Death of CSI: If we can’t have a strategy what about asking better questions?

I have some sympathy with OFMdFM for the cold reception for their announcement that their CSI strategy document is dead, but long live CSI. Promising that peace walls will hauled down within 10 years is laudable, but how likely is it since the core constituency of both parties don’t want it (and what they don’t want they generally don’t get)?

Shades of St Augustine (before he got holy): “O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet”. Or even “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” It was ever thus…

And yet, last night saw at least an attempt to build some understanding across the city in a 1 City Summit hosted and run by the Belfast Media Group.. It’s a welcome initiative, in line with our own more modest online project of #Belfast2020.

Even just following the conversations on Twitter, it’s evident what powerful latent resources there are to bring to bear on the various problems facing the city. Yet it also flagged some of the problems that are currently being ducked by the big party leaders.

The differential investment levels made by Invest NI between the west and the east of Belfast was flagged as an issue, but there seems as yet little concerted effort to understand the underlying reasons for that differential… [Note: not everything can be blamed on the ‘staff’ folks…]

As Julian O’Neill tweeted in response to a differential I mentioned between East Belfast and Mid Ulster:

There are more searching questions that need to be asked of the data before we can start offering ways out of long term poverty and depravation.

  • I have never been a big fan of CSI…its just words.
    And obviously a set of proposals by DUP-SF to integrate communities cannot be taken seriously when these parties owe their position to the division.
    It was always likely that the proposals would be minimalist but have fancy headlines…Summer Camps (you couldnt make it up).
    I dont actually fear the “benign apartheid” that Danny Kennedy fears…in fact I think its a better proposal than half-assed minimalism which is part of the real lack of good will which has undermined the GFA to the point where I can no longer support the institutions.
    We have a non settlement. We have Passivity which is actually much better than any alternative.
    But the attitude of Bell and O’Dowd on The View last night.
    They gloried in the fact that other parties were excluded.
    “So what?” Said O’Dowd.
    We have total minimalism. Thats thebvision.

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s nothing to be feared from what we already know, it’s change that people fear… and I cannot think of another part of Belfast that needs [economic] change more than west Belfast… and like it or not apartheid, benign or not, is both a barrier to the development of human and economic capital…

  • Alan N/Ards

    I thought Bell and O’Dowd were appalling last night. The smirk on Bell’s face while Conall McDevitt was speaking was nauseating.

  • To be honest, I dont usually watch the View but there was a certain arrogance about Bell and O’ Dowd.
    the good thing is that the nonsense they were talking has no chance of actually happening.

  • son of sam

    Yes,the main thing that stood out on The View last night was the combined arrogance of Bell and O’Dowd.And these are the two political parties who will effectively be dispensing the largesse from the Social Inclusion Fund(aka-the Slush Fund).Three guesses where grants from that source will be going!

  • iluvni

    And now we get an extra year of this rubbish before elections…

  • Comrade Stalin

    The SDLP’s attitude towards the DUP and SF during the years when they had the DFM seat was exactly the same. They were merely careful not to express it in public.

    As I have said before – the carve up between the DUP and SF is the ultimate outworking of the SDLP’s preferred implementation of government in this place. McDevitt lauds the great John Hume at every chance he gets without ever conceding that this ridiculous situation is because of Humeism.

    Regarding the proposals themselves, I’ve not read them but reading some of the precis in the BT today I’m inclined not to dump on them completely. At least they are recognizing some of the problems and coming up with ideas about how to solve them. I fear, however, that the elephant in the room is shared education. I see little point in sending young people away on apprenticeship schemes or “meet the other lot” working groups. By the time they’ve passed through the apartheid education system the damage has already been done.

  • iluvni

    The day Sinn Fein and SDLP call for the end of separate schools for Catholic kids, that’ll be the day I’ll take anything they have to say about shared futures seriously.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t think SF are wedded to the idea of Catholic church controlled schools, as long as the kids have the option of playing GAA and being taught Irish and Irish history.

    The SDLP will be a bit of a tougher nut to crack. You can tell with folks like Conall. They’ll mouth the platitudes of sharing and breaking down barriers and quoting Martin Luther King; and then in the next breath they’ll defend apartheid education as a necessary function of parental “choice”.

  • With the Marist Brothers and their ilk the Shinners don’t need their own political education officers (commisars). SF don’t just want Irish history taught, they want a particular version of Irish history taught.

  • claudius

    Mick. I get your point about apartheid but is there any real desire within these constituencies to change?

