8 times Stormont failed to deliver

In three months, the Assembly elections will give voters the chance to have their say on who will sit in Stormont for the next five years. At this point, it’s worth reflecting on what has (and hasn’t) been achieved by the current Executive. Use the comments to have your say and add anything (good or bad) that hasn’t made this list.


1: Integrated Education – The signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 pledged “to facilitate and encourage integrated education”, yet by 2014/15 only 7% of pupils in Northern Ireland were taught in integrated schools. The total number of pupils in grant-maintained and controlled integrated schools increased from 14,140 in 2000/1 to 17,558 in 2005/6 but only to 21,956 by 2014/15.


2: Flags, Parades and the Past – United States Special Envoy Richard Haas was dispatched to Stormont in the winter of 2013 to find a deal to deal once and for all with these contentious issues. On New Year’s Eve, Dr Haas was on a flight back to the States and two years on, very little has been resolved. By November 2015, the policing bill for Camp Twaddell, a protest against restrictions on Orange Order parades, had hit £18.5 million.


3: Maze/Long Kesh – Former DUP leader Peter Robinson called a halt to plans to redevelop the former prison site in August 2013. The project had promised 5,000 permanent on-site jobs and investment of £300 million. Last year deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was determined the development would go ahead but without Executive agreement, the plans will remain dead in the water.


4: Casement Park – The project to build a new GAA stadium in west Belfast was held up after a group of residents, opposed to some aspects of the development, won a legal challenge. Later concerns over emergency exits led to a Stormont inquiry. The stadium was due to have been completed by September 2015. By then £6 million had been spent on the project and construction work hadn’t even started.

5: Manufacturing Industry – It’s been a bad 18 months for the industry with major job losses. The closure of the Michelin tyre factory saw 860 jobs terminated and there were also 800 redundancies after JTI Gallagher closed a factory in 2014. Digger giant Caterpillar cut 100 jobs in November as Unite the Union warned the industry was in ‘crisis’.


6: Transfer Test – For many of us, the 11+ was stressful enough on its own but this year one young girl from Glengormley sat five different test papers to maximise her choice of schools. The AQE exam, used by controlled grammars, consists of three papers while the GL exam, used by Catholic maintained schools, consists of two. The Sinn Fein run Department of Education abolished academic selection and the 11+ in 2008 but schools have since adopted independent tests.


7: Waiting Lists – The Health Department’s budget gets regular top-ups of left over cash from the Executive but hospital waiting lists just keep getting longer. The department’s own target is for no-one to wait longer than 18 weeks for a first outpatient appointment. Of the people waiting for that first appointment, 18.4% waited more than 18 weeks at the end of September 2014. By September 2015, 47.6%, that’s 109,721 people, were kept waiting for more than 126 days.


8: Expenses Scandal – In October 2014, details of questionable expenses claims by MLAs at Stormont were uncovered by the BBC’s Spotlight programme. Sinn Fein MLAs had claimed nearly £700,000 for research over ten years from a company run by the party’s finance managers. Former DUP MLA William Hay was also under the spotlight after his office claimed £4,000 for heating oil in one year.


It isn’t all bad news though. The Executive attracted some of the world’s top cyclists to the country for the launch of the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and the British Open golf competition will return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. Now that a deal has been agreed on welfare reform, capital funding has been secured for the A5 road between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry as well as the A6 between Belfast and Dublin. Regional rates have been frozen in real terms for the sixth year in a row. While from 2017, businesses will receive a boost as the corporation tax level is to be cut. After a series of crises, the fact the Executive is still (almost fully) intact is quite an achievement after five turbulent years of government.

Stormont: Has it delivered?

  • aor26

    Only 7% of pupils are taught in integrated education schools. To what extent can this be considered a failure of the executive? Integrated education s a priority for only one of the 5 main parties, that being the Alliance party. The alliance party is the fifth largest party in terms of votes. The other 4 parties are way ahead of the alliance in terms of their popularity of the electorate and none of these parties prioritize integrated education. So I deduce from this that integrated education is not a major concern or desire for the electorate.
    Therefore it is not really a failure at all that only 7% are taught in integrated schools. It is in fact the will of the people.

