“Them and us” versus “all of us” with the Alliance party in the middle…

Thanks to Mark for a heads up on this one… If you thought the sectarian punch up had gone away, think again. It’s still there, it’s just they are using other party’s ministerial portfolios to batter each other with. In this case, Stephen Farry of the Alliance party.

Stephen Farry on Stranmillis College Queen”s merger (mp3)

Story over to Mark Devenport:

With a population of just 1.8 million people, Mr Farry reckoned Northern Ireland should have a single teacher training system. He has commissioned a study to examine the sustainability of the current divided system and questioned whether the taxpayer should continue to subsidise separate colleges.

So in the new spirit of “one community” did MLAs on both sides nod sagely, wish the minister well in his endeavours and pledge to examine the recommendations of his study with open minds? No, you’ve guessed it. They savaged him.

Lyndsay Fergus has a copy of the letter that set it all off:

In correspondence between the DUP leader and the Alliance minister, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson expresses fears about the “protection of the ethos of the college”.

He states: “I am convinced that the inevitable consequence will be a dilution of the existing ethos Stranmillis has proudly maintained. When considered in conjunction with the absence of similar proposals relating to St Mary’s, neither I nor my party could support the proposed merger.”

Mr Robinson adds: “I have been publicly vocal on the need for Northern Ireland to progress toward an education sector that is truly shared yet feel the continued protection of St Mary’s privileged position, whilst undermining that of Stranmillis, would be a retrograde step.”

Now, it’s important to know that Stranmillis and Queens University have had very close ties for many years. Both sides appear to be up for it. Which makes Robinson’s idea that there’s a danger to its (Stranmillis) ‘ethos’ somewhat odd…

Ms Fergus continues:

New figures suggest Stranmillis will be more than £1m in debt by 2014/15 and needs at least £9m of investment.

Since 2007 there has been an 18% reduction in staff at the south Belfast campus, according to a briefing paper presented to Stormont’s employment and learning committee last month.

Those figures could rise if the number of teacher training places are reduced by the Department of Education given the number of empty desks, impending school closures and the already high number of newly-qualified teachers failing to gain employment.

It emerged during an Assembly debate in September that just 30 of 600 new teachers trained in Northern Ireland have been able to secure full-time school jobs this year. There’s an estimated 5,000 teachers currently out of work.

And if you think that’s bad here’s Mark quoting the Sinn Fein MP/MLA for West Belfast, Paul Maskey:

Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey accused Mr Farry of trying to close St Mary’s by stealth. The West Belfast MP and MLA claimed the minister was “sailing very close” to engaging in sectarianism.

No mention of Tory cuts… In, the Minister is proposing the only evident practical way forward… Very handy for the DUP (‘all of us’), who will say getting St Mary’s into the wider picture is a necessary precursor to a wholesale re-engineering of the education system away from old sectarian lines…

And for Sinn Fein (‘separate but equal’), who are kicking him from the other side for a decision he has yet to make, but setting up conditions that might make it impossible for the Catholic St Mary’s College to maintain an independent status outside mainstream third level teacher training college…

There’s no major appetite for an integrated education system within the wider Catholic community. But the money is running out for Stranmillis. It remains to be seen whether there are legs in this fight, or if it’s just another sham fight for the benefit of the incumbents of OFMDFM; the top flight of the NI Adminstration…

It always helps when the main ministerial casulty is conveniently in another party altogether…

Further Reading: End segregated schooling says First Minister (Channel 4)

  • Cynic2

    Why should the State fund any college or school to have a Catholic, Protestant or any other ethos?

    If we want a shared future it should all be totally secular. If any denomination wants to add on religous education then let them – at their own cost. Why should my taxes be spent on someone else’s supersticions and ignorace?

  • Dazzler

    What is the real reason that the dup want to veto this merger and link it to st marys? Is it because stranmillis is basically a protestant college and st marys is basically a catholic college and if stranmillis is merged into queens and st marys is not there will be no protestant teaching college?