  • Neil

    I was wondering the same thing Claudius, and I came across this:

  • Framer

    Comrade – The test will come shortly on shared education with the decision on the amendments being tabled by the UUP to the current Education Bill to end the teacher exception from NI and European fair employment law (and replace with something within Article 4 of the EU employment directive of 2000). Surprisingly SF voted for the UUP motion last month to end the exception and the field is now open, with the SDLP uniquely isolated. The open letter in support signed by a wide range of notables, including Alliance Party chiefs, proves the policy has key support in the community.
    The chatterati, not to mention the equality industry, have been notably silent on the matter perhaps because the motor for the change is coming from its 1960s predecessor of secular, progressive Labourism.
    Once the schools, secondary as much as primary, start mixing their labour force (and teaching assistants too) there will be a gradual and increasing flexibility that will enable smaller schools to link and some education to survive in an area like a village or small town, not to mention a softening of all the contact boundaries (and job opportunities for non-Christians).
    You heard it here first and I hope not for the last time.

  • claudius

    Thanks Neil. However, if there is such a strong desire to integrate why is it not manifesting itself already. Why are people not hugging each other in the street? Why such venom? Im being a bit trite but if you can see the need to change why not do so?

  • Neil

    That report suggests it is, with nearly half of the youngest group saying that they had attended an integrated school (though it is the case that some schools have a 90:10 split and claim to be integrated). It’s also becomes more popular as they interviewees get wealthier, so unsurprisingly it’s the working classes who’ve generally been more segregated who have the greatest mistrust.

    Two flies in the ointment: I’m still under the impression that the Catholic Church provides real estate for their schools, the bill for which would be crippling; and the right to educate your child in keeping with your religious and philosophical beliefs is protected by European Law.

  • Mick Fealty


    The greatest irony is that outside the grand ghettos people are integrating. They are just not being given the kinds of political choices that make if viable for them.

    My old Catholic school is still Catholic run with a Catholic ethos but its student body is now substantial Protestant. Unstress people, give them some real politics and they will make broader more generous choices.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Indeed, it stood out for me because it’s the only worthwhile thing the UUP have done in the past few years. It’s absolutely right. Sensitivity is required, though. If Mike Nesbitt or Sammy Wilson etc show up at a loyalist rally and says they’re working to throw the priests out of schools, it will all come to a halt. I hope he is not that stupid.

    I wasn’t that surprised to see SF voting for it. They’re smart; the growth in their voter base is coming from a younger generation who mostly support things like gay marriage (and possibly a slackening of the abortion regime), who don’t go to church and who hear all the horror stories from their parents/grandparents about the Christian brothers. It allows them to say they are making tough choices to uphold equality. It also allows them to say they are happy to compromise and work with unionists to end such things. It makes progressive-minded non-nationalists such as me feel better about transferring to them in assembly elections. Win win all round I’d say.

    I think change is coming but what I’d really like to see is a commitment to have a percentage of children in integrated education. The big four parties still seem to be trying to fight this off with spurious claims that there is no demand for integrated schools. But expect the RC church to put up a huge fight. They may well have figured they’ve lost the battle over secondaries, but they know that first communion, confession and confirmation will drop like a stone if they lose control of their primary schools.

  • claudius

    ok Mick. I agree with that. But when does facilitating stop (£500M is a lot of dough) and responsibility begin. At what point do the disaffected stop blaming each other, us them etc.
    I’m getting tired of the tail wagging the dog.

  • Mick Fealty

    Retracting resources may act as a stimulus. The idea that west and east are two republics in competition for one state’s finite resources is unsustainable in the longer run. Something will have to give, or people who are poor now will remain trapped in poor ghettos.

    Ten years ago it was widely believed that the Catholic middle classes stayed whilst the Protestant middle classes ran for North Down, Lisburn and South Antrim. I think we are starting to see some middle class flight from Catholic working class areas, possibly because they have made such little progress in the last twenty years of peace, and their own personal fears (often well grounded in the past) have disappeared.

    On top of that some form of political renewal that looks at old problems through new frames would be handy…

  • tacapall

    I dont think the majority of the peace walls will come down, they are for many people security blankets, just as much as the union flag is a security blanket for loyalists, they will be lowered rather than demolished. Some are now tourist attractions and for West Belfast a vital ingredient of the local economy a whole host of businesses and individuals livelihoods depend on that tourism. Unless as Mick says substantial investment is poured into those areas mindsets will not change and regardless what those up on the hill pledge, the walls wont be demolished unless the people of those areas want them down. Theres an article in the Irish News today which shows how far loyalism has come in regards to breaking down barriers, Im scouring the news channels waiting on some sort of condemnation from Ruth Patterson, maybe shes too busy stoking up sectarian tension in some car park wrapped in a union jack or maybe she just doesn’t give a toss.

