“This is an entirely unacceptable position..”

If anyone thought today’s Northern Ireland Executive meeting would resolve the impasse on the transfer of pupils to post-primary schools, although I don’t believe anyone actually did, they were proved wrong. This BBC report includes a short on-air interview with the Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, openly briefing against her Executive colleagues – “It is disappointing that colleagues who claimed that they wanted a discussion on the proposals didn’t even engage. What happened today was an attempt to frustrate change.” It also quotes the out-going First Minister, the DUP’s Ian Paisley Snr.

Mr Paisley said: “The education minister can make any suggestion she wants to. However, it will not come into force until she has the support of the DUP and the endorsement of the executive. “This is now a matter for the executive to deliberate and to decide upon. “We supported a proposal for a sub-committee of the executive to deal with this – this was rejected by Sinn Fein. “We supported a proposal by Margaret Ritchie that the executive as a whole would discuss the issue of post-primary education – this was rejected by Sinn Fein. This is an entirely unacceptable position.”

And, according to the RTÉ report – “Dr Paisley also said the minister’s plan did ‘not form a basis for moving forward’.” More here – First Minister Dr Paisley said it was a sad day for Northern Ireland. “The Minister for Education’s proposals, as currently framed, are totally unacceptable and do not form a basis for moving forward.”

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  • slug

    The minister might be able to press her plan through without support of the other parties but it will mean all the downside risks will be unshared, and there are surely significant downside risks in her proposals.

  • Bigger Picture

    Far from it for me to be a fan of Ruane or Sinn Fein but I also share the view of SF members up and down the country that Ruane should be ditched and ditched quickly!

  • Pete Baker

    BP

    That would only be applicable if you believed she was on a solo run from her own party’s leadership.

  • Driftwood

    Every time I see Ruane on TV, it reminds me of the times I have had to go out and quickly dispose of a wounded mouse my cat was playing with before killing. I had to despatch the poor rodent with a hammer to put it out of its hapless misery.

    I have no idea why she instigates such thoughts.

    Any Freudians on here?

  • fair_deal

    “I will not be frustrated and I am not demoralised.” “I am going to be the education minister who brings about that change.”

    Maybe it is just me but whenever a politician starts stressing ‘I’ so much instead of ‘we’ ‘or their party I think it is time to take a serious look at their motivations.

  • Dead woman walking (figuratively!).

  • seniorhas

    Today’s outcome in the Executive confirms my belief that the present system is a crazy way of delivering government. My view is strengthened by the statements of both the Minister, her new sidekick and other SF commentators – all claiming that it is an SF policy. What is needed is a Programme for Government, agreed by all partners, ie as in all coalition governments. It also needs an effective opposition. At present, the SF policy has no hope of obtaining cross-community support and doesn’t appear to be trying to get it. Would the situation have been different if another party had been putting forward a similar policy?

    Listening to the various vox pops, my long held view is confirmed that whilst there is little support for the 11+ in its present form, there is considerable support, within both traditions, for the continued existence of grammar schools and academic education, ie a selective system of post-primary education. The Bishop of Derry’s educational spokesman, Fr S Farren, has written, I believe in the ‘Derry Journal’, a most fascinating article against selection in education – even going to the extent of apologising for the Churches support of the selective system!

    Finally, it’s a great pity we were never ruled from Edinburgh.

  • sms

    i couldn’t care less whether the 11+ goes or stays but to compare Caitriona Ruane to a rodent as driftwood has done should surely be unacceptable on this blog, that is if it is monitored at all

  • Driftwood

    sms
    I wasn’t comparing Catriona Ruane to a rodent. Merely alluding to my opinion that she is wounded and hapless. Google “the peter principle” for what i think of her. I’m ok about the moderators deleting the post, but,you are reading stuff into a post which was simply whimsical.
    I do think, someone should put her out of her metaphorical misery, Is that better? Maybe she could be in charge of the Republic of West Belfast festival!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    sms,

    also what about Driftwood’s incitement to bash fenians over the head with a hammer?

    After all the metaphorical bashing over the head the quareone from the wessht has had she appears to have produced moderate compromise proposals. No doubt the DUP will agree after minor tweaking and after major spin to make out they have changed them completely.