  • ayeYerMa

    Robinson is a playing clever more long-term strategy. There have been people playing up the “ethos” of Catholic Grammar schools and the SDLP and Sinn Fein have refused to budge on the issue.

    If Robinson plays up how the ethos of Stranmillis needs to be maintained but then eventually is seen to compromise, then those refusing to compromise on Catholic Grammars will appear all the more unreasonable.

  • I think the State should reflect the views of its voters and taxpayers.
    If a Government doesnt do that, it would possibly finditself out of office.
    Its obviously the right indeed duty of “Cynic2” to vote for a Party which reflects his own views on state funded education for religious and other ethos. (in the wise words of Dr Norman Hamilton there is no such thing as value-free education).
    We can only reasonably conclude that our Government reflects the views of people actually voting for them.

  • Chris Donnelly

    There have been people playing up the “ethos” of Catholic Grammar schools and the SDLP and Sinn Fein have refused to budge on the issue.

    If Robinson plays up how the ethos of Stranmillis needs to be maintained but then eventually is seen to compromise, then those refusing to compromise on Catholic Grammars will appear all the more unreasonable.

    ayeyerma
    You appear to be confused about the arguments within the education sector.

    Sinn Fein’s oft stated position is one quite hostile to Catholic Grammars continuing to exist as their status as ‘grammars’ is contingent upon the continuation of academic selection.

    The SDLP position is much more cautious, not wanting to stand against the grammars but not wanting to move decisively against their stated support for an end to selection.

    But neither party has indicated any degree of support for the abolition of catholic education, which I think was your point.

    You’re also unaware of the fact that Stranmillis appear to be less hostile to the amalgamation with Queen’s than the DUP clearly are.

    In reality, the reaction of unionist politicians to a number of recent developments within non-catholic schools (in Dundonald and Banbridge respectively, links below) illustrates just why the DUP’s rhetorical support for shared education should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    http://www.banbridgeleader.co.uk/news/local/academy_anthem_row_1_3271098

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/mla-in-plea-for-mediation-to-end-school-poppy-row-16083004.html

  • ayeYerMa

    Chris, my statement specific to Grammars merely referred to “people”, not political parties. Whatever, Sinn Fein and the SDLP seem want to maintain a particular “ethos” in Catholic schools and so the brunt of my point still stands.

  • Zig70

    It’s not SF or SDLP that are the force behind Catholic schools but Catholic mothers. I wouldn’t take them on lightly.

  • dwatch

    Stranmillis TC wants to be amalgamated with Queens UB whereas St Mary’s TC situated on land owned by the Catholic Church in West Belfast does not wish to give over any authority to QUB. So how can the DUP & UUP MLA’s on the Executive force them against their will?

  • DC

    on land owned by the Catholic Church in West Belfast does not wish to give over any authority

    Does anyone know how much land the Catholic Church does own – across the UK / Ireland and the world?

    I had come across a thread on one of the ‘Occupy’ facebook pages and there was a post that suggested the Catholic Church was up there with the top land-owning institutions in the world – the Queen/British Monarchy owning the most? It seems reasonable to think that the Catholic Church would own a lot of land.

    Vested interests – of whatever background and belonging to whichever propertied class – do not divest themselves of those interests easily. Especially not to regional politicians that come and go in the space of four years or so.

  • Cynic2

    Chris

    “You appear to be confused”

    Everyone who holds a different view to you usually is. Its just a milder form of man-playing

    Sadly too you seem to be conflating some issues. The issue for SF is that they oppose academic selection (there’s votes in it) but support a Catholic controlled education (there’s votes in that too). In essence its a strategy that wants children locked into schools with lower achievement and a Catholic ethos.

    Heaven help us is the little buggers ever learned to apply logic or even just think for themselves. What would the world come to!

  • Chris Donnelly

    Cynic2
    Your man-playing abilities are quite impressive and hardly need honing further at this stage.

