Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Peter Robinson criticised over Catholic Schools comment

DUP leader Peter Robinson after a deal was announced on power-sharing

First Minister Peter Robinson was today accused of taking a political sideswipe at Catholic schools.

SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie criticised Peter Robinson who revealed he did not object to church-run schools, but objected to the state funding them.

Mr Robinson last night also said the education of Protestant and Catholics in separate schools in Northern Ireland is a benign form of apartheid.

"This is typical Peter Robinson," said Ms Ritchie.

"On the one hand he says the most visionary thing ever said by a DUP politician about our divided society, and then he spoils it with an old-fashioned political sideswipe at Catholic schools.

"He is still right that we should aim for a future where our children are increasingly educated together - but blaming Catholics for the division is shameful and totally the wrong place to start."

In a speech, Mr Robinson recommended a commission be set up to examine a way of bringing about integration. Currently the majority of Protestants are educated in the state system, with Catholics attending government-funded schools run by the Catholic church.

"I don't in any way object to churches providing and funding schools for those who choose to use them. What I do object to is the state providing and funding church schools," he later added.

Sinn Fein Assembly member John O'Dowd described the speech as little more than a thinly disguised sectarian attack on Catholic education, parents and children.

"The DUP do not seek an integrated education system, they seek the end of the Catholic education sector, there is a difference," said Mr O'Dowd.

He said the theory that Mr Robinson's speech was made in the context of how to save money is flawed.

"The Catholic sector provide a school property portfolio of millions if not billions of pounds towards education," he added.

"Where does Mr Robinson suggest the Executive gets the sort of money required to buy out the Catholic education sector?"

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