Ignoring the political reality

With the failure of the polit-bureau to agree, the Northern Ireland Education Minister Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane’s privatisation of the post-primary transfer system had raised questions about the political damage done to her, and her party. In the NI Assembly today, egged on by some of her party colleagues, the NI Education Minister was answering questions revealing the extent to which she is ignoring the political reality.

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  • Pete

    Thanks for this example of basic sillines. CR appears to have even had her stock answer ready for Dominic Bradley – that the SDLP supports academic selection – when he said no such thing.

    But I enjoyed the fact that she talked as her colleagues just nattered away between themselves. Is this a party fit for government? I think not.

  • joeCanuck

    All together now:

    “Anything you can’t do I can’t do better…”

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    What exactly are the SDLP proposals? The 3 smaller parties should get together, if it was that simple, and agree a way forward. Of course they wont and the pointless point scoring will continue.

  • realitycheck

    The SDLP don’t have any proposals! Its very hypocritical of the SDLP to criticise Ruane, she has proposals, Bradley has none! If I’m wrong please let us hear the SDLP posters here outline their alternative.
    Bradley criticises for the sake of it, last year he slammed the Minister for her compromise proposal, then when the Churches said they wanted a compromise the SDLP did a u-turn. Media didn’t pick up on that one (surprise surprise)

  • slug

    To be fair to the SDLP they do not hold this ministry, so its not for them to have proposals its for them to point to flaws in the Minister’s.

  • Dewi

    Fair play to Caitríona for sticking to her guns after months of abuse. – Brave girl.

  • Pete Baker

    Yeah Dewi,

    “To infinity and beyond..”

  • Dewi

    Thing is Pete she’s right believe it or not. Just because all the vested interests are against here doesn’t mean she’s wrong.

  • Dewi

    against her – sorry

  • The Third Policeman

    Mind explaining the ‘Finaghy and beyond thing’ Pete? Im not sure anyone knows what you’re on about.

  • Pete Baker

    “she’s right believe it or not”

    You’re havin’ a laugh, Dewi.

    In response to a perfectly valid question, on the inequities of the unregulated system Caitríona Ruane now wants to introduce, she reacts by accusing the questioner of supporting a system of selection.


    Buzz Lightyear couldn’t accept reality either.

  • reality check


    Thats a real cop-out! If Stephen Nolan were to ask D Bradley what he would do if the SDLP had the Education Ministry and Bradley said that its not up to the party to have alternative proposals only to criticise, he would get crucified politically – question is why are the press not exposing this further?

    The SDLP – no detailed policy just on-the-fence criticism. That is actually sickening given the seriousness of this issue. The SDLP needs to do some homework, at least the Minister has done some work on her proposals. If the SDLP are saying they have no alternatives then why should anyone vote for them?!

  • pete whitcroft

    No matter what the system the middle classes will do what they can for their children to attend what is perceived to be a school that reflects well on them.
    The current system allows for kids who are not the teachers pet to get to the prestige schools. That is good. As for the secondary schools, they should get extra funding if they are getting ABC grades at GCSE. This would speed up the rise and fall of the schools based on performance.
    The junior high system is best but sadly we can’t all live in Craigavon.
    One element of that government experiment that went right.

  • Yes clearly it is the SDLP who are the most at fault here. And not the Provos who had this post from 1998-2002, and then again from 2007 forwards. Yep, we should not let these shirkers off the hook, while praising the brave girl Caitríona (btw Dewi that’s the most patronising remark I’ve seen about her yet).

    There has been no bravery in this whole episode. Just neglect, ill-preparation, arrogance,and incompetence. More likely than not, with one eye on new middle class voters.

    As for educational apartheid being used by the Minister. I nearly choked. Religion is the key division in our schools. Touching that would be brave.

  • Billy

    Reality Check

    Precisely so.

    I think that Sinn Fein have made a total balls of this. However, the SDLP response shows exactly why they are in decline and will continue to be so.

    It requires no intelligence or skill to criticise other people. I thought politics was about presenting ones own ideas and being able to coherently defend them (although that rules out 95+% of politicians in the North).

    The SDLP and Bradley in particular are laughable. Frankly, I’m not interested in their criticisms of anyones else’s policies unless they are prepared to put up their own alternatives.

