02/02/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate. With Paul Kenny, Malcolm Bruce, James Wharton and Natalie Bennett.

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You are watching the Sunday Politics. Coming up in just over 20


minutes, we will have more Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics


in Northern Ireland. As the results of the unregulated transfer tests


are published, we ask is there any prospect of political agreement on


how children move from primary to secondary education? I think by


changing they have made it a more complicated and more stressful for


children. It is too much pressure on them. Parents are getting themselves


worked up about it and I see the children getting worked up. Also,


the Shankill's secret republican link to the Spanish Civil War. What


other surprises has our history got in store as the big centenaries


loom? And with me throughout, with their thoughts, the commentator,


Patricia McBride, and the newspaper editor, Jim Flanagan... Yesterday


was a red letter day for thousands of Primary 7 children in Northern


Ireland as the results of the transfer tests were published. It's


the fifth year of the unregulated transfer procedure and an agreed


transfer mechanism seems as far off as ever. Meanwhile, the BBC has


learned that the parents of Primary 6 pupils will receive a leaflet


advising them to report any school that's preparing children for the


tests. With me now are the DUP's Mervyn Storey, who chairs Stormont's


Education Committee, and Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard, who sits on the


committee... Welcome to the programme. How concerned are you at


this latest turn of events with this publication that Primary 6 pupils


are getting repaired? The Department and the Minister or not facing up to


realities and using the circumstances of the situation to


create more uncertainty and more concerned. The facts are simple. The


majority of parents still choosing to have an unregulated system. It is


not ideal and there needs to be an agreement as to how we move forward,


but in the absence of their being an agreed position, organisations have


stepped into the frame and provided a process whereby the transition


from primary to post primary can still continue to be based on


academic assessment and I think that we need to have that as a debate. If


we look at what happened in England when they allegedly moved away from


transfer, it ended up becoming a system that was based on social


issues, the price of houses, how wealthy your parents were, as


opposed to the real core issue which is about ensuring transfers on the


basis of educational merit. I want to talk to you about this booklet.


Chris Hazzard. This booklet that the department's sending out to parents


is an attempt to 'up the ante', presumably? I did not think so. They


are guidelines which have been set down for transfer. We have a


situation where there is a common curriculum. Every school teaches the


exact same curriculum. You could have a selective grammar school


teaching its children one curriculum and across the road they are doing


exactly the same thing. We have the same curriculum, there is no need to


go through the transfer process. Some pupils may choose one school


over another and you have to find a way of determining which killed a go


too. Because a parent is forced to put their child through an exam, it


is not the same as indoor CNET. I think the leaders of the schools


have to face the music. They need to explain the rationale for selective


tests. We have the common curriculum, there is no need for


selection. What is the reason? We have lots of grammar schools which


are effectively comprehensives -- comprehensives. It is called


parental choice. It is not lots of grammar schools, it is a small


number. Parents were told by the then Education Minister that going


down this road would be a legal minefield. She was wrong and she


ended up in court. Parents make choices. Those choices are about


ensuring that they have the ability and the right to choose a school


which they believe is appropriate for their child. Do I believe that


it is grammar schools that are given a good education? That is not the


case. That is what it looks like to a lot of people. It is about


parental choice. Parents choose to have their children educated in


Catholic schools, that is their choice. This is not a sectarian


debate. The Catholic bishops have failed miserably to convince the


majority of Catholic grammar schools to move away from using academic


criteria. What is wrong with parental choice? It is not about


parental choice. He has demonstrated the complete failure of unionism to


tackle this. They have failed to name one benefit to this exam. There


are none. These schools, they cannot name one single educational


benefit. We have three Executive parties who are opposed to this.


This is not the Sinn Fein ideal. We have the trade union movement


opposed, we have the OECD and a growing number of Protestant


elements speaking against this. The Catholic bishops have said they are


opposed to selection. The Catholic principals are still in this. They


are calling for a harder line to implement this. In the meantime, the


principles of many Catholic grammar schools are not heeding what the


bishops say is the policy of the Catholic Church. They have to stand


up and say that this is the Russell Mall. They are failing to do that.


-- rationale. Why would you deny the privilege that you have to other


parents? You said it was elitism. You were able to value and benefit


as a result of having that education, but now you take the


position that somehow it is unfair for other parents and other young


people to have that. You said it is not about choosing the school, you


are making the argument for grammar schools. We get into the position


that there is a contradiction in that it is wrong to select according


to Chris and others children at 11 on the basis of the test, but when


it comes, the same cue ball and they are 16, the test that we set for


that child and the test we set for the school is that the school must


have five GCSEs at the top grade and if they do not attain that, Chris's


Minister sends in the Inspectorate on the basis and that school is


deemed to be a failure. If it is a common curriculum, name one benefit


of attending a grammar school over a secondary school, where the teaching


of the same subjects is the same, why should we continue to have


grammar schools? Parents have the right to make that choice. Wider


they want to choose that? -- why do they want. I had a different


provision in my area. My daughter was given in one school of very good


opportunity. I believe that was right that I have that opportunity.


