which is about the time of the next Assembly election, I reckon. And what happens then? And why is this not the focus of political debate across the Province?

  • Turgon

    Malcolm Redfellow,
    “If one parent expects the Exchequer to finance a choice of sectarian school, does that not justify another demanding the right to a child being subsidised at (say) Eton? ”

    I do not think many RC or state schools are as expensive as Eton. Also of course in England and Wales there are church schools. In Scotland there are RC schools I believe.

    In terms of housing I agree up to a point but I imagine if you or I were living on an interface and enduring sectarian attacks we would be pretty vocal in demanding a peace wall. Those sorts of problems will take an enormously long time to go away.

    In counrty areas the situtation is more subtle but often just as divided.

    Might I ask where (in general) you live?

    One area of not so much sectarian but parochial problem to my mind is the number of hospitals in Northern Ireland and the expenses and inefficiencies involved in that. I would like to see Alliance getting into that but of course they are in bed with Dr Deeny so that could be a problem.

  • DC

    “You don’t really do irony, do you?”

    Not the way you frame it, no sorry.

  • IJP

    I would go further still. People keep talking about the “block of funding” as if there’s nothing the Executive can do about where it’s allocated.

    Actually it can. The Executive determines the budget, and believe me, if that budget contained £1.5 billion re-allocated to economic growth and improved public services, HM Treasury would have no difficulty with it.

    A measurable four-year plan would be a good start.

    Pounder

    I hereby slag the Alliance Party off for getting the figure wrong. Far too conservative.

  • Turgon @ 11:22 PM:

    I do not think many RC or state schools are as expensive as Eton.

    Of course not: but that’s not the point. If you ever came across the sordid “joke”, it doesn’t matter whether the haggling is over a few pounds, or a few thousands, it’s still an act of whoring.

    A liberal-economist approach would be to issue educational vouchers for the norm, and leave the parent to top up at the school of choice. That’s not a solution I particularly like, but it would be a quick-and-dirty instant solution to the NI problem. There is, after all, always a cost in making a “choice”, even in education.

    As for the “peace-walls”, it would take a lot of historical research to determine whether the chicken or the egg came first. The facts are that a Berlin solution was an horrendous mistake, an instant and misguided quick-fix to gang warfare and the breakdown of social disorder, and has exacerbated all the subsequent problems. It would not have been contemplated, however great the communal tensions, anywhere else in the UK. We now have to unscramble that particular omelette.

    As for the irrelevant personal issue, to satisfy prurient curiosity, I live in London but youth (and an accent) say Dublin and I retain close links with Contae Ard Mhacha. The result of that is, coming down from University, I was “dumped” by two girls in months: once because I was “British”, and soon after because I was “Irish”. Yeah, like John Cash, I’ve got stripes.

    In regard to hospital services in NI, one set of figures I have to hand show a total spend of £3.2B on health and social care in NI (those are, admittedly, figures for 2004-5, for comparison with what comes later here). [A crude division says that something like £1700-1800 per head, so there’s something wrong with it.] Of that 55% went on hospital services.

    I’m not sure I’m comparing like-for-like, but there’s a House of Lords Answer (25 Jan 2006) showing “net operating expenditure on health per person in England, Scotland and Wales” for 2004-5: Scotland £1374; Wales £1154 and England £1228.

    Then there’s a “note to editors” [www.adamprice.org.uk/downloads/notes-to-editors-combined-health-stats.pdf] showing “Health spending (pounds per head)” for 2004-5: London £1593; Scotland £1563; North East £1494; Northern Ireland £1476 and so on down to East Midlands £1202.

    Either way, I don’t see NI being done down in that, but make of it what you like.

  • kensei

    MR

    “A liberal-economist approach would be to issue educational vouchers for the norm, and leave the parent to top up at the school of choice. That’s not a solution I particularly like, but it would be a quick-and-dirty instant solution to the NI problem. There is, after all, always a cost in making a “choice”, even in education.”

