Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Road map to a shared future

The First Minister has made a further important contribution to the education debate by emphasising that a road map towards a single system must be produced within the next four years.

Speaking in Downpatrick yesterday, Mr Robinson said that the shape of the proposed road map is not clear, but he wants to see everyone interested and involved in education exploring how best this can be achieved, while respecting the position of all sectors.

The First Minister was reinforcing points he had made last October when he claimed, controversially, that the separate education system here was a benign form of apartheid which was fundamentally damaging to society.

Not surprisingly his comments encountered opposition from senior representatives of Catholic schools and also from the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who said that Peter Robinson was making a mistake in taking on the churches.

Nevertheless, Mr Robinson deserves support in trying to develop a road map for a single education system, and he is right to point out that while separate education facilities are not unequal in Northern Ireland, they do not assist in the creation of a shared community.

He was also right to underline that shared education goes to the heart of the vision for the future. This may be criticised by his opponents as another form of electioneering, but to many the idea of shared education is above politics.

What is at stake is the best future for all our children as well as that for the province, and a single education system will certainly assist greatly in that objective.

Mr Robinson also suggests if the Stormont Executive does not back single education, then this could be pursued by independent educational foundations and interested groups. That is a matter for the future, but in the meantime the First Minister has taken another important step in the right direction.

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