  • scepticacademic

    A good set of points. I would add: 9. Failure to address the HE funding crisis and come up with a sustainable policy for student finance. 10. Failure to produce a coherent economic strategy. 11. Failure to address low educational attainment, esp in areas of greater social need. 12. Failure on energy policy – how embarassing that a region with one of the highest renewable energy potentials in Europe has missed the boat. 13. Failure to keep up with public opinion (and the rest of the liberal democratic world) on social issues (marriage equality, abortion). They say a country gets the politicians it deserves but, in this case, that seems harsh.

  • scepticacademic

    Demand for integrated education consistently outstrips the number of places. Integrated education thrives despite being consistently undermined by the big 4 and vested interests. They’re out of touch with many of their voters on this, plus many non voters.

  • aor26

    I simply don’t agree. If people truely cared about integrated education then they would vote for politicians that prioritize it, or they would lobby the 4 big parties to change their tune on integrated education. They do not so it’s probably not a big issue for most people.
    You say that integrated education ‘thrives’. Well if only 7% of pupils go to these schools then that tells me it does not ‘thrive’, it simply exists.
    By how much does demand for integrated education outstrip the number of places? Are there statistics on this? and how do we know that a parent sends their child to an integrated school because it is integrated? could be that it has high academic achievement? or perhaps they are enticed by the school’s impressive facilities?

    Most Grammar schools can also claim that demand outstrips the number of places too. I’ve long believed that people pay lip service to a desire for integrated education in these various opinion polls we often see, sure its a nice idea but when the opportunity arises to really push for it, by voting alliance party, the people choose not to. You say integrated education is constantly undermined by the big 4 parties, and well I suppose you are correct. But the vast bulk of people vote for those big 4 parties doing the undermining and so that tells me the bulk of people are content with the status quo.

  • Lorcs1

    Creating a shared and integrated society – 18 years on and we are still as divided as ever. Yes for the large part there has been a cessation of violence, but the fault lines still exist, particularly in areas of social deprivation.

  • Stevie

    There’s a few further issues: a) Paramilitaries are still on out streets, albeit no where near the levels of the past; b) areas such as West Belfast, Derry and Strabane continue to occupy the top UK league tables in terms of social deprivation and long-term unemployment; and c) there is no dedicated air ambulance service for Northern Ireland that could facilitate something like 2500 trauma patients per year; d) there is no longer a civic forum.

  • scepticacademic

    Do you honestly think education policy is at the forefront of peoples’ minds when they enter the ballot box? Even in a ‘normal’ democracy it comes behind economy, health, foreign policy, etc. – and here its clearly still about us-and-them for a large % of the electorate.

    Some survey evidence from 2013 on public support from integrated education: http://www.nicie.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/charts-form-Millward-Brown-survey.pdf

  • Croiteir

    The real educational failure that needs immediate resolution is not the indulgement of the NIO favourite educational policy, it is the crisis in special needs. After years of legislation to promote/indulge integrated education, funding biased in their favour, they achieve a paltry 7% of the school population. This is failure. It is solely because people do not want to send their children to these schools. If they did they would be able to open them by the routes available. Yet they are favoured over the real educational need. That is the need of the disabled children among us. It is taking years to get a statement of needs due to lack of funding, The neighbours child goes to a special school, the rain comes in the roof. I am livid that they do not get a chunk of this money to facilitate the identification of children who may need special education in the first place, and then provide them the facilities they need so that they can grow as best they can.
    But then the priority is never need, but who can shout the ,most. And in the meantime the children who are already sucking on the hind teat of life get pushed away from that too.