Was it a gender issue? It can be. We are going to have grammar schools in


the future, they will not go away. We need to have a discussion around


how we make the transition from primary to post primary as seamless


as possible. Do you accept that grammar schools will not go away? I


accept that. I went to a grammar school. The question is about


admittance. I want all children to have the chance to go to a grammar


school, not a select school. Here is a question, what is a grammar school


in 2014 when the teacher exactly the same curriculum as other schools? --


when they teach. We make a fallacy that we believe that all our


children are identical, they are different. It is a one size fits all


tests. GCSEs are the same. There are young people who will not attain the


top grades, but yet they will be successful in a school which is best


suited to meet their educational needs. Thank you. Thank you both.


And joining us to discuss that are the editor of the Ballymena


Guardian, Jim Flanagan, and the commentator, Patricia MacBride.


There is no great meeting of minds. What do you think the way forward


needs to be? The grammar schools have done a fabulous public


relations job by creating this scenario that the children are going


to get a better education because they go to a grammar school, when in


reality they will learn the same curriculum as at a mentor named


school. The issue around the transfer test, what we are doing


with children, we are not selecting them, we are teaching them how to do


a test -- maintained school. It is not a true measure of their academic


ability. I am a fan of completely integrated education. Integrating in


terms of children of all faiths. We are a long way from that. That is


real life. That is what we need to prepare people for. The life they


will face when they go out into the workplace, when they meet people


from all faiths and of all levels of intelligence. Let us truly integrate


that. There is political paralysis over this. Parents are exasperated.


They would like our politicians to sort this out. Parents vote with


their feet and you cannot get away from the fact that by and large,


academic testing exists because there is support for it. If they did


not want their children to do it, they would not be there. All we get


is an agreement to disagree. All sides in this debate seem wedded to


their positions. We are not going anywhere. Next year, every child


doing GCSEs will set the unregulated tests. We have a whole generation of


children at the grammar school and doing that, . We have talked about


the problems, what needs to happen to move us forward so there is some


kind of political agreement on where we go from here? We now have a


document and advising parents on the processes. We see thousands of


children transferring from primary to post primary without the stress


of a test. We need to see those small minority of schools who


implement this test to tell us why. They educate 43% of the school


population. They have to be taken into the equation. We need a proper


discussion with the threats are removed, such as the guidance from


the department where people can have a discussion about the seamless


transition based on educational values, not on political ideology.


It will be intriguing to see how things unfold. Thank you both for


now. In a moment, the connection between Belfast's Shankill Road and


the Spanish Civil War, but first, a look back at the politics of the


last week in sixty seconds, with Gareth Gordon... The row over the


appointment of a new chief constable rumbles on with the Justice Minister


sensing a plot. It looks like it is more to do with the party that the


Minister comes from and the significance of the decision. They


have it in from the Alliance Party? You could believe this. He opened a


door that should have been kept closed. Once he opened that door a


little bit, then the DUP and Sinn Fein came charging through. A fiery


Stormont committee, an academic and the DUP fell out over an e-mail.


Your opposition to this clause is more because of your prejudices


against the DUP. It is nothing of the sort. At the play they could not


ban, it proves there is no such thing as bad publicity. Because of


this, we sold out. I do not like being told what I can go to and what


I cannot go to. Garth Gordon reporting. Yesterday in the loyalist


heartland of Belfast's Shankill Road, a plaque was unveiled in


honour of seven men from the area who fought for the International


Brigade against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. While it's well


known that men from nationalist areas of the city volunteered to


travel to Spain and confront Franco's forces, the story of these


men has gone largely untold. As we enter a period when centenaries of


major events like the outbreak of the First World War, the Easter


Rising and the Somme will be marked, could we discover more surprises


about our divided past? Joining me now is the community worker Jackie


Redpath who was at yesterday's ceremony on the Shankill, and the


historian Eamon Phoenix... Thank you for joining us. Jackie, what impact


has this story, which has apparently been hidden, had on the Shankill? It


has not been known. It is beginning to come out. It is having a


significant impact. The Shankill seven as they are now being called,


their names were not known, apart from Harry McGrath because he has


two nephews still living in the area. As a result, the International


Brigades Commemoration Committee have uncovered the other six people.


It has struck a chord with people. The library in the Shankill was


packed. These men stepped up to the mark and went out. I called them the


few who went out to fight fascism. They were followed by the many in


the Second World War. It is important that we recognise them.


Whether they were head and we did not know about it, it does not


matter, the point is, this was a surprise to you. I knew men from


both traditions had fought in the Spanish Civil War. The Protestant


rector in the area was killed, other men from County Tyrone and the Falls


Road as well. People are recovering radical elements of the past. This


was very important. This was when fascism corrupted and it all opposed


democracy in Spain. Those men from Britain and America joined the


International Brigades and fought against fascism. It is important it


is remembered. People from a national background would have been


known to have fought for the International Brigades, but it is


worth making the point that there were Irish men fighting for Franco.