  • Garibaldy

    Last week the mantra was delivering maximum change. This week, change. Next week? A return to Latin and Greek?

  • Axe

    Catriona Ruane is one of the least able politicians I have ever seen. Thus far she has managed not only to fail to convince the Unionists about her argument, but also lose the support of the SDLP. And all the while talking non-committal gibberish about educationalists and change. I felt she actually got off lightly on Hearts and Minds. Noel Thompson, although willing to press, lacks the sheer brute ignorance of the likes of Paxman needed to expose politicians like Ms. Ruane.

    In fairness though, the Unionist parties brought this on themselves by not taking the education ministry. Had they done that, I doubt much would have been said if they had quietly abolished Martin McGuinness’ timeline for the end of academic selection, possibly doing away with the 11+, which it must be said is a pretty unfair test, and replacing it with a different form of academic selection. I think Unionists are much more forceful in their attachment to academic selection than the Nationalist parties are in their opposition.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Well if the DUP dont play ball she could change her proposals for selection to be based on tests through the medium of Irish and cumpulsory Gaelic sports in all schools – starting with Limivady.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7401104.stm

  • Driftwood

    Catriona Ruane
    “The peter principle”

    google it Sammy

    It will all become clear.

    oh and lighten up for heavens sake. I know your trying to protect SF’s Icarus, but she’s a goner, In 2 years noone will ever have known she ever existed, sort of like Francie Molloy, Does anyone remember Sean McStiofan (sp?) Daithi (David) O Connell?

    At least Cathal Goulding had a legacy.

  • Bigger Picture

    Pete

    See f_d at point 5.

  • “I’m the Minister for Education.”

    “I’m going to press ahead.”

    Repeat as necessary. Again. And again. And again.

    Any chance of some actual action to follow all the meaningless hot air?

  • Driftwood

    Did anyone see Ruane on H&M;tonight?
    Inept is a term one could use, but we were all laughing convulsively in our house, She was pathetic, I,I,I,am going to do this and that. She was going to huff and puff etc until she blew the grammar schools down.
    The unionist parties could not have commissioned better marketing.
    Well, the SDLP have been given a penalty shootout with no opposing goalkeeper. Captain Mark, whose 1st choice taker?
    Actually, and I mean this, I felt sorry for her at the end, in the same way as I did when I seen pictures of Amy Winehouse, Gazza or Britney in recent times. She needs help badly. But is it possible to section her? Or does she need to acknowledge her illness first?
    Just sad. I hope she gets the psychiatric help she desperately needs. Is it possible for SF to seek govt.funding for the Priory or could they all not chip in?

  • Bob Wilson

    Noel Thompson was woeful – yes be pressed her about inability to get her proposals passed the Executive – but every time she cited ‘educationalists’ he should have quoted each of the seven polls showing majority – and cross community support for academic selection.
    BBC NI interviewer afriad to be tough on Sinn Fein.
    Remember Devenport having his knuckles rapped for asking ‘stupid’ questions? Never happened again.

  • joeCanuck

    You know, this is the first big disagreement between SF and the DUP, unlike the battle a day that was forecast.
    How this plays out will tell us whether or not we have a viable system of government.

  • Driftwood

    Noel was tiptoeing, but Ruane was ignorant, wanton and , to put it bluntly, stupid and crass.
    yes she kept using the term “educationalists”, Is that teachers? But her whole demeanour was that of someone who lost the plot long ago. To mis paraphrase -Will noone relieve us of this mischievous “educationalist”?
    desperate stuff.

  • BonarLaw

    joeCanuck

    “How this plays out will tell us whether or not we have a viable system of government.”

    I would suggest that how this has developed thus far allows you to make that judgement. The system is disfunctional and not fit for purpose. Ms Ruane may be the catalyst for proper coalition government with collective responsibility, a programme for government and an opposition all operating without sectarian designations for the 72 MLAs we need.

  • TAFKABO

    I’m just waiting to hear that this has all been brought about by educrats working behind the scenes to destabalise the process.