    You seem to appear to suggest that children in catholic schools achieve little, are illogical and can’t think for themselves.

    As I’ve said before, it’s little wonder you hide behind that nom de plume. What would the neighbours say if they knew the ‘real’ you…

    However, it would be interesting to hear an elaboration upon your assertion that Sinn Fein’s stance on academic selection has won them votes.

  • BluesJazz

    if a ‘Catholic’ education is so important, why not apply it at FE and HE level as well. Have a Catholic University (where they study Catholic Chemistry, Catholic Maths, Catholic Physics). Have a Protestant University where they study ……) And have a University based on evidence and logic. 3 Universities, simples. Guess which one would be the employers choice.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dwatch,

    They can’t. I don’t think. But that’s not what is at issue here. They are entitled to argue that the minister’s review ought to include St Mary’s in its TORs.

    SF want St Mary’s exempted from any review and if I understand Mr Maskey correctly, would regard any attempt to include it as verging on the sectarian.

  • iluvni

    I think this education debate is going to finally get to the crux of the issue, where, despite all the years of whinging about discrimination and sectarianism, the Roman Catholic church and the ‘RC’ political parties are determined to maintain their sectarian approach to existence within NI…and expect everyone else to continue to pay for it.

  • ayeYerMa

    After watching Politics Today, with Tara Mills and Mark Devenport, I see that those in the BBC STILL do not understand what the DUP was actually saying when talking about to ending “them and us”. The “them and us” refers to ending the sectarian (i.e. religious) divide, and does not refer in any way to the DUP reaching out Provo Sinn Fein or wanting to become at one with them.

    If fact, “them and us” is entirely desirable within a system of Paramilitary democracy. It seems that those in the BBC have had their heads so far up the arse of the “peace processors” over the years that they cannot think outside the “peace processing” box and the current flawed set-up where one designates as the mutually incompatible (short of the Republic re-joining the UK) “Unionist” or “Nationalist”.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Oh Mick you miss the obvious paradox, All of Us leads to Them and Us, if either Them or Us is calling the shots.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Call that Sínndoctoring if you want.

  • Cynic2

    “an elaboration upon your assertion that Sinn Fein’s stance on academic selection has won them votes.”

    Why else would they do it? Do you believe that they are conviction politicans folloowing moral princple?

    In addition it was a nice attempt to twist my post to infer that I was alleging Catholic children were thick. Read it again. Any child educated through a religously tailored institution will have its world view shaped by all the irrational unscientific guilt ridden nonsense that goes with all of our major churches.

    They will be encouraged not to ask too many questions on some issues where dogma conflcits with scientific evidence and just believe that their friend in the sky did it so bets not to challenge too much.

    But do you deny that SF policy is pro seperate Catholic schools and anti selection?

  • Cynic2

    “Guess which one would be the employers choice?”

    Do you seriously think that Governmnmety wants you to have choice?

  • DT123

    The nettle that needs to be grasped ,is the fact that RC teachers can apply for any teaching post that they fancy.Wheras non RC teachers are pretty much excluded from the Catholic maintained sector.If this situation were reversed ,the howls of descrimination would be heard the length and breadth of the country.

    If any employer wants to exclude certain sections of the community ,due to religion,then they should at the very least, not be funded by the State.

  • “Wheras non RC teachers are pretty much excluded from the Catholic maintained sector.If this situation were reversed ,the howls of descrimination would be heard the length and breadth of the country.”

    There’s a lot of sensationalist misinformation on this being spouted by deliberately disingenuous individuals. “Non RC teachers” are not excluded, they are free to take the certificate in the same manner as do “RC” teachers in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. They can also choose to take the certificate by distance learning alongside undergraduate studies or attend in person at many universities and colleges throughout these islands (http://goo.gl/G645a). Also the certificate is required only by CCMS primary schools (naturally enough as teachers will have to prepare children for the sacraments).

