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UUP and Alliance hail support for integration

By Lindsay Fergus

Politicians have expressed their delight after a poll of young people revealed that more than two-thirds intend to vote – although they were much more reluctant to comment on the even greater support for integrated education.

Just two parties responded to the findings in LucidTalk's Northern Ireland-wide youth poll that suggested there is massive backing among young people for all children to be educated together.

Alliance MLA Anna Lo said: "This poll shows the overwhelming support among young people for the Alliance Party's proposals to increase the level of integrated education and shared housing."

And UUP leader Mike Nesbitt remarked: "What young people are saying today is what they said in an opinion poll conducted by the Belfast Telegraph in 1968, where the great majority of children in both primary and post-primary education said they wanted to learn together. How much longer do we need to wait?"

He continued: "A single system will effectively inoculate future generations against sectarianism, the toxic legacy of the Troubles."

Both Alliance and Sinn Fein expressed concerns that if a better future wasn't looming on the horizon, many of our young people could emigrate, although for different reasons.

Sinn Fein's Megan Fearon, who is herself just 22, said: "It is no surprise to me as a young MLA working on the ground that issues such as jobs, employment, health and education and tackling the scourge of sectarianism feature prominently.

"Austerity is hitting our young people and many are emigrating."

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell was pleased that so many young people were engaging with politics.

"While it is encouraging 70% of young voters intend to vote, I would like to see that at 100%," he said. "It is essential that young people feel that their voice matters.

"The views of young people in this LucidTalk Poll shows clearly that they are way beyond some of the politicians in knowing what really matters and where the energy of politicians should be focused."

Ms Fearon added: "The fact that a high percentage intends to use their vote is indicative of our young people's willingness to get involved in the political process.

"It's important that young people make our voices heard and help shape our own future."

The DUP was unavailable for comment.

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