  • murdockp

    To many of the above points thank Christ for there being checks and balances in place to stop these guys from wasting our cash in such ways.
    (1) Agreed
    (2) Agreed
    (3) Bonkers idea In the first place, but a good site for a new international airport
    (4) Casement Park is one of the most bonkers projects ever dreamt up and the reason it is a can of worms is because the checks and balances to keep things right in society keep being applied which show up this project for what it is pure bonkers, no social need for it and a waste of money. A small child will tell you that bilding a 40,000 seater stadium in a housing estate with no public transport or adequate parking is sheer lunacy especially when it will only be used to capacity four times a year. I pray for the residents who live here it is never built (And I am a fan of GAA)
    (5) Manufacturing; the communists who run our state detect the private sector so what his happening is exactly the distain they show these companies daily other wise they would have built the infrastructure such as power, roads, rail, aviation, education system, to ensure these manufacturers succeed. It seems to me that SF / DUP believe that the state should be the only large employer
    (6) Agreed but only on the provision that the teaching standards are similar across the board and the child gets to choose the school he / she wishes to attend.
    (7) Waiting lists; our politicians have politicised hospitals, nothing gets votes like standing out side a hospital with the locals protesting about the closure of a hospital that is no longer fit for purpose or surplus to requirements. Sometimes I think it is the staff who work there who lead most of the protests. Personally the math tells us there is enough money in the system there is just so much waste and duplication. I say leave it to the medical professionals to run the service they way they need to . Our politicians could not organise a packet of band aids never mind a 21st century health service.
    (8) Agreed
    (9) Corporation Tax will prove to be the biggest damp squib in history. Major corporates do not want to locate in countries where the locals think the world owes them a living like NI. They want to locate in places where the people welcome them. Tim Cook from Apple would be met with anti Gay protestors if he set up in Belfast.
    The biggest thing for me that is missing is 21st century infrastructure and education.
    The fist thing I would do would be to close down Belfast International and construct with the Casement Park Money and the Maze money, and a single world class international airport located close to Belfast, drop all our stupid laws and taxes that hold our economy back, separate the state from both Catholicism and the Evangelical protestant faiths and watch this place literally take off.

    Lets face it, we are culturally backward here with our anti gay this, cant drink on a Sunday that as well as all the other stuff.

  • Gopher

    Can I add Airline Duty, we waste 33 million paying off an interest group ie teachers but cant get rid of a tax that would benefits everyone. So to recap Passenger Duty paid for teachers to get early retirement.

    Then you have John Lewis, the lengthening of the City runway, Gay Marriage, Abortion, licensing hours at peak tourism periods like Easter, The squandering of political goodwill outside Ireland, Every waste project, Too any Hospitals stretching the budget (which we have been told), Pathetic care of the elderly, huge legal expenses, and as the opening post states not integrating education which is the biggest cash drain on the country
    The Assembly has been a complete failure

  • Zig70

    The problem with integrated education is that it isn’t solving the problem of integrating school children. It addresses the middle class unionist/ statusquo-ist perception of the problem.

  • Jack Stone

    Why are integrated schools the only way forward for Integrated education? Some sources have shown recently that there is integration in controlled and Catholic schools . My early schooling took place in a Catholic school in the United States and many of my classmates were from either mixed-catholic or non-catholic households. It was just one of the best private schools in the area and parents wanted the best education for their children. I believe that this is a universal truth. Honestly, I haven’t done much reading in this area but I have noticed a few things. Even in Northern Ireland, there is integration (although small) integration in both controlled and maintained in pre-school and primary schools. 31.3% of children attending Controlled primary schools come from a Catholic or “no religion stated” background. This shows Catholic parents seem much more willing to send their children to schools outside the Catholic sector. 3.3% of children attending Catholic primary schools are from a non – Catholic background, a number that has doubled in the previous decade. It seems to me that the different schools themselves have different levels integration, inclusion and diversity outside their denominations (for want of a better word). Perhaps instead of greater segregation, Northern Ireland would benefit from inclusion in the systems that already exist and perhaps rewarding integration in all schools rather than just Integrated schools.

  • Gaygael

    Ok. Let’s replace catholic and protestant with black and white kids and call it shared education. Its horrible segregation and embeds sectarianism. And in most other western societies we would not tolerate the idea of educating our kids separately on the basis of some specific community marker. Particularly not in a post conflict society.
    Republicans often look to Mandela. It’s great to see SF Youth are lobbying for change in policy within Sinn Fein, away from the toxic notion of segregated education.
    There are some questions to ask re the ‘status quo’ and establishment senses or bias that may riddle state schools. This perception/reality may give some nationalists and republicans concerns. These could be ironed out in an integrated education bill.
    Or if you have held the Ministry of Education for almost 2 decades (albeit, intermittently) you could have addressed these biases?

