Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Liam Neeson and Baroness Blood praise integrated school system vying for Nobel prize

The prize winner will be announced this Friday

By Eimear McGovern

Baroness May Blood has welcomed the news the Integrated Schools Movement has been nominated for a Nobel peace prize.

The former Labour peer and campaign chair of the Integrated Education Fund said international recognition means the work that has been put in for the last four decades is "beginning to bear fruit".

7% of pupils in Northern Ireland attend a fully integrated school, the first of which opened in the 1970s to educate Catholic and Protestant children together.

The winner of the prize, for which the climate activist Greta Thunberg is nominated, will be announced on Friday.

"When you look at the list of nominees we're humbled to be among them. We just want to bring change to Northern Ireland and nobody has anything to fear, we're just trying to make it a better place for the next generation," she said.

"While I fundraise, the principals and the parents in the schools are making this happen so it's good for them and it's a boost.

"If we go on to the next stage it would be great for us but if not, we'll continue with the plan that we have trying to get integrated education recognised and giving parents the choice," she said.

Liam Neeson speaking from New Mexico
Liam Neeson speaking from New Mexico

Baroness Blood said there has been high demand for places in integrated schools this year, with endorsements from celebrities like Liam Neeson raising awareness. "We're inundated with schools who want to become integrated and we're moving forward and getting positive reaction," she said.

"A positive endorsement from someone like Liam Neeson makes a big difference, along with people like Geraldine Hughes and Ciaran Hinds and local comedians like Tim McGarry who supported us recently with a night of comedy as well as our donors in London and America."

In a video filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday, Liam Neeson said he was sorry he could not be there with the Integrated Schools Movement to celebrate.

"I'm so proud of all of you," he said. "I especially want to congratulate the principals, the teachers in these schools, the parents, the children who are making integrated education something special."

Julie McAuley is the principal of Braidside Integrated Primary School in Ballymena, which is this year celebrated thirty years of intergration.

"I'm thrilled and delighted, there is a groundswell of people who have been involved over the years who have done magnificent work on the ground to grow the sector," she said.

"the key aim behind integrated education is reconciliation and it's an acknowledgement of the work that has been ongoing for 30 years.

"We have communicated the news with the older children, P6 and P7 and we've told them about what it would mean. For our parents and governors, it's rightful recognition.





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