  • pfhl

    Ms Ruane may be the catalyst for proper coalition government with collective responsibility, a programme for government and an opposition all operating without sectarian designations for the 72 MLAs we need.

    Posted by BonarLaw on May 16, 2008 @ 01:09 AM

    I know what you are getting at as it does show the how the current executive is failing to work properly. I however do not believe there is a system where sectarian designations can be ruled out for certain issues. There are still aspects of our lives quite clearly divided along Nationalist/Unionist lines. Its a sad fact we need this but I don’t see people agreeing to simple majority rule.

  • joeCanuck

    the 72 MLAs we need.

    I think that’s too many, Bonarlaw. I would suggest 52 is more than enough.

  • Gregory

    “yes she kept using the term “educationalists”, Is that teachers? ”

    Hard to say, could be sex predators or anything.

    I gather, the proposed SF sex offender ban only applies to parks & streets in West Belfast.

    Schools are apparently different. It is a two-tier approach by Gerry Adams, or Big Brother No1 as we call him here on his home turf.

    I gather some of Barack Obama’s lot have been hassling people over here for a few answers.

    Nowt to do with me, I’m opposed to dandruff and Jay Z lyrics.

    It could get interesting.

    G.

  • Gregory

    “BBC NI interviewer afriad to be tough on Sinn Fein. ”

    The BBC are trying to help her out. However, she doesn’t deserve that help.

    She is not fit for office, nor is she fit to be a middle-ranking civil servant.

    I’d be happy to see her take charge of the gay pride stuff. I think she could do that.

    I could then have a go at her for the ‘Jesus is a ****’ plcards or whatever.

    Ruane is bad news.

    G.

  • Dave

    “I know what you are getting at as it does show the how the current executive is failing to work properly. I however do not believe there is a system where sectarian designations can be ruled out for certain issues. There are still aspects of our lives quite clearly divided along Nationalist/Unionist lines. Its a sad fact we need this but I don’t see people agreeing to simple majority rule.” – pfhl

    If the Executive is “failing to work properly”, then why do you need it? Is an Executive that doesn’t work better than no Executive? Hardly, unless you think it wrong to deprive members of the Assembly of well-paid jobs in local politics? If it can’t be reformed, then put it out of the taxpayer’s misery.

    You don’t have a valid democracy under the mandatory coalition system of devolved administration, but you don’t have a valid democracy at the national government level, either. Power isn’t vested in the people or in the State as it must be for a country to qualify as operating a democratic system. The people still elect their government, but much of the power has already been transferred to the EU and much of the remainder is soon to follow. They have a hollow shell remaining to create the comforting illusion that democracy is still in operation in the home country, but the reality is that it isn’t. They have lost it through their own neglect of it, by failing to understand what democracy actually means. In NI, you have a glorified super-council that is manipulated by two other glorified super-councils that are manipulated by an emerging super state.

    So if folks can’t get past the dismal practice of exclusionary politics, then don’t worry about the loss of democracy to NI – that’s akin to worrying in the middle of July about the snowman that melted last January.

  • Alan

    Well, Peter Hain was told that this would happen before Blair made the decision to change the Education Order. They were worried about losing the vote in the Lords. It needn’t have happened. This debacle need not have happened and we could have had all ability schools today. Liberal peers were aghast at the idea of their Party supporting selection in any way and were moving rapidly towards abstention. In the final vote even the liberal abstention was unnecessary.

    The change effectively handed the unionist parties a simple, though potentially highly dangerous, veto. To date they have understandably concentrated on the smokescreen of working class access to grammars. The question is when will they be challenged on the poverty of their policies on the steam-rollering educational underachievement in protestant communities? Even their bete noir, the Equality Commission, are calling for urgent action.

    Sinn Fein cannot make the distance on protestant underachievement. Who can?

  • willis

    “The Bishop of Derry’s educational spokesman, Fr S Farren, has written, I believe in the ‘Derry Journal’, a most fascinating article against selection in education – even going to the extent of apologising for the Churches support of the selective system!”

    http://www.derryjournal.com/journal/39Time-to-repent-for-damage.4075101.jp

    And he suggests that the Church is clear that Bishops should act if a school tries to continue with this type of selection – “Where difficulties and conflicts arise about the authentic Christian character of the Catholic School, hierarchical authority can and must intervene.”