    In short, if graduates are coming out of Stranmillis not fully prepared for the world of work because they don’t offer a qualification required by a substantial number of schools, then the fault lies squarely with them. In such circumstances it’s no wonder the College has such a bad reputation and is about to go to the wall – with DUP assistance it must be said.

  • Reader

    DT123: The nettle that needs to be grasped ,is the fact that RC teachers can apply for any teaching post that they fancy.Wheras non RC teachers are pretty much excluded from the Catholic maintained sector.
    In practice, there’s a bit of crossover (my wife got the necessary certificate while she was subbing…), and the system has a bit of balance built in to the employment legislation, I think.
    But a tough job market should prevent the worst imbalances from building up anyway – the Catholic teachers looking for jobs in the Controlled sector are mostly the ones who already failed to get jobs in the maintained sector – their chances aren’t great.
    If you are looking for a nettle to grasp, check out what happens to the career of Catholic teachers who have *ever* worked in the integrated sector.

  • “If you are looking for a nettle to grasp, check out what happens to the career of Catholic teachers who have *ever* worked in the integrated sector.”

    Why not enlighten us Reader. I’ve very good friends with someone who taught for four years in an integrated school and was appointed head of maths within three years of joining a prominent Catholic grammar. Are you trying to say that those who teach firstly in an integrated school get preferential treatment?

  • Framer

    It is ludicrous to expect Protestants at Stranmillis to take the Certificate of Catholic Religious Education to be able to also become eligible for jobs in Catholic schools when those schools are perfectly entitled to discriminate in favour of their own because teaching appointments are exempt from Fair Employment law.

  • @Framer
    Why so? The certificate is evidence that the candidate is up to the job. Would you expect an electrician to get a job if they haven’t got their City and Guilds or an accountant without their ACCA membership?

  • Framer

    My point, Ulick, is that even with the religious certificate, Protestants are not protected by law from discrimination.in Catholic school appointments. This employment discrimination exemption is even written into EU law.

    I do not believe a pupil in a Catholic school studying maths or science can or should only be taught by someone with a religious certificate but that is the ludicrous arrangement in place.

    Essentially it is designed to keep out those of other faiths, or none, and protect the monopoly that benefits young Catholic teachers entering the profession.

  • Neil

    Stranmillis is broke. St. Mary’s is not. Article 2, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights entitles parents to have their children educated in the religious ethos of their choice. And as for the ‘I refuse to pay for Catholic schools’ schtick, it’s a self solving problem. A significant proportion of families here are Catholic. We pay tax. That exact same proportion of families need their children educated and get to choose which institution.

    Finally, as mentioned, if the CCMS were to be removed from education, then DEL would need to come up with tens if not hundreds of millions to pay for ground rents on properties generously supplied by the Catholic Church.

    In essence the DUP is letting the sectarian mask slip. What they’re saying is: ‘Stranmillis is going to the wall, but we’re not letting you do anything to it unless you do something to the (not-broke) fenian Uni too’. This in defiance of the fact that Stranmillis wants and needs to be merged with Queens for financial reasons, while St. Mary’s needs and wants none of the above.

  • @Framer
    That’s nonsense. I was educated through the maintained sector and was taught by many non-Catholic teachers. The certificate applies only to primary schools as primary teachers have to prepare children for Confession and Communion. FFS if non-Catholic teachers want to take the Certificate, DEL will even pay the course fees.

  • DT123

    Rule 4 ,in the “before you start your application” for the CCMS.

    All aplicants must be committed to the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school.

    http://www.onlineccms.com/recruitment/

    So the “certificate” is not enough.Surely a simple soloution,in the intrests of equality,would be to level the playing field by restricting graduates of St Marys to the CCMS sector.

  • “Surely a simple soloution,in the intrests of equality,would be to level the playing field by restricting graduates of St Marys to the CCMS sector.”

    That’s a ridiculous suggestion. Why would you stop at St Marys? Surely if you did that then you would also have to restrict graduates from the many universities and colleges around these islands and indeed the world who also offer the certificate? Obviously infeasible, so perhaps you could ban those who have been awarded the dreaded Papish certificate? Then again there would be no compulsion on an applicant to declare they have the certificate, so that wouldn’t really work either.