    This effectively finds the Catholic schools, and for all your moaning, has changed nothing. Oh, and you’ve possibly screwed the poor at the same time, because the really good schools will jack up the price beyond the voucher to keep out the riff raff.

    If you are going to setup the state with monopoly of education, probably against the wishes of a large number of parents, for God sake do it right.

    “As for the “peace-walls”, it would take a lot of historical research to determine whether the chicken or the egg came first. The facts are that a Berlin solution was an horrendous mistake, an instant and misguided quick-fix to gang warfare and the breakdown of social disorder, and has exacerbated all the subsequent problems. It would not have been contemplated, however great the communal tensions, anywhere else in the UK. We now have to unscramble that particular omelette.”

    And that’s the problem. Omlettes are easy to make, but hard to unscramble. The damage has been done. You can’t just shove people in the “wrong” area out on some righteous quest of social engineering. It is both more stressful, and more dangerous. In order to get the people in mixed areas, you need to take down the peace lines. To get rid of the peace lines you need to get the security situation sorted and a halfway competent police service. To…. well, you get the idea.

    So as useful as the report is for pointing out the costs and offering a carrot, IJP and the Alliance solution of ack, sure, let’s just do it tomorrow won’t work. It needs patience and time.

  • Turgon

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    Sorry about where you live but I wondered if you were one of these people who live in North Down and tell everyone that since they have no problems wthe rest of us should not. I suspect London has plenty of housing problems.

    The peace walls are a real problem and one I suspect will only ever end very slowly.

    The schools are difficult but I feel very anxious about demanding intergation.

    Some things like the school buses may be sorted fairly easily in some areas. Actually where both I and my wife were brought up (both pretty hardline rural areas) the buses were mixed. Still it would only take one child to be seriously injured on a bus in an overt sectarian attack.

    The hospitals is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. Basically there are too many too small hospitals which is extremely inefficient but trying to close any creates vast public shroud waving and no attempt by the politicians to engage in rational discussion about the needs of 21st century health care. There is also an issue about the quite daft locations of many of the hospitals. I have, however, never once seen or heard any local politician say anything in favour of any rationalisation at all.

  • oldruss

    Turgon: “Still it would only take one child to be seriously injured on a bus in an overt sectarian attack.”

    Like Thomas Devlin or Michael McIlveen, perhaps?

  • DC

    That’s not particularly helpful oldruss to use sensitive situations like that to deviate off topic, situations which everyone would like to see resolved with efforts heavily invested to stop any similar recurrence.

    Can’t you see you’re being a prick, do you feel good about being able to highlight grief to try and further your particular cause.

  • DC

    You know what actually, oldruss, you’ve changed my mind I shouldn’t take it out on you.

    The more I read the shite from Martina Anderson’s post the more angry I become and disappointed:

    “Its conclusions were expected to validate the NIO’s flawed ‘A Shared Future’ policy…This report should not form the basis of any policy-making within the current Executive.”

    She must have something wrong up top, I haven’t been able to get my head round such a response like this by Sinn Fein. It just doesn’t sit easily.

  • DC

    Correction, that should read Martina Anderson’s linked press release. Anyway it is past 2am.

    :-z

  • Chris Donnelly

    Garibaldy

    On the cultural line, would you prefer if I merely stated that all Irish people north and south should unite under the cause of Irish freedom and identify with the symbols and emblems of Irish republicanism?

    Easy to say, an assertion reflecting my own desire (and, if you substitute British for Irish then that of unionists) but one not liable to get us anywhere.

    Therefore, reflecting the reality of a divided society in the six counties, a position which involved mutual respect being afforded to national/ cultural identities of those identifying themselves as British of Irish would appear less a controversial than a sensible, mature position. And when this involves permitting young sportsmen to opt for the ‘national’ team best reflecting their identity, that would seem a quite logical development- unless, of course, your agenda is more about restricting the national/ cultural identity of one ‘side’ in the north of Ireland…

  • Garibaldy

    Chris,

    Couldn’t agree more that people should be allowed to play for whatever team they want on the island. I think any one with a UK passport play for any of the UK teams, so if someone from NI wants to play for England I couldn’t care less. I’ve no interest in restricting people’s cultural expression of any sort (except maybe the goth/skater element that plagues City Hall).