    I’m presuming from years of posting and observing that you are a republican or at least sympathetic to that tradition.

  • tmitch57

    NI has an “identity democracy” rather than an “issues democracy” in which voters vote to express 1) which of the two main tribes they belong to; and 2) how extreme they are in foisting the priorities of their tribe over those of the other tribe. This explains why many voters don’t want integrated education and also why those who do want it continue to vote for the sectarian parties that are opposed to it.

  • Bricriu

    In fairness to the Stormont Executive, we have to acknowledge that the ‘democratic’ set-up here is not typical. Can anyone point to any other executive or legislative branch in the western world which functions with both ideologically left wing and right wing parties? Not only do we have a sectarian divide, but ideologically we have a serious left/right divide. Against this backdrop the record of delivery coming from the executive is not actually that bad.

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t thnk it is necessarily a middle class perception underlying a cultural analysis of the conflict which to me is the basis of advocating “Mixing ” in systems of education,housing etc. By this analysis Deprivation also needs to be tackled.

    Some people fear that such an analysis will be at the expense of a structural chamge, But its not an either/or each is required to produce a fairer society.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Are you serious? Not that bad?…
    Maybe you worked for Comical Ali in the first gulf war?
    When it comes to running health or education or the every day admin of services that the exec does, left and right is not a factor. They are incompetent managers. For example education system with 11+ was dismantled without having any system planned for its replacement. That’s incompetence. Other departments end their year with massive budgets not spent. That’s an incompetent manager that can’t plan properly.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If it failed to keep up with public opinion, we should expect radical changes in the Assembly makeup on these issues. No one is predicting that, indeed if people don’t vote then it simply gives the message to the Assembly that these issues aren’t worth voting for.

  • scepticacademic

    Path dependence and fear of themuns

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t believe in “path dependence” and if fear of themuns is the bottom line, then they don’t really care for the issue at all. People from the nationalist community were willing to vote for Danny Kinnihan because of his political stances on social issues.

    What’s the purpose of wanting the right by mandate to change or maintain the constitutional status of a region if you do not even want to change it in the here and now?

  • Zig70

    I don’t really see the sense in integrated education without addressing the fact that many go back to their ghettos. Okay it’s a start but one that doesn’t seem to work and has become more of a religion than a fix. The fuss over housing in N Belfast shows that the motivation that led to gerrymandering is still alive and well and expecting our kids to fix that is naïve. I don’t think the sector is needed, I think state schools should be more inclusive. I went to a North Belfast state school with a moderate Catholic intact when my kid was looking and you could hardly tell you were in Ireland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Young people are not going to change the policy for a couple of generations or so, as Croiteir rightly points out one of the main reasons why integrated school populations is so low is the will of parents. Another reason is that there are regions in Northern Ireland that are never going to be really “integrated” , at least in terms of the sociopolitical/religious divide in the foreseeable future because the population is 90% one way or the other.

    If you look to the Republic of Ireland and the Educate Together movement, it shows that social change drives political change, but generally parents are not going to leave their children’s futures in the hands of people who don’t have any children to look after.

    There is no civil liberty I can imagine that the average human being would defend harder in their lifetime that the right to determine what is right for their family. People need to be empathetic to that.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The main sense I see in integrated education is the demand for integrated education from parents.

    Do parents want a diverse range of pupils, would they prefer a school that caters for the diversity of a population that cannot afford two schools?

    Necessity is the driver of change, not the need for cultural hegemony. Unless people are told that the need to change they are not going to do it.

    You are absolutely right schools aren’t going to socially engineer society, housing may not socially engineer society either. The start point doesn’t always change the final destination.

    People ignore a lot of what they learn in school, they get educated on drugs, sex education, obesity and do the wrong things anyway. They learn things about maths, history, science, language and they die from lack of practice.

    If people are relying on education to be a “fix” they lose track of the exposure to misinformation and abuse that people get once they leave formal education.

