Can the DUP advance the cause of mixed schooling like this?

So the DUP ” will not rest” until a single schools system is created, says Mervyn Storey

 He suggested four issues would require agreement:

  • Governance — a single body representing all to encourage collaboration in planning;
  • Policy — achieving genuine consensus rather than “whim or ideology”;
  • Structures — meeting needs in a cost-effective way, and
  • Choice — protecting the concept of parental choice “within an agreed framework”.

The big question is – Is the DUP in any position to achieve it? Their old weapons of truculence and aggression with a hint of menace and bluster will get them nowhere. This is a cross community project or it is nothing. Politicians have to learn the language of consensus in order to achieve it. The DUP have to examine their own position in public as well, rather than set themselves up as ” right” with others as “wrong”.

At one level a ” single system ” or framework is easy. In a sense we’ve got one now. What Mervyn’s really referring to is separate Catholic schools, as of course we know. Treating this as a target to aim at first is not the way to win agreement. The DUP  should start by saying” I’ve no objection to Catholic nationalists teaching my kids.” Next they should start identifying the benefits for all children, rather than battering their heads against the institutional problems first. Perhaps we should take a look at the Protestant transferors in the state system?  All that would be a better approach, particularly for a school prize day in front of children.

I’m assuming of course that Mervyn is a genuine supporter of parental choice for mixed schooling. I’d be easy to convince. There are many others from the Cardinal down (or up) who would need a good deal more reassurance – and most of them seem to comment here. This is a debate that needs careful handling.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London