    The simple solution is for Stranmillis to offer the certificate alongside their teaching qualifications, as already happens at the University of Ulster. Of course this could all be immaterial very shortly as if the DUP continue with their zero-sum sectarian game, Stranmillis will be no more. I look forward to David McIlveen’s response when his Party is held responsible for all those “Protestant” students traipsing over to the Falls Rd for their teacher training because Stran has gone to the wall.

    Still it could do wonders for the Ranch’s efforts to recreate their once mighty Sigerson teams.

  • Cynic2

    “All applicants must be committed to the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school.”

    Whats more the old Fair Employment Act specifically exempted teaching posts from fair employment. That in itself was discriminatory as state schools welcome Catholic teachers. Prods can apply for posts in Catholic schools but are likely to fail the ‘ethos’ test

  • Cynic2

    “they are using other party’s ministerial portfolios to batter each other with”

    I am surprised if he and Attwood didnt realise from the start that they were the Assembly equivalent of those Japanese dolls that Salarymen beat with sticks to relieve stress

  • DT123

    Ulick.

    You are very interested in the required certificate,however as is quite clear on the CCMS website,this is only part of the requirement.Do you think it is equitable that Catholic schools can ask that a potential teacher, be committed to “the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school”?Yet State schools are open to all religions and none,sounds like descrimination to me.

  • Framer

    The religious certification applies to Catholic secondary schools, Ulick, as does the fair employment exemption

    I’d be interested to know where you were taught by ‘many non-Catholic teachers’. It is the first I have heard of such a thing in NI unless you were taking a course in advanced-Mandarin or some other esoteric subject.

  • @Framer
    “I’d be interested to know where you were taught by ‘many non-Catholic teachers’. It is the first I have heard of such a thing in NI unless you were taking a course in advanced-Mandarin or some other esoteric subject..”

    No. Of the top of my head I can remember my biology, physics and PE teachers were all non-Catholic. St Michael’s in Lurgan circa 1986-1990.

    “The religious certification applies to Catholic secondary schools, Ulick”
    It applies only to primary schools.

  • @DT123
    “Do you think it is equitable that Catholic schools can ask that a potential teacher, be committed to “the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school”

    If the job entails they’ll have to prepare Catholic children for the sacraments, then yes, I would expect they would be fully supportive of the Schools role in doing that.

  • Lionel Hutz

    it is de facto discrimination but it is justified discrimination. Discrimination can be justified if it serves a legitimate purpose and there are not less discriminatory means of achieving that purpose.

    Anyway backt to the topic. I would have more sympathy for Farry if he stuck by his principles. If he thought that St Mary’s should be merged too then he should have called for that before the DUP told him what to do.

    With reference to another thread on the DUP, Peter Robinson has nowcreated a stick to beat the party with if he doesn’t deliver on his more soft approach to Catholics. Farry should have called his bluff.

  • Cynic2

    “Discrimination can be justified if it serves a legitimate purpose ” …like keeping jobs for Good Catholic Girls and keeping Prods out? What else is the ‘legitimate’ purpose?

  • Nunoftheabove

    “All applicants must be committed to the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school”

    Is the act of applying for the job considered as a de facto undertaking of such a commitment or is this commitment routinely assessed as part of the selection process ? If so, how ? How strongly weighted is it as one of presumably a number of selection criteria vis-a-vis, say, the ability to, like, teach actual stuff ? Is it possible to lose out on a job purely on the basis of being assessed as slightly less committed to the religious and pastoral development notion than another candidate ?

  • Framer

    Ulick

    St Michael’s Lurgan must have been a very peculiar school as the 2002 survey by the Equality Commission found that “in the Roman Catholic Maintained schools 98% of teachers were from the Roman Catholic community.”

