A Shared or Divided Future – Some SDLP and Alliance Views
SDLP Education spokesperson MLA Sean Rogers has criticised the Alliance Party’s proposals around integrated education as set out in its document published today (28 January), “An Executive Strategy for a Shared Future“.
Mr Rogers said: “It was deeply regrettable that the Alliance Party withdrew from the Working Group on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) which is an on-going talk’s process which is working towards creating a roadmap to a shared future. I would question whether they are really serious about building a shared future or are using their document as a political football for narrow party advantage.
“In particular I am concerned about their proposals around integrated education which seem to eliminate parental choice entirely, which is a cornerstone of any effective education system. It is clear that the Alliance party see no role whatsoever for faith based education and this is a fundamental flaw in their proposals.
“Their claim that the integrated sector has huge support across the community is simply not true. The reality is we should be working to ensure a diverse range of schools are supported and impart an enriching educational experience on our young people.
“The real future for our education system is building on the opportunities for a variety of school types in the future including shared faith schools. What the Alliance Party is proposing would make this impossible. Building a truly shared future must include a sense of respect for the rights and choices made by parents and young people.
“I am aware of a wide-range of schools that already adopt a shared system for learning and these along with some very good quality integrated schools are a real asset to our education system. Our priority must be to continue to strive for the highest standards in education learning and give young people access to a broad range of high quality educational institutions.”
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Clarke Says Shared Housing Way Forward
The Alliance Party’s South Down spokesperson, Down District Councillor Patrick Clarke, has said Alliance fully supports the idea of a shared future.
He has called upon the Social Development Minister to prioritise tackling division within the local housing sector as part of this development.
Following the recent announcement about the future of the Housing Executive, Councillor Patrick Clarke has urged the Minister to seize the opportunity and develop a regional shared housing strategy free from fear and intimidation.
Councillor Patrick Clarke said: “Deprivation cannot be addressed while maintaining divisions in our society, as these drain resources and deter investment and growth.”
“Some of our most polarised estates have more than 80 per cent of residents from the same religious background, and the fact that an area is perceived as belonging to one side or another of the community results in all sorts of negative economic and social consequences: loss of investment, paramilitary economy and people less willing to use basic public services. Even worse, this then interacts with other aspects of poverty to create multiple pockets of deprivation.”
“We should therefore be seeking to promote shared housing within all sectors, as it promotes good relations and creates a diverse, inclusive and aspirational environment in which to live.”
“The Assembly has an opportunity to address the underlying divisions and hostilities which have undermined economic and social development. These divisions will continue to prevent dynamic development, deter investment and combine with poverty to produce a toxic mix of division, exclusion and disadvantage and therefore all Ministers have their part to play in addressing them and ensuring Northern Ireland becomes a better place for everyone.”