    Focussing on Ruane’s ineptitude tends to mask the bigger picture.

    45% of all pupils go to Catholic Maintained schools. The Bishops wish to end Academic Selection and it appears that in Derry they will pursue this strategy.

    5% of all pupils go to Integrated All-ability schools.

    10% of all pupils go to Non-Maintained Grammar schools.

    Is it not the case that Sinn Fein have been too true to their name “Ourselves alone”. They have not built consensus and agreement among all the sectors opposed to academic selection, and have allowed the superior numbers of DUP/UUP to defeat them in the Assembly?

  • bob Wilson

    What are you saying Alan the LORDS should have over ruled the wishes of the cross community majority that want selection?

    If Sinn Fein had accepted that fundamental democratic standpoint and brought in a form of academic assessment last year she could have spent this year working with the Education Committee to devise methods and finding resources to support children at primary schools in under achieving areas and developing pre school provision and before and after school clubs.
    Instead she decided to be blatantly sectarian and bash the state (mainly Protestant) grammar schools

    Shes toast now though. She has shown her weakeness by suggesting a ‘compromise’ – a suggestion that has dismayed the anti academic selection lobby without appealing to the pro grammar camp.
    The Grammars will now push ahead with their test and if Ruane attempts to skew funding Robinson (or rather Dodds) will withdraw her funding.

    She is in a lose-lose situation

  • Billy

    Ruane is a disgrace…she is inept, hasn’t a clue and a liability to Sinn Fein / IRA…..even they agree !!!! [edited by moderator – play the ball]

  • willis

    “What are you saying Alan the LORDS should have over ruled the wishes of the cross community majority that want selection?”

    Bob If that majority really existed this whole business would have been over. Never mind household surveys and Bele Tele polls, where are children going to school? 50% of children are going to schools which are either all-ability or are intending to use “election”. Only 10% go to schools chosen by academic selection which intend to continue. You are getting close to the percentage who use Independent schools in England.

  • Quizdaemon

    I feel Ruane’s main problem stems from that fact that she was universally unsuitable for the role of Education Minister. Her haughty arrogance makes her unable or unwilling to take any advice from her committee, from the Executive or even her fellow MLA’s. The Sinn Fein purpose in making her a Minister was to raise her profile so she could challenge for a Westminster seat. After recent displays it’s safe to say that Margaret Ritchie will walk it.

    What saddens me if for all her cries of “Won’t someone please think of the children” neither she nor her main opponent Sammy Wilson have once thought about the children. If the 11+ is too stressful for an 11 year old how bad must it be for your future to be in the ballance of bickering fools.

  • Hogan

    I’ve said it before on here and i’ll say it again!

    ‘Educationalists’ are not Teachers.

    If they were teachers Ruane would take great delight in telling us ‘teachers’ back her dogma. But she doesn’t because she knows even SF can’t spin that one.

    The Educationalists she talks of are the unions who are left-wing by nature and whichever PhD twonk the policy drivers at DENI think will make their life easier by bringing us into line with England.

    Q: How many years had Burns and/or Costello spent in a classroom teaching kids how to read or write?

    Answers on a postcard please.

  • Hogan

    And seriously Gregory, Obama’s people over here asking questions?

    FFS let the guy get bloody elected before you start trying to intimidate people with your own peculiar brand of ‘high-level US politics’ fanaticism.

    I think he’s more concerned with Ohio than Omagh at the minute?

  • IJP

    The problem is much broader than just Ruane, and indeed than education.

    The basic issue is that SF simply does not understand democratic process – as Noel kept trying to point out.

    So although it is true that Unionists have to deal with the fact they are in coalition with an anti-selection Minister, the Minister also has to deal with the fact she is in coalition with pro-selection colleagues. It requires compromise, not just saying “Well I’m doing this, so there”.

    We saw the same with the Victims’ Commission. Ultimately, with SF, you can have any kind of agreement – as long as you agree with them.

