Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Integrated education key to future peace

HANNAH Nelson, the Methodist College Belfast student who introduced Michelle Obama at the Waterfront Hall, asked: "How do you make peace permanent in Northern Ireland?"

The NI Conservatives believe that a permanent peace can only be achieved by educating fewer of our children apart and building the education system that breaks down barriers and instills values of respect and understanding. The leader of the free world made his views clear in his Belfast speech – that institutional segregation of children by religion "encourages division and discourages co-operation".

President Obama was right to highlight the scandal, both social and economic, of so many Protestant and Catholic children having their own schools. The challenge for the Executive and all political parties is to act decisively to reduce segregation in education.

The education minster, John O'Dowd, may claim 80% of the 1,000 controlled and maintained schools here engage in some form of integration, but the reality is that only 6% of our children are educated in integrated schools.

The NI Conservatives look forward to world leaders returning one day after the undiluted success of the Lough Erne summit.

But, without the political willpower to make difficult decisions to change how we educate our children, they will return to a land that continues to perpetuate prejudice and ignorance from generation to generation.

DEAN RUSSELL

NI Conservatives

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