  • chrisjones2

    ..or a Minister who cannot decide

  • chrisjones2

    …what should it matter where you were….were you seeking education or a reinforcement of your culture ….the two are quite different

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Don’t forget either Acht na Gaeilge – a commitment given in the St Andrew’s Agreement which was following up the commitments given the Good Friday Agreement which guaranteed government support for the use of Irish in public life. It’s also been subject to at least two public consultations which delivered overwhelming endorsements of the public demand for an Irish Language Act. Stormont failed to deliver this.

  • Old Mortality


  • scepticacademic

    Well said. APD is a particular bug-bear of mine.

  • scepticacademic

    ok, fair point – confess I don’t know that area or the specifics of that case (had to google it) – perhaps I’m guilty of Belfast bias?

  • Gaygael

    I don’t take your premise of ‘the will of parents’.

    I don’t believe we should subsidise any faith schools. If you want a private, faith orientated education, pay privately for it. The state should not indulge the privilege afforded to faith groups.

    Integrated education is fundamental to building an integrated society.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So your solution is to privatize half the schools in Northern Ireland with a stroke of a pen, look at how bad the removal of the 11+ happened with a stroke of a pen. Parents have a civil right to determine what access to a school their children have with the taxes they pay.

    If schools encounter the resistance of parents by trying to dictate the terms by which their child is educated, they have the power to make it impossible to change the status quo by civil disobedience if necessary.

    Parental choice is fundamental in ensuring children even go to school, and there is no civil right that I believe any one would defend more passionately than the right to determine how their child is educated.

    I don’t really care if you don’t understand it, if you had a child and you were told that that child had to go to a faith school would you comply with the law?

  • Cagey Feck

    You don’t believe in cultural education then? The British government does, as shown in their cultural education report (I’d give you a link only my phone isn’t cooperating).

    I’d say the opposite – nailing how we teach culture here, in a balanced way, would go a long way to reducing the tribal separation kids have to endure.

  • Reader

    Situation NI : The Sinn Fein run Department of Education abolished academic selection and the 11+ in 2008 but schools have since adopted independent tests.
    Not correct. Martin McGuinness managed to abolish the 11+, but – in a bit of a rush in his last day in the job – failed to abolish selection. Selection now proceeds without a Government managed 11+ exam.

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. Which tends to make it less, not more, likely that kids from a cozy middle class background will continue to get into the top schools at the expense of the children of the less well-off. In short, more hereditary doctors, hereditary lawyers, hereditary engineers etc etc. Well done, Martin. I’ve got to say it: he is frightfully good at this inverse Robin Hood thing.

  • Jollyraj

    Good shout. Integrated education is very, very clearly a key part of a better future. Presumably that’s why we still don’t have it. Sinn Fein, and to a lesser extent the DUP, rely on it.

  • Jollyraj

    “areas such as West Belfast, Derry and Strabane continue to occupy the top UK league tables in terms of social deprivation and long-term unemployment”

    These things help to keep Sinn Fein in business. Presumably why their elected reps in these areas spend their time on things other than solving these problems for the communities they are supposed to serve.

  • chrisjones2

    Are we not missing the whole role of Politics in NI as Showbusiness for Ugly People.?

    Just think – in the last assembly we have had:


    as well as the black comedy of SFs non involvement with the IRAs organised crime wing that no longer exists

  • Gaygael

    No Kevin. I did not mention privatisation. I don’t know how you got there. I would prefer a process of transfer and removal of control from CCMS (I know they have been downgraded to an extent). They still however maintain the ‘Catholic Ethos’ nonsense, which means we are not properly preparing young people for life, because of entrenched dogma.
    People do not have a right to have their particular faith reflected in the ethos of state schools. Nor do they have a right that means the state pays for a particular brand of education.
    I understand our historical context for this but we must move on. I put the challenge to Jag earlier, that if SF have had the Education ministry for almost 2 decades they could have done much more to redress the perceived or actual imbalance in state schools only reflecting one identity.
    Keep your faith to your private sphere. It should not be afforded special privilege in our education system. If it is afforded to you, then it should be technically afforded to every faith, which is ludicrous.
    As a personal example, I went to see my niece in her school play when she was at primary school. this was around 6 years ago. All of the children were able to say prayers by rote. However, as it’s a school in a working class area an intolerable minority of those girls would leave primary school without basic numeracy or literacy. But they could say hail mary and our father in their sleep! It’s a ridiculous skew of priorities. It was a shocking moment for me.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This isn’t about what you want, this is about what parents want. I think they are the major stakeholders here. And you make some bizarre arguement that parents should have no say in how their school is run, no concerns about what they get taught,

