Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Baroness May Blood: It’s time to fulfil wishes of people on integration

Baroness May Blood
Baroness May Blood
Belfast Telegraph LucidTalk poll on segregated education in Northern Ireland. June 2013
Belfast Telegraph LucidTalk poll on segregated education in Northern Ireland. June 2013

Recent visits by Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have highlighted the work of integrated schools, setting them before the international community as an example of the way forward.

The United Nations recently judged segregated education to be a major problem here.

The poll results show that citizens are acutely aware of the global image of Northern Ireland and want the decision-makers to take segregation out of the education system as a priority.

In the past we have welcomed international support in helping to resolve difficulties during the peace process, or to reform policing.

More than two years ago, the Integrated Education Fund called for a similar independent commission to address the education system in Northern Ireland, taking the politics out of the matter.

The latest LucidTalk poll results suggest that there would be public approval for this approach.

It seems that nearly all parties and stakeholders agree that the current model of delivery is not one we would have designed if starting from scratch, and there is widespread acknowledgement that we need to take segregation out of the system.

But we need something beyond a consensus that we have inherited problems; we need a clear vision for the future.

The current policies, proposals and pledges coming from Stormont add up to merely tinkering at the edges of the education system, of cautious moves, albeit steps in the right direction. We need to plan a clear path to a better structure which accommodates difference, celebrates diversity and also promotes unity.

And the public needs to see decision-makers commit to following this path to the end.

Barack Obama was conscious of the need to look forward when he addressed an audience of mainly young people in Belfast last week.

These people were born into emerging peace, and many of them will be voting for the first time when the next Assembly elections come round.

It’s imperative that politicians close the gap between Stormont and the wishes of the people; it was made clear at the Waterfront Hall that the coming generation do not want our past to be their future.

Baroness May Blood is campaign chair of the Integrated Education Fund

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