    What I do have an interest in is in the formation of a common identity. Creating a common identity is central to any political philosophy that has at its core active citizens working together for the good of society. So it seems to me the republican project in NI should be about identifying and encouraging areas where we can and should co-operate, and where a communal identity can emerge.

    As I see it, and I may be misunderstanding you, for you republicanism seems to be primarily about a national identity, and so republicanism in the current circumstances is being able to express that identity within NI while working for a united Ireland.

    For me, republicanism is primarily about the relationships among citizens and the relationship between the citizen and the state. It is about equality and rights. The republican project as I see in NI at this time is therefore about creating a culture of human rights as well a communal identity. Rights are not communal things that we have as Catholics or Protestants or unionists or nationalists, athiests or socialists. They are things we have as individuals within a polity.

    Republicanism calls for the remodelling of society, especially in a divided society like ours. The way to reshape society to ensure fairness within NI and at the same time forge the communal identity that will ultimately facilitate unity and independence is to create a feeling of citizenship and participation.

    What does this mean practically? A new Bill of Rights for our citizens with a court to enforce it. Concentrating politically on the issues that affect us all – water charges, jobs, housing, hospitals etc. And balancing the needs of society against the desires of interest groups. An end to segregated education – with special provision for religious education by denomination if necessary for issues like sexuality though personally I’d rather see it abolished – and the expansion of the programme to create integrated housing developments.

    Separate but equal therefore for me is not just not good enough. It is anti-republican.

  • Two things have me wondering:

    (1) kensei on Aug 25, 2007 @ 01:12 AM:

    [An educational-voucher scheme] finds the Catholic schools, and for all your moaning, has changed nothing. Oh, and you’ve possibly screwed the poor at the same time, because the really good schools will jack up the price beyond the voucher to keep out the riff raff.

    If you are going to setup the state with monopoly of education, probably against the wishes of a large number of parents, for God sake do it right.

    Hold on! I made it clear that vouchers would not be my personal preference, but might be the only way out for an insane and expensive system, and moreover one which does not deliver for a significant proportion of the populace.

    I assume that you meant “fines the Catholic schools”. Please explain how? No matter what financing system, be it capitation or voucher or whatever, it must be transparent, equal and fair. How does equal financing, topped up for special needs and the like, amount to a discriminatory and denominational “fine”?

    In passing, “jacking up” the ante to exclude the “riff-raff’ is precisely what happens all over these fair islands. It goes under various guises: buying into catchment areas, “parental contributions”, and private tuition are among the main ones. And, of course, the main function is to reinforce the class system. I seem to recall David Ervine emphasising how his constituents were among the hardest-done-by in NI thereby.

    Moreover, in imposing the National Curriculum on the state sector, the Government also established a monopolistic thought-control on teacher and taught. It’s the main argument for buying out, in my opinion. And the thing that terrifies me is that it may also be done, as you imply, in the name of God. Strewth: an education system determined by Margaret Thatcher’s prejudices and a theocracy to boot! To think we once enjoyed the best “liberal education” in the world!

    But, back to the main point. The original leak identified the cost of segregated eduction as £10M a year. Now, I’ve no hassle with that, if the people of NI want it and are willing to pay for it. There are about three quarters of a million in paid employment in NI, so that’s only £13-14 a year each. All I ask is that you lot pay for it, in the same way the good burghers of Limavady don’t expect to sub our London Transport.

    My other point, which went unanswered, is what happens when the UK and EU monies run out, round about the time of the next Assembly Elections. Unless some hard decisions are taken soon, you’ll be facing additional local taxation for that total £1.5 billion (about £2000 p.a. for each NI taxpayer), or deciding in panic which services to cut.