  • News_Meister

    It’s vitally important to note that within each ghetto there exits sub-groups with different outlooks on life; elderly adults; post “troubles” adults; parents; teenagers and very young children.

    Ghetto adults/parents desire for “peace walls” to be dismantled will not occur until after issues of identity and culture have been settled and accepted across ‘their’ community. Thereafter, cross-community teenagers need to be afforded real chances to coalesce and the FM&DFM current proposals will only tinker at aiding this latter issue – Peter and Martin shoving those massive elephants into yet another committee room is unsurprising cowardice.

    We need a ‘radial catchment and polarised communities’ study, to determine how many schools could feasibly be integrated at the stroke of of a pen? I’d then like Stormont to state that by a certain date all primary schools will become secular institutions with a funded after-school religious class’ which parents can opt for their children to attend.

  • latcheeco

    Wouldn’t have to be after school; it could be like opting to to take French or woodwork. But unionism (if we are still allowed to use that collective term) might need to be careful what it wishes for in integration- there are now more nationalist kids than unionist, so who is going to get integrated ?

  • As Im not a big fan of CSI anyway, the saving grace is that the latest exercise is minimalist and the DUP-SF just going thru the motions.
    The fact that Bell and O’Dowd obviously hold the whole thing in contempt is to their credit. Less creditworthy is their arrogance.
    Integrated Education is something which hardly exercises me at my age. But just two weeks ago, I heard a UUP MLA tell a very encouraging story about it. My own experience with one son was not good.
    But surely thats the way it is with Education anyway. Its the school not the system.
    But Integrated Education is something of a metropolitan, middle class obsession. To say that there is a groundswell of public opinion that is for it and 79% in favour of “some form” and that the political parties are not representing it is a strange argument.
    If enough people who wanted it actually did vote for the fifth largest party which supports it, then I might understand it. As just two months ago only 1.3% of people in Mid Ulster actually voted that way….then the reasonable conclusion is that not enough people want it …enough.

    I cant see why nationalist parties such as SF or SDLP are vilified for not being enthusiastic about it. Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson are on record as reaching out for Catholic votes and make soundings about reducing Catholic Education…is it not therefore resonable to say that the two are connected.
    As was pointed out to me yesterday neither Nesbitt or Robinson seem enthused about the Irish language.
    Nationalists are therefore right to be extremely wary of integrated education especially if its agenda is to create a homogenous society or a (passively) unionist society.
    Turcaithe do not vote for Nollaig.

  • News_Meister

    @Latcheeco, I think you possibly mean; who is going to get ‘assimilated’ and such raises the need for a new integrated history syllabus to allay parents relevant concerns.

  • News_Meister

    @ fitzjameshorse1745 tribal voting patterns will not alter on the basis of just the want of integrated education.

    IMO, you’ve fairly summarised the Unionist motive that drives their support for integrated education and Nationalist politicans are probably keenly aware of it; if not they ought to be.

    The greatest concern to the average member of the Nationalist community is likely to be that a change to the schooling system could cause a deterioration in the high standards/results normally attained by Catholic-maintained schools.

  • latcheeco

    Integrated: of or pertaining to a group or society whose members interact on the basis of commonly held norms or values.
    “a new integrated history”
    shakes head

  • I dont think its entirely about standards.
    For much of the history of Norn Iron it has not been easy to be a “nationalist”.
    Since 1998, it has never been easier.
    The nationalist vote has never been higher. (Although some might claim its disconnected to what is reality). Nationalists and Republicans are in Stormont departments.
    I dont think nationalists will be in a hurry to give that up to some people trying to create a homogenous society. Its as if people were saying ” now that we have conceded the point that you are now equal, can you please reciprocate by ceasing to be nationalists”
    It doesnt work that way.
    The essence of nationalism is to accentuate difference. To create and maintain a check list that says being Irish is different to be being British.
    Education is one of those markers.
    As Ive often said here I have tried various forms of education for my sons…including integrated secondary education and Irish-medium nursery…dictated at times by ethos, availability, geography or a combination.
    At the times when we used Catholic education, it was frankly more about “identity” than religion.

  • News_Meister

    @ Latcheeco, I know what you meant/mean and wasn’t seeking to convey disagreement. I’m merely contending a future integrated school system needs a history syllabus that honestly reflects the history of the Nationalist and Unionist communities on this island.

