Ruane: what might have been

I am sure that there are those in the nationalist community who think Ruane has done a good job. Some because she has really annoyed the Prods but also some who genuinely believe that she has achieved a considerable amount. However, as Fair_deal has noted here many seem to disagree and certainly SF acknowledge that practically all the media seem to have it in for her following that infamous press conference. I am not here to launch yet another direct attack on Ruane but to ask (leaving education aside) whether or not politically Ruane has made a major blunder and snatched defeat from what might have been a victory?The DUP achieved a promise to retain academic selection at St. Andrew’s. However, that is not necessarily the same thing as the 11 plus. Indeed I am aware that some in the DUP are not dying about the 11 plus. This is unsurprising; we all know that the 11 plus was and remains an extremely blunt instrument. All of us can remember some very clever children who “failed” and those who went to grammar schools will remember some children who clearly struggled.

I am sure even the most aspiring and middle class of parents were not delighted by the way their children had to sit the 11 plus. Recently this has involved tutors and massive disruption of the primary curriculum. The old system of the verbal reasoning test was also of course very flawed. I vaguely remember getting a very poor result in the last practice test and the major worry this caused for my parents.

Because of all this; had Ruane produced a sensible, costed alternative I do suspect, as well as any possible gain to children, she would have massively wrong footed unionists in general and the DUP in particular.

I am no educationalist but just suppose she had proposed the introduction in a year of two of the Dixon plan with children going to a junior secondary school at 11 and then selection at age 14 or some such. I am sure there are multiple objections to that but it or some similar type of proposal might have made the DUP’s position much more difficult. Indeed any constructive proposal might well have been favourably received. She might have produced a rather popular alternative to the current system and forced the DUP into either backing her or being seen to create chaos. Instead Ruane has managed to create rather a lot of chaos herself with no one really knowing what is coming next. Even if she does pull a sensible rabbit out of the hat, doing so at this extremely late hour will not really help her. The DUP will legitimately be able to complain that she has kept everyone in the dark for so long that she has created chaos and confusion.

Leaving aside the problems for education but even as a political strategy her’s is completely flawed. She seems rather like a German general in the Second World War standing in front of the Maginot Line and deciding that the only solution is an all out attack, studiously ignoring the Low countries and the Ardennes.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.