    Could it be that they don’t have any? – Surely not.

    Sinn Fein certainly need to get their act together. However, the SDLP won’t benefit from this as long as they continue to follow the pathetic “leadership” of Durkan, McGrady and Attwood etc.

  • the future’s bright the future’s orange

    ‘As for educational apartheid being used by the Minister. I nearly choked. Religion is the key division in our schools. Touching that would be brave. ‘

    the on head nail the hit

  • frustrated democrat

    She has placed the chuildren in an awful situation by not recognising the realities and modifying her dogma to suit the situation.

    The facts are that children must, in many cases, sit multiple different tests. What is she going to do about it? – the answer is keep trotting out her SF dogma and bleating about equality while the children suffer; which is what she claims she is trying to avoid. She fails to see the stupidity of her situation arguing for and against the same thing at the same time.

    What a waste of time she is.

  • dunreavynomore

    third policeman
    a big bucket of omnium would sort the whole thing out, did you check the lever today?

  • fair_deal


    “Just because all the vested interests are against her”

    No they are not. A fair whack are fully supportive and she still managed a complete hains of it.

  • Reader

    fair_deal: No they are not. A fair whack are fully supportive and she still managed a complete hains of it.
    I think you’re more nearly right than Dewi – the civil service lined up behind her and marched off into the swamp – but I think the Grammar heads in the maintained sector only ever pretended to support her, and she may have had the teachers’ unions onside, but I don’t think the teachers themselves were anything like solid behind her.
    And right now, she can be blamed for abject failure by all sides.

  • Congal Claen

    CR has absolutely no social skills. So much so that she alienated even those that supported her.

    Thank fek for CR – no comprehensive mediocrity! Maybe she’s a DUP agent?

  • blinding

    The Ulster Unionists were like the two old codgers that used to be in the muppet show shouting their “Bah” “Humbug” except the UU have less positive to offer.

    The SDLP were just run of the mill muppets.

  • Essentialist

    It’s not what the minister and her officials say – it’s about what they do. Take for instance the petulant withdrawal of her test in early February.

    Assembly Question on the Minister’s CCEA Transfer Test follows:
    Mr M Storey asked the Minister of Education how much has been spent on the development of the CCEA transfer test; and what is the anticipated final cost of this test.

    (AQW 4248/09)

    Minister of Education: Actual expenditure to date is less than £1500. The test was commissioned in anticipation of Executive agreement of Regulations to govern post primary Transfer 2010. Given the absence of any such agreement the test has been decommissioned and CCEA has advised the Department that the final anticipated cost will be around £100000.

    Other questions about how the test would be used were met with a standard response. “These questions no longer have relevance in light of my announcement on 2 February 2009 that I am withdrawing the commission for a CCEA test.”

    Start the clock now to see how long it is before her test rises from the ashes.

    It will be of interest to Sluggerites that no tender was issued for her test. £100,000 paid out by CCEA on behalf of taxpayers and no product. What’s new for Caitriona and her provocateurs?
    The silence from the politicians posing as her opponents is deafening.

    Caitrion’s test will be back. It is plain to see that that Bob McCartney has the measure of this woman and her department. Pity that the DUP and UUP have fallen asleep.

  • Ultonian

    Folks, the fact remains the UUP and the DUP are ignoring just how crap our education system is in some places. They also ignore how poor some of our so called grammar schools are – some only take 20% A, hardly a school for high achievers, many take less than 50% A.

    Northern ireland needs to relook at the Dickson plan learn from the mistakes of the system in Craigavon and build a new system based on a two teir model.

    Until then this sterile and often purile debate will contintue

    New minister needed – new thinking needed

  • Essentialist

    Stop the crap on 14 and the Dickson plan. Both are dead in the water. Dickson only worked because of selection at 11. Double dipping. !4 means comprehensives from 11-14. Do you think any sane parent would buy that as progress?

    What do you have to say about the £100,000 wasted on the minister’s test? Spending public money and then throwing away the product surely deserves a comment from a proponent of waste.

