Integrating Northern Ireland’s divided society

What’s the definition of an integrated society?

Since debate over whether integrated education in NI is a good idea invariably unravels as soon as someone attempts to define what it actually means, I’ve canvassed the opinions of some prominent thinkers from NI’s leading political parties in an attempt to clarify a way forward. What follows are the unedited quotes offered by leading thinkers from each party in response to this question.

What would an integrated NI look like?

UUP: “See NI 1921-Oct 4th 1968. Or, as our party wants to see it described in school classrooms, “The Peaceful Years”. ”

SDLP: “A society based on mutual respect for the diversity of all our people, even the Unionists. The SDLP is committed to forming partnerships with our Protestant brothers and sisters where we spill our sweat, working together to take down their provocative flags. The SDLP believes we must be sensitive to issues of symbolism and identity which is why our party is committed to consulting our unionist neighbours on their feelings with regard to deconstructing the Northern Ireland  state before consigning it to history.”

DUP: “The day Fenians drop their bigoted opposition to Orange marches and Twelfth Night bonfires and join The People of Northern Ireland in enjoying our traditions as the inclusive community events that they are.”

SF: “An electoral disaster.”

Alliance: “Like the Alliance Party of course!  Noo, noo, seriously though, an integrated Northern Ireland should look like Manchester or Birmingham – with some exceptions. You see, one must understand and take account of some of our uniquely Northern Irish sensitivities. For example, celebrating St Patrick’s Day as they do on the mainland, with Irish flags and so on, this would be quite inappropriate – much too divisive for Northern Ireland. We must learn to have a shared future where offensive identity differences are whitewashed away and we all embrace our new state-sponsored Northern Irish identity. This approach is working well in modern France – where it’s quite beautiful this time of year, have you been?”

 

Strategic Communications Consultant, located in Washington, D.C.