    (2) Garibaldy @ 12:38 PM:
    Now that’s a nice post. Hear hear, say I: especially to that final sentence.

    However — ahem! — “issues like sexuality though personally I’d rather see it abolished”. That wants a comma, an oath of chastity or castration.

  • Garibaldy

    Malcolm,

    Never could put the right thing in the right place at the right time.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Garibaldy
    I actually agree with everything you have said about what republicanism should be about. The difference being, of course, that I find it utterly implausible to argue that people ignore the elephant in the room and pretend to be disinterested in the key matters of identity in the six counties.

    Yes, republicanism should be about working for a Bill of Rights and improving the condition of the citizens by effectively addressing the many policy matters you outlined- incidentally, it is somewhat ironic that Martina Anderson, derided by some on this thread, has been doing sterling work within Sinn Fein and local communities across the north informing them of the on-going workings of the Bill of Rights working group (the official name of latter group escapes me at moment.)

    And, yes it should also be about forging a common identity within the island and even within the north.

    But, and this is of vital importance, we will get nowhere if we simply ignore the differences. Hence the position I have articulated in relation to facilitating individuals to represent the national team that best represents them.

    Our common identity must be one which, rather than ignoring differences, actively seeks to address the problems posed by allowing those differences to aggravate, antagonise and fester.

    In this, I also draw your attention to Sinn Fein’s policy on the display of flags and emblems from civic buildings in the north. In endorsing a position of Neutrality or Equality, republicans were/ are at one level making a giant gesture to unionists by acknowledging the legitimacy of the expressions of Britishness in this part of Ireland, and at another level seeking to forge a common identity based on mutual tolerance of our differences that would effectively take the heat out of the protracted debate around flags and emblems.

  • Garibaldy

    Chris,

    Good to hear some common ground. Interested too to hear about Martina Anderson keeping people informed about work on the proposed, and much delayed, Bill of Rights. I have serious concerns about the way much of that debate has shaped up, particularly in relation to the issue of marches, where we have seen some people (including I think, though I may be misremembering, members of your own party) talk about the rights of communities. That is, in my view, very dangerous talk, and would reflect the flaw in the Assembly arrangements whereby those neither nationalist nor unionist are worth less on key votes.

    On the elephant in the room, I don’t advocate ignoring it, but nor do I think people should allow it to determine their policies and actions in the way that they often do. My concern is that separate but equal type thinking – whether it be from political parties, churches, educators or the Community Relations Council – reinforces the division rather than chipping away at it.

    I guess the approach I advocate is that taken by Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen in Rathfriland – where they went and confronted sectarianism, and tried to persuade the divided people there of their commonality. They ultimately succeeded in uniting the two groups. Unfortunately the locals got together and drove Tone et al out of the area so they could continue their sectarian squabbling.

    I supported the Yes campaign for the GFA because it as you put it offered a way to take the heat of the argument here. I will gladly acknowledge the progres and efforts that have been made and are made to keep that division from turning to violence, e.g. in interface efforts, by those on both sides. However while we think in terms of Catholic/nationalists or Protestant/unionists we are guilty of reinforcing the religious apartheid in our society that we must destroy, not just manage. Rather than addressing the elephant in the room, we are making it feel right at home, and inviting it to stay for as long as it likes.

  • kensei

    “I assume that you meant “fines the Catholic schools”. Please explain how? No matter what financing system, be it capitation or voucher or whatever, it must be transparent, equal and fair. How does equal financing, topped up for special needs and the like, amount to a discriminatory and denominational “fine”?”

    Ah bollocks. That should have read “funds”, and since you are complaining about “sectarian” education, the voucher scheme will do nothing about it.

    “Moreover, in imposing the National Curriculum on the state sector, the Government also established a monopolistic thought-control on teacher and taught. It’s the main argument for buying out, in my opinion. And the thing that terrifies me is that it may also be done, as you imply, in the name of God. Strewth: an education system determined by Margaret Thatcher’s prejudices and a theocracy to boot! To think we once enjoyed the best “liberal education” in the world!”

