If the kids are united, should we worry about US exchanges..?

FAMILIES in the US who have hosted foreign exchange students in the past are on the decrease, according to this report on Fox9 News. Since 1973, more than 5,000 children have spent a summer in Minnesota, but this year, instead of bringing 60 kids over, the Children’s Program of Northern Ireland – which aims to foster greater understanding between young people from the two main communities – has been pared down to 20. It costs about $1,200 per child, and many Minnesota families are finding the cost prohibitive in the tough economic climate. On the upside, there’s another view that community relations here may be improving anyway. While the American schemes are well-intentioned, is it time to question whether this generation really are growing up as sectarian as their parents?

  • KieranJ

    The Irish kids from the north are the greatest in the world. God bless them all.

    I’m an Irish American from the Anthracite Region of Pennsylvania (Molly Maguire Territory) and back in the seventies, we habored a few kiddos from the north for a few weeks vacation in the summer. I recall we had three young lads, two Catholics and one Protestant and they were enjoying their stay very much.

    Now, you need to realize that this area also is home to many eastern European folks who settled over one hundred years ago and brought with them their culture.

    With that in mind, I took the lads to a Polish “block party” where many polkas were played and much drinking took place and I happened to ask them what they thought of the music.

    “Well sir” said one of the boys, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that kind of music before”.

    I roared with laughter at the simple honesty and the marvelous sincerity of the young man. Truly amazing children.

    By the way, many of the folks at that celebration were stunned by the attractiveness of these kiddos both physically and mentally. Especially the young Polish American girls.

  • Shore Road Resident

    You’re a bit creepy.

  • Plastic Paddy

    we’re sending our children to Minnesota? have we not seen Fargo?

  • joeCanuck


  • eranu

    in some of the ghetto areas in NI id say the passing down of prejudiced attitudes is still at work. but i think these are areas with little contact with the outside world of the rest of NI society. they are slowly fading away.

    im in my 30s and my circle of friends are both protestant and catholic, they are the same people ive been friends with for the last 10-15 years. the idea that you would not like someone because of their religion to us would seem very old fashioned. when someone talks and acts with a problem with people of the other religion they make themselves look stupid and socially awkward. in a social situation, people around them are embarrassed for the person saying those things.
    i would expect its even more so for people in their 20s and teens. light sectarian banter can be funny amoung friends, but its something that rarely comes up. seriously sectarian minded people are like 1970s alf garnets in the 21st century.

    people shouldnt think that the rantings on this site are representative of NI society. most of those sort of comments would be socially unacceptable in a face to face situation. i think most of the people here with sectarian minds are older people who cant move on from ‘the troubles’ us versus them type thinking.

    as far as free holidays for kids in the US goes. im sure that if americans want to save northern irish children from the horrors of our society for 2 weeks in the summer, then i doubt those kids are going to rock the boat ! 🙂

  • Hasn’t there been a recent study suggesting that young people are more sectarian? I think it’s fairly clear that there is a section of society, primarily among the better off, where integration is increasing. But given that more peace walls exist now than ever before, I’m highly sceptical of the idea that we are getting less sectarian.
    Eranu says that many of the comments here would be unacceptable in face to face situations. True. How often though to people see people from “the other side”?

  • kensei


    I think social embarassment extends well beyond real problems too. It’s not sectarian to have particular political viewpoints but it is often easier just to avoid the whole topic.

  • eranu

    garibaldy, i think people see people from the other side every time they go to work and go out pubbing and clubbing on a saturday night. i think things like the high demand for integrated education shows that NI has and is moving on. we shouldnt let attitudes that are slow to change in ‘bad’ areas drag us down.
    id like to see a study of peoples attitudes that only surveyed reasonabley mixed areas and avoided ‘bad’ areas. then compare the numbers in the mixed areas to the total numbers in the ‘bad’ areas. then we could judge NI a bit better.

  • eranu

    agree with you there kensei. its a bit like walking a very long very thin tightrope after drinking 15 pints. it could all go horribly wrong! 🙂

  • Granni Trixie

    ‘Taking the kids away from the troubles’ was a popular response in the 70s, but since then holiday schemes emphasise follow up to maximise potential change from the experience.

    Whatever the efficacy of holiday schemes,we neglect investment in anti sectarian/CR measures at our peril – history shows that lack of recognition of sectarianism ie avoidence is part of the problem. It is a scandal that gov has a shared future policy but little or no action (or resources) to impliment it. Granni Trixie

  • Eranu,

    Perhaps I ought to have changed ‘see’ to talk to, although again, I wouldn’t understimate the extent to which people still socialise within areas they consider to be their own. As for ‘bad’ areas, by which I presume you mean areas that are overwhelmingly one religion or the other and predominantly working class, the reality is the majority of our population live in such areas, especially in the towns. I think it’s three quarters in Belfast for example.

    We can’t bury our heads in the sands about this. We remain a deeply divided society. It’s great that there are 7% of children in integrated schools. But we must also remember that one had to close recently due to insufficient numbers, while another is being refused funding for the same reason. As I said, sections of our society are moving on. But as a whole, we remain locked in a sectarian framework. Refusing to face up to that won’t help.