    State schools are not dogma free, they are not free from mistakes or poor standards, they are not immune to teachers having personal biases and beliefs.

    There are plenty of issues of isolated identities in schools, there are integrated schools that divide into girls and boys schools, if faith schools lead to sectarianism, why aren’t boys schools called out for potential chauvinism or mysogyny?

    The arguement you make about poor literacy and poor numeracy within a Catholic school, these are not avoided in state schools either. Some might call the attitude to tackling these issues as an “ethos”. There will be parents thinking faith schools do this pupil care better, there will be those that think it won’t.

    Every parent thinks they know what’s best for their child, they might or they might not, they may have their own prejudices, opinions and disagreements with other parents about what is the right way their child or children should be educated. This is not just about religion but it goes to academies, grammar schools, the specialities schools offer etc. etc.

    They aren’t going to make these judgement calls simply to satisfy someone else’s opinion.

    The very existence of Integrated Schools was driven by parental agency, ultimately there within parental agency not in the vested interests of the state or a school sector is where educational power resides.

  • chrisjones2

    I dont believe in mon-cultural education ….its a big wide mixed up world out there …and increasingly at home

  • chrisjones2

    “Do parents want a diverse range of pupils”

    If that is the decider fine. But them what do you do if they don’t want their child educated alongside black people, Chinese children, Muslims, non-Muslims, children of a different sex?

    Personally I think this is too important and costly to leave to parents. The state should provide one unified secular education system for all. If they want to bolt religion on as an out of hours activity, let them.

  • chrisjones2

    ” People need to be empathetic to that.”

    actually in law the rights of the child have precedence not the rights of a biased, homophobic, religious zealot or misogynistic parent

  • chrisjones2

    “I think they are the major stakeholders here.”

    They are major stakeholders but the child is THE major stakeholder and the state has an interest too – and a legal duty to protect the child from any extreme views of the parents that might damage it or harm its development

  • chrisjones2

    …and the DUP

  • Cagey Feck

    I take it you mean mono-cultural? I think we’re singing from the same hymn sheet in that case. Zig70 was making the point that current state school education has a long way to go in opening up how it handles cultural education, as currently it is very slanted towards ignoring traditional Irish culture.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m unaware of any cases where a child was taken off a parent by social services because of the opinions of their parents. Physical abuse, Negligence yes, even off people with limited capacity, but not because a parent’s opinions were found to be amoral or distasteful. Even ignoring these rights of a parent, it would be ridiculous expensive to enforce the education of every child against things that the state doesn’t want them to learn for better or worse. Imagine a state simply carrying out a mission creep on a child who’s parents have a more valid politicial opposition to the government than being afraid of women and minorities.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Two to three points here: The state can be just as abusive and a child cannot defend its own rights. The legal duty is to protect a child’s welfare not to impose its own beliefs on it. Do you honestly believe that a civil servant or a social worker or a politician should take over the parental duties from parents during a child’s formative years because the risk of disagreeable opinions might emerge, to become moral guardians.
    Effectively you are suggesting the state become a church to stop the church, which pretty much defeats the purpose in my view.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If you want to leave in up in the hands of the state let me remind you that the state is DUP-SF and it isn’t secular. Some parents are non-religious, and I consistently defend their rights along with those who are not.

    Parents drive the education sector, we’ve seen sectors emerge simply due to parents. This is basic supply and demand process, parents drive the creation of schools a lot.

    Perhaps if you don’t want parents having any say in their child’s education you would be content with an authoritarian state that licences the act of procreation and sterilises the unfit parent?