    I happen to concur with your “unionism needs to be careful what it wishes for” point – a truthful account of history will do unionism / loyalism no favours and neither will integration in all its forms.

    *hopes head soon stops shacking 🙂

  • latcheeco

    Ta bron orm “allay relevant concerns” tripped the letsgetalongerist wire with visions of school history textbooks that read: Gerry was a terrorist/freedom fighter/ strategist with an insight into Republican thinking
    “that honestly reflects the history of the Nationalist and Unionist communities on this island.”
    So that’ll be ours then 😉

  • News_Meister

    fitzjameshorse1745 you’ve prompted me to recall that just a few days ago, Billy Hutchinson reiterated his wiseful thinking that Nationalists need to surrender their united Ireland aspiration and focus on a ‘shared future’ within the context that N.I will (he hopes) remain part of the UK for the foreseeable future.

    However, Unionists/Loyalists know from the census that 47% (Irish & N Irish) refused to tick the ‘British’ box and that an even greater and ever increasing number of N.I people self-identify as some form of ‘Irish’ mixed with a British identity. For my part, I’m an Irishman who stated ‘N Irish’ for no reason other than it described where I was born and my accent. I very deliberately declined to tick the ‘British’ box as I’ve never felt any allegiance to the UK and that’s despite having lived in England for many years – the census didn’t ask whether I supported a united Ireland but when the RoI economy has recovered I’ll will vote to that effect… in the meantime I as an eqaul N.I citizen am going to avail myself of my equal right to demand changes to our state insitutions and society that meaningfully reflect not least my Irish identity and culture etc.

  • News_Meister

    @latcheeco, I just want a truthful and materially relevant account of the history of this island to be taught to future generations; I’ll leave learnt historians to decide school book content – I’m inclined to think such is unlikely to do not much to promote loyalism to future generations but that’s quite besides the point.

  • FJH,

    ‘As was pointed out to me yesterday neither Nesbitt or Robinson seem enthused about the Irish language.’

    Thanks for the shout out. As I have highlighted before, it is not that I am against integrated education, when I was younger and lived in the US it was integrated, it’s that the people all of a sudden for it in the North just happen to pour scorn on expressions of Irish culture, what Chris Donnelly has noted to be political unionism’s problem with respecting the other. I’ve noted that before a while ago and we did discuss. It then begs the question, what does an integrated education actually mean as what I think it is must surely be a whole lot different from TV Mike and Robbo et al.


    ‘I don’t think SF are wedded to the idea of Catholic church controlled schools, as long as the kids have the option of playing GAA and being taught Irish and Irish history.’

    Nail on the head. For a lot of Nats an RC education is really an education with an Irish flavor and one where, for instance, my mum knew my siblings and I would have the chance to play GAA, learn Irish to a very high standard and basically have the chance to be immersed in Irish cultural goings somewhere where our Irish identity was respected, that and the schools we went to were excellent with their results.

    To kind of underscore your point, a lot of the Irish medium schools that have been springing up either side of the border would be non-religious in their outlook.

  • Kensei


    You are on very shaky ground if you talk aboyt population movements without reference to house prices. Even now, ask yourself what you get in West and North Belfast vs somewhere further out. And that goes literally double during the boom. This just as much of a thing in the 80s and 90s. Houses that were just abiut inside my parents income then are astronomically far outside it now.

    Plus in the case of North Belfast, there isn’t enough suitable housing for people to be near their ma even if they wanted to. Gettig peace walls down probably helps in that regard.

  • FC,
    Thanks for that.
    On the point about USA and the integrated education system.
    Kids in Atlanta recite the pledge of allegiance….despite the fact that their ancestors fought against that flag in the Civil War.
    Kids in San Antonio recite it despite the fact that their ancestors might have fought for Mexico.
    Kids in Detroit recite it despite the fact that their ancestors were bought and sold down the river…literally.
    Kids in reservations in the Black Hills of Dakota recite it despite Wounded Knee.
    USA is not just a melting pot of children who are descended from those who passed thru Ellis Island.
    Thats Conflict Resolution….the total crushing of one group by another. Peace and resolving a Conflict only happens thatbway.
    It cant happen as Conflict Resolutionists here would have it….social engineering without victory and defeat.
    I certainly dont want my great grandchildren living as victims of the Manifest Destiny of LetsGetAlongerism.

  • Mick Fealty


    I think you are getting closer to the nub of the problem there… Though I’d put that under the same general heading of ‘scarcity of resources’… Which exacerbates all problems…

    I think there’s a general fallacy that you can solve wicked problems by confronting them head on… You can’t… They need to be nibbled away at… Bit by bit…