    Does the National Curriculum only applies if you buy into the British exam system? In which case the International Baccalaureate. As would possibly be the Leaving Certs, which are done by 17 in the South, which would leave a year for broadening the educational experience.

    Though the Catholic Church has been running schools here since before year dot, and the world hasn’t collapsed. A weak argument, I feel.

    “My other point, which went unanswered, is what happens when the UK and EU monies run out, round about the time of the next Assembly Elections. Unless some hard decisions are taken soon, you’ll be facing additional local taxation for that total £1.5 billion (about £2000 p.a. for each NI taxpayer), or deciding in panic which services to cut.”

    I thought it was about £3000 per person rather than tax payer (about £5bn). I would expect the subvention to continue but be cut in the next Assembly, but yes, hard decisions have to be made. However, it probably wouldn’t play well if the brand new, hard-fought-for Assembly firebombs the public sector in its first hundred days. Whether or not anyone is prepared to do make those decisions with our never ending election cycle remain to be seen, though.

  • IJP

    DC

    Don’t forget, Sinn Féin is the establishment now.

    They don’t like attacks on their power base.

  • kensei @ 11:39 PM:

    “Funds” or “fines”: what difference? How does equal funding, by capitation or by voucher, discriminate for one denomination or the other? Surely, above all, the one thing we have learned about NI is that either side feels put upon unless they are demonstrably better served than the other!

    The National Curriculum applies up to 16+ (GCSE, Key Stage 4). Opting out before then is unacceptable in the inspection system (monopolistic thought control?) imposed on us. As one who went through the Irish Leaving Cert and University Scholarship year thereafter, I do appreciate its advantages. Which is, perhaps, why in small part the latest iteration of AS/A-levels is moving closer to that and to Scottish Higher.

    And, no, I have no objection to the Roman Catholic Church operating schools. Any more than the Anglos, Methodists, Jews, Sikhs, Jedis or whoever, including the secularists: provided they do it well. The more the merrier, if that improves parental choice. What I don’t see is why any be disproportionately funded by the State. Or, in a different context, why NI (but nowhere else in the UK or RoI) “human rights”, or whatever, imply the public purse pay for buses.

    Finally, why is cutting the waste on sectarianism “firebombing” the public sector?

    It is largely agreed that the need for growth in the NI economy is for the public sector to move aside to allow more scope for the private sector. NI cannot continue as the last example of Morrisonian nationalisation in one statelet.

    Dominance of public sector expenditure is the biggest single drag on entrepreneurism: and that’s where a large amount of the £1.5B goes down the plug-hole. Our hope is that a proportion of small firms can be grown into middle-sized operations, and pretty sharpish. And if the £1.5B or the £5B is going anywhere, there’s a passing suggestion. The alternative is public funds gold-bricking big corporations (DeLorean, anybody?) to provide jobs at £300,000 a throw.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: In endorsing a position of Neutrality or Equality, republicans were/ are at one level making a giant gesture to unionists by acknowledging the legitimacy of the expressions of Britishness in this part of Ireland,
    1) Would that legitimacy disappear in the event of a United Ireland?
    2) Would SF commitment to ‘Neutrality or Equality’ disappear in the event of a United Ireland?
    3) Are the answers to those two questions different?

  • oldruss

    For DC, back a page or so.

    My reference to Thomas Devlin’s and Michael McIlveen’s murders wasn’t dropped into the discussion like a cow pie from space.

    The previous post had suggested that integrated busing might be too risky as some child could get killed. I was merely pointing out that kids are getting murdered anyway, and apparently without consequence to those communities responsible.

    BTW–will payment of the UDA’s millions of pounds sterling guarantee no such further wanton murder? Perhaps the millions of pounds earmarked for the UDA could better be spent on the schools in the six counties.