    When was the religious certificate dropped as a requirement for Catholic secondary schools and does that not imply those schools no longer need protection from fair employment legislation?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Framer

    Here’sa statement on this very issue from the Education Minister in response to Sandra Overend’s question at the Assembly this week:

    Mrs Overend asked the Minister of Education whether the Catholic Church places any additional requirements on applicants seeking to work in the maintained sector in comparison with the current state requirements to work in the controlled sector.

    (AQW 4629/11-15)

    Mr O’Dowd: The Catholic Church does not employ staff within maintained schools.

    The Certificate in Religious Education is a mandatory requirement of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) for all those seeking appointment to a permanent teaching position in a Catholic Maintained nursery or primary school here. CCMS have approved a number of providers, based upon the nature of the syllabi and content of the particular course, for student and qualified teachers to access Certificate in Religious Education, including St Mary’s University College, Stranmillis University College, Iona Retreat Centre and a Life-light Home Study Course.

    My Department is currently engaged in a review to assess the impact of the requirement of a religious certificate on current and future recruitment opportunities in the teaching sector, including any course accessibility issues. It is anticipated the review will be finalised in 2011 and its outcome will be shared with the Education Committee.

    There are no additional requirements on those applying for non teaching posts in Catholic Maintained schools.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Discrimination can be justified if it serves a legitimate purpose ” …like keeping jobs for Good Catholic Girls and keeping Prods out? What else is the ‘legitimate’ purpose?

    The legitimate purpose would be to maintain the catholic ethos of the school. Now the CCMS could achieve this by only employig catholics. However, the discriminatory measure must actually achieve the purpose and must be the least discriminatory means of doing so. I would guess that only employing catholics would not achieve the purpose and it would be the least discriminatory way of doing it either.

    So we have this certificate which anyone can get. It is therefore not directly discriminatory but is rather indirectly discriminatory as protestants are less likely to want to study for the certificate. And it achieves the purpose by ensuring that the teachers are qualified and committed to promoting the catholic ethos.

    It is a proportional and fair measure

  • dwatch

    Mr O’Dowd: “The Catholic Church does not employ staff within maintained schools. The Certificate in Religious EDUCATION is a mandatory requirement of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) ”

    The RC church by the religious certificate, prepare their teachers to give religious INSTRUCTION for the RC Church. IE:- in preparing primary school children for Confession & Mass. Religious EDUCATION & religious INSTRUCTION have two different meanings. Unlike Maintained schools Independent Christian Schools | Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster do not hide the fact that they give religious INSTRUCTION about a Free Presbyterian type of christian belief. http://independentchristianschool.org/

    Religious EDUCATION is about teaching history of all religions IE:- inter faith. RC teachers in Maintained primary schools do not practice this.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Lionel Hutz

    How are you/we here reasonably to define legitimacy ? And legitimate purpose, in the circumstances, through the use of…public expenditure ? When the greater public interest cannot be argued to be optimally served through the return achieved for that expenditure ?

  • @dwatch
    “Religious EDUCATION is about teaching history of all religions IE:- inter faith. RC teachers in Maintained primary schools do not practice this.”

    Nonsense. Religious Education is part of the core syllabus. Catholic maintained schools are required to teach it.

    http://goo.gl/iVCey

  • Framer

    No need to argue further. The NI teacher exemption from fair employment law was put into the EU Equal Treatment Directive (2000/78) for an unarguably good reason – to enhance community reconciliation:

    Article 15
    2. In order to maintain a balance of opportunity in employment for teachers in Northern Ireland while furthering the reconciliation of historical divisions between the major religious communities there, the provisions on religion or belief in this Directive shall not apply to the recruitment of teachers in schools in Northern Ireland in so far as this is expressly authorised by national legislation.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Framer

    The chapter and verse inclusion is appreciated. My jaw’s still not quite undropped as yet though. “…while furthering the reconciliation of historical divisions between the major religious communities there” is ranking fairly highly among the more counter-intuitive sentences I’ve read so far today. It’s early yet, though.