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Integration is magic ingredient

By David Montgomery

Published 29/06/2015

Clintyclay Primary School, Dungannon
Clintyclay Primary School, Dungannon

Recently, I attended a dinner with Invest NI where guests discussed and celebrated the potential for jobs and growth in Northern Ireland - and the associated importance of the image of Northern Ireland. Yet the magic ingredient of the brand is missing.

There seems to be a lack of dynamism in the transformation of society here. The political imagination is not stretched, or energetic enough, to guarantee peace and the togetherness of future generations.

That's where integrated education comes in. And, yet, it seems we have an Establishment conspiracy to prevent its expansion.

There are two striking current examples of government, civil service and the Church opposing parents who want to see more children in integrated schools.

Parents in Omagh want to see Drumragh Integrated College allow an additional 100 children to benefit from integrated education. Expansion has been blocked twice.

And then there's Clintyclay Primary. Parents want to save Clintyclay by reaching out to the Protestant community. Yes - Clintyclay is the first Catholic school to apply to transform into an integrated school.

Millions of pounds have been spent trying to bring communities together, but here are two cases of that very thing being blocked (and blocked at the taxpayers' expense).

Northern Ireland is held back by an intransigent, protective and lazy Establishment, which perpetuates separate development of Catholics and Protestants.

The first Catholic I came face-to-face with after separate schooling was the-then Bernadette Devlin, a fellow student at Queen's.

Now she and I are united on one important issue: Bernadette has long been a campaigner for integrated education.

Political leadership must summon the courage to challenge the redundant traditions in education. Give parents the choice and I am certain an overwhelming majority will choose the integrated path.

That, in turn, will create the greatest legacy for peace: embedding in the next generation the means for Northern Ireland to reach its true economic and business potential.

  • David Montgomery is campaign president of the Integrated Education Fund

Belfast Telegraph

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