    Works for the Army Council perhaps, but not for parliamentary democracy. They need to learn, for the sake of the children…

  • willis

    “If they were teachers Ruane would take great delight in telling us ‘teachers’ back her dogma.”

    It really is quite bizarre. A bit like the guy on the Apprentice who could not bring himself to say “loser” ever when he became one, CR could not bring herself to say “teacher”. Educationalists, Education Stakeholders, even Principals got a mention.

    “The Sinn Fein purpose in making her a Minister was to raise her profile so she could challenge for a Westminster seat.”

    Sounds exactly right, and her mentor Gerry Adams looks increasingly out of touch.

  • observer

    Sinn Fein cannot make the distance on protestant underachievement. Who can? —

    Maybe they kids have crap teachers!! Funny how Ruane etc fail to lay any blame at the door of the teacher

  • harry

    would the minister and her other party defenders please please please stop using the word “stakeholders”!! oh for the love of God, please.

    next thing you will know is sinn fein referring to their “shareholders”.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The Colombia 4 were innocent, they told me; there will be no selection, I’m telling you.

    Does anyone see the consistency in her approach?

    The problem is no one believes either one.

  • gram

    >>”There should not be a school in one area of a town with only 6.1% of pupils on free school meals while a couple of miles away another school has 62.3% of pupils on free schools meals.<

  • jen erik

    “Bob If that majority really existed this whole business would have been over. Never mind household surveys and Bele Tele polls, where are children going to school? 50% of children are going to schools which are either all-ability or are intending to use “election”. Only 10% go to schools chosen by academic selection which intend to continue” – Willis

    Willis, why wouldn’t an opinion poll be a more reliable way of judging public opinion?
    If (roughly) only 40% of children are eligible to go to grammar school, you’re never going to have a majority educated in selective schools.

  • Alan

    “Willis, why wouldn’t an opinion poll be a more reliable way of judging public opinion? ”

    Because it is all too easy to skew a poll, particularly if all of the grammar schools are informing their parent bodies how to vote – or printing thousands of pro-forma letters to respond to Departmental consultations. Interesting, too, to see the latest batch of letters informing parents that the schools have not made a decision on whether to go with an independent test.

    You have to ask when exactly does puff become bluff?

    The only people getting squeezed out in all this are our children. There has to be a compromise that recognises that suffocating children’s life chances by institutionalising failure into the transfer procedure is stifling progress towards a more equal society.

    FRinally, if the Unionist Parties are serious about wanting a compromise, then they, just like the Minister for Education, have to ante up – policies have to go on the table so that the local journos can tell us why they are so much better than all-ability. How many Grammar schools do they want to close, and which ones? Will Grammar schools automatically exclude siblings who do not get A’s? Will Grammars agree geographical boundaries to their intake to ensure that both grammars and population in rural areas are not disadvantaged by larger urban populations?

  • @Driftwood

    Any Freudians on here?

    A straightforward interpretation would be that the cat symbolises men, the mouse symbolises women and the hammer the phallus. You dramatise it thus: the other men are doing wrong, but you must a) prove your superiority and b) demonstrate your righteousness by wielding the phallus appropriately.

  • willis

    “Willis, why wouldn’t an opinion poll be a more reliable way of judging public opinion?
    If (roughly) only 40% of children are eligible to go to grammar school, you’re never going to have a majority educated in selective schools.”

    My point is that the Maintained and Integrated sector are intending to go forward without academic selection and they educate half of the children in Northern Ireland. The struggle is over what happens to the other half.

    If anyone can show that this is not the case, please do. I have read a lot of speculation but very little that is backed up.

  • Jen Erik

    Thanks, Willis. I’d misunderstood what you said.

    Alan, I only know about the grammar school two of my children go to, and it hasn’t told me as a parent, or as a member of a parent body, how to vote. (Vote in what, anyway?) The head argued, during the public consultation exercise, for retaining selection, but there was no compulsion to agree – other people at the meeting expressed other views.

    I agree with you that everyone needs to produce detail – it’s impossible to know whether you agree with Ms Ruane till you know what she’s suggesting, and the same goes, as you say, for any other party’s policies.

    In the meantime, if they could compromise on a holding strategy, that would be great.