    After all it is too costly and important to have parents making these choices. It’s naive to believe that trying to force integration would result in anything else but complete compliance. Rather than stop parental hostility, just stop parenting but for all but a select agreeable few?

    I still simply hold onto a belief that forced integration leads to non-integration (Penal Laws, partition etc. ) which is why empathy rather than selfish concerns is going to be more effective. Who better to be empathetic to a parent than a parent?

  • Gaygael

    Actually I am arguing for the greater good of society. Nobody has a right to see their particular brand of faith given privilege by the state and being the ethos of a entire education sector.

    ‘Progressive nationalism’ wanting to privilege a particular faith group. Great.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I suggest you look at Rurai Quinn’s attempts to try to produce integrated education and see how limited a state is in this context without any strong civic dialogue with parents.

  • Cagey Feck

    It’s a bit odd for me to side with chrisjones over you, but I really think you’re a bit confused on this issue Kevin. In no way does wanting the state to be in charge of education equate to a desire for eugenics.

    Would you support an all-white school that taught aryan supremacy in place of liberal values? If they refused a pupil because of their race, is that still OK?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Eugenics would be a hyperbolic way to ensure absolute success.

    I don’t support an all white school, but frankly if you do nothing to bring parents who want an all white school on board then you really don’t change anything. Many people will go to an all white school in this region anyway, it’s not going to make them racists.

    I will question you on calling yourself a liberal, because a true liberal would defend a parent’s freedom to educate and care for a child. A true liberal wouldn’t tell a parent he’s a racist, misogynist, homophobic bigot but aspire to show him or her the error of their ways and leave them to make up their own mind. A true liberal doesn’t become a thought police.

  • Cagey Feck

    I don’t describe myself as a liberal, politically speaking, although I recognise that the moral values I was taught as a child are liberal ones.

    It’s known that compulsory schooling improves the educational attainment of children, especially those born to parents with little educational background. So, there is some need for compulsion in education, if only to safeguard the rights of those children.

    I’m not sure if you’re recommending that the state should abandon those children born to racist, misogynist, homophobic bigots? There are plenty of them around.

    Say a bunch of people get together on a housing estate and declare themselves a ‘home schooling collective’. They do no state exams, and state investigators have great difficulty in getting access to see what’s being taught, if anything. Is this level of state control OK with you, or where do you draw the line yourself?

  • Kevin Breslin

    This region has a problem with NEETs, just like in GB and ROI. Passing a law that says education is cumpulsary doesn’t mean it would be obeyed, so the law enforces that.
    Short of using social services the state seems powerless.

    The state does abandon children born to bigots, because bitotry isn’t criminal, and even things like incitement need something better than hearsay to procedure. Social services do not take children off bigots, they take children off child abusers and child abandoners. This is Article 6 Human Rights stuff.

  • Cagey Feck

    Thanks for discussing Kevin. The point I was getting at with my silly example, though, was not that the state should intervene by removing children from bigots, but that the state already does intervene to try to ensure that people don’t get to make every educational choice for their kids. You have to send them to school, there are truancy fines, and thise schools have to meet regulatory standards.

    So the question is, how far should the state go? An school not accepting minorities would not be permitted, but schools which promote only one set of cultural values, traditions etc are seemingly fine. This is weird to me. The answer, it seems to me, is more state control of educational content, not less.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The content is controlled by the state, all four mediums have a common national curriculum. Geography is the same in Catholic, State and Integrated, the only exception is Irish language medium where it is Tíreoleocht, basically the same thing just in Irish.

    Independent educationalists determine the content however, you might call them agents of the state being NGOs. Parents can still make numerous educational choices outside of the school for their children particularly on extracurricular matters. Also, the home itself is an area where children learn behaviours from.

    The other issue you are talking about is school autonomy, this is limited by inspection but the state usually takes an arms length stance here.

    In higher education there is something called the Haldane process which denies the state any say in research direction, it’s pretty much just a “gentleman’s agreement” to use the dated non-PC term.

    You mention culture but I don’t see how education is ever culture independent, various states have their own culture of doing this. Effectively Northern Ireland we have an open market like it or not and parental choice determines that market.