  • Granni Trixie,

    The Shared Future policy was binned by the DUP and PSF.

  • Granni Trixie

    Garibaldy: is your statement factually accurate? What exactly do you mean by “binned” – is it that the “2 main parties” quietly ‘forget’ about the policy or have they officially taken action to “throw it out”.?

  • eranu

    how about a survey that avoided areas around peace walls and known interface trouble spots? these are the real bad areas i suppose.

  • Granni,

    A Shared Future was a prominent part of policy, but since the Executive was brought back it has disappeared from the programme for government. My memory is of hearing it being criticised by the big two parties, but I don’t have time to look for exact quotes now. Removing it from the programme for government constitutes binning it in my view.


    Sectarian attitudes spread well beyond the interface areas, but leaving them out would certainly skew the results I’m sure.

  • Glencoppagagh

    I am always sceptical of these transatlantic gestures. Any child old enough to undertake the journey is proably capable of suspending its prejudices for the required length of time.

    “one had to close recently due to insufficient numbers”
    You’re no doubt referring to the Armagh experiment which was doomed from the start but such is the self-righteous conceit of the integrated lobby that they went ahead when census data and the presence of very good Catholic comprehensives in the area would have told them that they had little prospect of success.

  • “community relations”

    The jargon has moved on; it’s ‘good relations’ now 🙂

    I don’t think these trips had much impact on the wider community here. Did the three lads hosted by Kieran meet up when they returned home? Would it even have been safe for them to mention the trip to their friends and neighbours, especially in highly polarised local communities?

    Why is the religious aspect of the ‘sectarian’ epithet emphasised when IMO the separation is essentially on political/constitutional grounds? A quick browse through some of the paramilitary-influenced ‘band’ sites on Bebo would illustrate quite a lot of narrowed-minded ‘in your face’ aggressive attitudes, a severe lack of toleration of difference.

  • Catholic or state comprehensive sounds oxymoronic ….

  • “in anti sectarian/CR measures”

    IMO too many of these projects are inherently sectarian: folks are either divided into two categories or are brought together on the basis of difference. I always thought it was better to bring folks together on the basis of commonality whilst encouraging as broad a representation as possible.

  • Son of Satan

    Personally I’m absolutely delighted that the number of exchange children have dramatically fallen and quite frankly Big Patrica Lewsley should get off her big fat arse and stop it.
    It’s nothing more than Pedo central for the lazy fuckers who don’t want to visit a school with a dirty overcoat because it too far away, or don’t have the internet because they either can’t read and write or their Sinn Fein loving partners are too busy using the computer for spying on their friends and relatives for them to be able to download kiddy porn.
    So what do we do? oh yes we send round fat drunken witches to collect money at the doors of the homes of future child rape victims, let them keep half to cover the catalogue money they squandered that week on Chinese take-aways, cheap Provo copy fags, and vodka in the local shitholes they drank in.
    Then the names are drawn by ballot (after the fat drunks have made sure their family and friends have already been assured of a place) by the recipiants of the surplus money that didn’t go on Provo cancer sticks normally a local gay man who hadn’t the courage to out himself so he hides behind a dog-collar and a frock.
    Many times this person is more that just frighten of admitting his sexuality and is in fact a stinking fucking rat that preys on children in the full knoweledge that if caught the good old Church and Bishops will do everything in their power to cover it up.
    The homes overseas were not vetted and every predator that ever lusted over a child applied to be hosts for their victims and the do-good fuckers on this side of the pond eager for quantity more than quality of placement sent the kids by the thousand to be raped at will.

    It’s a fantastic piece of news to hear it’s on the demise.

  • Ri Na Deise

    Son Of Satan

    By far the weirdest and most warped few paragraphs Ive ever encountered. Either you’re on a wind up, or they’ve introduced internet access in the local nut house.:-D

  • Danny Boy

    Exactly, Nevin! I remember spending primary school days on a scheme called ‘PACE’, Protestant And Catholic Encounter, which involved Protestant and Catholic schoolchildren (and some from an Integrated school) being brought together to perform songs they had practiced separately all year. No talking allowed! The closest we got to an ‘encounter’ was sitting on the same bench, facing the same audience. Being informed you were about to ‘encounter’ the other lot gave a strange feeling to what would otherwise have been a perfectly natural situation. Kids aren’t thick, and they know enough about adults to watch what they do more than listen to what they say.

  • “Especially the young Polish American girls.”

    Kieran, ‘boy meets girl’ is maybe nearly as old as the hills – if you’re a Young Earthy …

  • Earnan

    Polish women are hot

  • Greenflag

    danny boy,

    ‘and they (kids) know enough about adults to watch what they do more than listen to what they say. ‘

    Well said . It’s a shame that too many kids lose this talent when they ‘grow up’ and have become properly sectarianised .

    On balance it’s probably a good thing for kids from both communities to go to Minnesota where they can see how other people handle ‘religious’ and other differences . The sooner they learn that Northern Ireland is not the centre of the universe the better . It can’t do any harm and it may even do some good .

  • Rick

    If the kids are united, they will never be defeated!