  • stuart

    catriona ruane isn’t fit to be in government, although given the general quality of the chamber that’s so unremarkable as to be hardly worth pointing out.

    the education system, especially post primary, needs completely reformed. the english comprehensive system shows what happens when you lump everyone together and let them leave at 16, (which was fine when everyone could go down the mines, but these day you’re still very much a child at that age). There is an anti-learning culture and while that might suit certain elements of the current administration in that it means less people will rationally challenge whether everything is the brits’ fault or what god thinks about a situation etc it’s a real shame that a devolved administration would take away a procedure because it discriminates and leave an even bigger shambles, rather than learn from other success stories (most of western europe) and failures (rest of uk) and use the opportunity to build a workable system that gives kids a rounded education and gives them opportunity to lead successful lives instead of being written off at 16.

  • willis


    What do you think the mistakes in Craigavon were? Were too many compromises made to get the Dickson Plan off the ground? Can it be expanded in any practical way?

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    “complete hains of it.”

    I think you mean a complete ‘hames’ of it; but , given the circumstances, you aren’t far wrong.

  • willis

    Speaking of ignoring reality:


    The DUP should widen the education debate to reflect the feelings of most schools who are glad to see the end of academic selection, a leading school principal claimed today.

    In a strongly worded letter to the DUP’s Mervyn Storey who chairs the Stormont Education Committee the principal attacked the wider political controversy over education warning it is playing on the emotions of parents and blocking efforts to modernise schools.

    Robert Poots, who is principal of Dromara Primary School in Co Down and former president of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, revealed that almost 30 primary schools refused to support grammars in the Lisburn area who wanted to continue testing.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    it is good to see a debate which is shorn of political point scoring – as in “political damage done” etc but actually looking at the issue itself.

  • willis

    It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it,

    Thanks for that

    And you are right.

    This came completely from left field. The echo chamber gave absolutely no indication that there was this groundswell of opinion in a key Unionist area between Dickson and Belfast which recognised that the 11+ is not the way to go and its corrupt offspring (Hat-tip Stephen) are even worse.


  • Essentialist

    Mr Poots the principal makes the same mistake that AQE make. He thinks he talks for parents. Mr Poots will undoubtedly be a supporter of the revised curriculum, Incas/Pupil Profile and Assessment for Learning. Perhaps he too should read Testing the Test and learn that the 11-plus is the best instrument meeting most international standards for high stakes tests.
    Cool the jets Willis this is only beginning to get to the interesting phase.
    Confusing PACE and AQE as similar organisations just because they both support academic selection is akin to confusing the views of teachers with those of their union reps.

  • How silly to think that organisations people join might represent the views of their members. Instead of the papist plot. Even the unions that are weak to vitrually non-existent in the Catholic schools.

  • willis


    “Cool the jets Willis this is only beginning to get to the interesting phase.”

    You are too kind.

    You have brilliantly pointed out the enthusiasm within the Grammar sector for a little cash on the side.

    Or perhaps this will all be Pro Bono?

    Do keep us informed.

  • Essentialist

    ” the enthusiasm within the Grammar sector for a little cash on the side.”

    In contrast to those who expect the state to pay all the bills while retaining control of their estate and programme for comprehensivization.

    Not a word from you on the Minister’s approved expenditure of £100,000 on her withdrawn test. Good value from the educationalists as ever.

    “Keep us informed”? I thought all the unions knew what is going on. They do represent their members don’t they or is that a nieve concept for the 21st century?

  • Ulsters my homeland, not O’reland

    The IRA/Sinn fein minister made reference to 2010. What cross border education is set for 2010?

  • willis


    “In contrast to those who expect the state to pay all the bills while retaining control of their estate and programme for comprehensivization.”

    So who would this be precisely?

  • Essentialist

    Are you really that slow Willis?
    The controlled sector (controlled by anti-selectionists including CCMS and the four main churches)
    THe CCMS,(where does the income from sale of their closed school sites go?)
    The Integrated sector middle class pseudo-comprehensives (wih two of their post-primary schools intending to use academic selection)
    The IM sector ( a declining language not popular with air traffic controllers)

    There may be some of the grammar sector who would also be taking state funding under false pretenses. i.e. pretending to remain as grammars rather than admitting that they are closet comprehensives. No need for five sectors when two will do. Grammmar schools and secondary schools.

    Remember they all use taxpayers’ money to operate their duplicative systems.