  • Cagey Feck

    Education doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t try to be culture independent (whatever that would mean). I’d argue that the market is being determined by state inaction on culture, leading to a retaining of the status quo. People want ‘their’ parts of our culture to be acknowledged, and this is done inconsistently across different schools, so they choose schools accordingly.

    Expecting the market to fix this on its own, via parental choices, is misguided. It’s a vicious cycle where the choice made by a parent today biases the choice made by their children.

    Would you say that the arm’s length approach to school autonomy is working? Given that the state ensures that Geography is taught consistently, why not do the same for social education?

  • Kevin Breslin

    You have to remember it was a “closed market” that lead to the continued existence of a separate independent Catholic sector and then the integrated sector and then the Irish medium center in the first place. These all would’ve been considered part of an independent Voluntary sector that paid for most of their own costs.

    So I question if closing the market is a fix, when it has been proven to cause the problem it seeks to avoid.

    1923 Lynn Committee tried to “integrate” sectors but there was no one actually representing the Catholic demographic so unsurprisingly the “forced integration” by the State never worked, neither did the financial advantage provided by the state to its own public schools.


    The State schools designed to be integrated, became Protestant schools effectively with regret, public schools open to Catholics but it ended up that they didn’t have any. In fact it wasn’t until 1978 before a Catholic could even sit on the board of education.

    The Integrated sector emerged from that market to fill a gap the state could not and would not plug, Protestant members of the state controlling a government determining what is right for Catholic members of the state, the reverse is also true of course.

    It is quite a simple equation, we don’t really have an integrated state, so how could an integrated sector really emerge?

    Just because a few Catholics, Protestants and Secularists can agree on an integrated school medium, doesn’t mean every Catholic, Protestant and Secularist will buy into it. It’s not about finding a common dogma, it’s about parents having faith that that system can deliver for their child.

    My view is that “Shared Education” may lead to an embryonic integration between sectors, trying to bring together sectors into line with one another, rather than simply close down two “non-integrated” schools and trying to start from scratch get schools to work together and organically develop new types of integrated schools like a mixed marriage.

    Parents have a tendency to trust the schools they already have, not simply about whether a sector is too Catholic or too Protestant but whether a minister’s pursuit of integration produces upheaval to a school which is delivering for their children. Those who have little faith in the status quo are more likely to drive change, but their experience isn’t one that everyone has.

    We started out with a disintegrated education system, it doesn’t need more disintegration to change, you need to be constructive and work and take in the broad concerns that parents have religious or otherwise.

    To me the problem isn’t that we have an open market, to me the problem is the state is closing the market. One of the main reasons why the state isn’t trusted is because it’s elected by non-parents and parents alike. Very similar to people arguing men should have next to no say in the abortion debate.

    Parents want more integrated schools in mixed areas and the state isn’t delivering them, neither is the voluntary sector, rather than trying to nationalize all the schools or privatize schools that are neither state nor integrated which could further disintegrate the sector, where there is high demand for integrated schools/integration facilitate them by natural conversion of schools to facilitate the demand sensitive schooling which is not facilitated in Ireland.

    Only parents not the state can make Educate Together and the Integrated Education sector grow through the present organic demand. If the state provided the necessary supply of schools as well as facilitate sharing between “non-integrated” areas it wouldn’t need to lose so much civic currency going after schools parents actually had faith in.



    even this one from the Catholic Herald

  • Cagey Feck

    Interesting points. I agree on the ‘natural conversion’ of schools, but I wonder, having read the article in the Catholic Herald, if this is hoping for a bit too much.

    I’m not pretending to have all the answers, but I guess I find it odd that the state gives money to a religion so that they can indoctrinate their children in this way. On the flip side of the NI cultural coin, it flabbergasts me that state schools are quite regularly run, to paraphrase Zig70, like they weren’t even in Ireland.

    That’s why I was getting at curriculum control as a method for closing the cultural gap, rather than the much more invasive closing/mandatory purchasing or whatever. Although having read what you’ve supplied, I’m adding the enforcement of non-discriminatory hiring practices to the list!

    Great reply, thanks!