Socialists and republicans fought against Franco. You had about 500


men who went to fight for what they thought was a Catholic Crusade. They


did not last long. These men are being remembered. It recalls along


Protestant socialist tradition in working-class parts of Belfast until


the troubles. -- Troubles. That is an interesting point. We need to


recognise our history. It is important we do that. There has


always been that radical tradition in east Belfast and the Shankill


because it is about issues like you were talking about earlier, about


families. That is what concerns people. It is important that we


recognise the past, but more important that we learn from it.


What about the challenge of the other centenary is? That will be a


big issue. You are on the advisory panel for the Taoiseach. We have got


the Easter Rising, the Somme, plenty of room for controversy. This has


been handled well by community relations and local community


groups. We had a great series of lectures in Belfast remembering the


past. They have brought in principles which are being reflected


across the country in local events, drama has been introduced, a play on


the Somme. Sticking to the facts, looking at various perspectives and


there are surprises. We have the East Belfast loyalist who witnessed


the Easter Rising and kept a Gary. Things like this are cropping up.


They open them up to both communities -- kept a diary.


Centenary is have already taken place. -- centenary is. 30,000


people, 10,000 people involved. These have been done well. I do not


see why that cannot be repeated. In the last few months, the UVF and the


Irish volunteers have been working together. That can happen. The


important thing is to remember, but learn. Jackie Redpath and Eamon


Phoenix thank you. Let's hear the final thoughts of my guests of the


day - Patricia McBride and Jim Flanagan... You have spent a lot of


time thinking about the past and how we deal with it. What was your view


of the commemoration on the Shankill yesterday? There was a very worthy


acknowledgement of the sacrifice of citizens of the Shankill community


who fought against fascism. Were I would like to see that go is to


perhaps look at that definition of republicanism. These were men who


fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War. It creates a


space to debate the nature of republicanism outside of an Irish


context. That could be something about learning from the past. We


look at the nature of what that means and how it has impacted on


communities, so it is a wider debate. Moving forward over the next


ten years or so, as we look at the nature of what that means and how it


has impacted on communities, so it is a wider debate. Moving forward


over the next ten years or so, as the market these events, we have


this opportunity to re-examine the history of the past in a


multidimensional way. Is this an interesting and important


contribution? The common to nominate is respect for the past. We need to


learn from our past. It takes an independently minded person to go


against what is perceived as the norm and fight for the other side,


as people would see it. Sometimes it is at great personal cost for


people. I think the key point is that we learn from the past and so


far, the commemorations have been held in a respectful fashion. I want


to touch on one thing. It is relevant. We had George Chittick


saying yesterday a word of warning to Protestants who go to learn


Irish, it is part of the republican agenda, that does not tie in with


what you were talking about. I think that he might need to re-examine the


history of his own organisation and look more deeply into the use of the


Irish language by his predecessor and continuing use on banners. What


do you think? Certain people did raise their eyebrows over those


remarks. There are banners with Irish on them. He needs to go and


put a bit of context to the whole thing. Thank you. That is it from


ours. Back to Not a complete denial! Hopefully a


Conservative mayor again. Not a good week for David Cameron on


the tricky European front last week. President Hollande said he was not


interested in major treaty reform for 2017. That is when Mr Cameron


hopes to hold his in-out referendum. And the private member's bill to put


that referendum on the statute bill was killed by Labour and Lib Dem


peers in the Lords. James Wharton was the Tory MP behind the bill, and


he joins me now. What happens now? It is out of my hands what happens


now, because Labour and the Liberal Democrats conspired in the Lords to


kill off my bill. One of the options is for another private member to


bring a bill forward when they have the next private member's bill at,


and we can try again. The prime minister has indicated that he will


support that. But whatever happens, it will be in the Conservative


manifesto at the next election. Do you accept that cost this is Tory


policy and not government policy that the government policy elite


macro cannot bring forward a bill? That is the problem. The Liberal


Democrats, despite having promised a referendum in their manifesto at the


last election, now will not allow government time for a bill to


enshrine that in law. That was why I brought it forward as a private


member's bill. David Cameron and the Conservative Party through


everything behind that. To many people's surprise, we got it through


all the House of Commons stages. Sadly, to their discredit, Labour


and Liberal Democrat peers, doing the bidding of their masters in the


Commons, is conspired to kill it. Do you accept that it is Conservative


policy, but not government policy, that you could not use the


Parliament act to get this through the Lords? That is not the case. The


Parliament act is clear that if a public bill passes through the House


of Commons twice in one Parliamentary period, there is a


certain amount of time that has to be between both bills being


presented. There are some procedural steps to be overcome, but there is


no legal reason why the Parliament act could not come into effect. I


was talking about you not having a majority in this case. That remains


to be seen. We saw previously that Labour and the Liberal Democrats


sent enough people to frustrate its progress to make it as difficult as


possible, but not huge numbers to vote against it. On a Friday, huge


numbers of MPs do not attend normally. Getting that number might


prove difficult. The Parliament act, which is a bit of an atomic bomb in


constitutional terms, if that was used, they would turn up to vote


against you. Is it not the case that after the countryside Alliance tried


to involve the courts in the hunting ban that it was made clear that the


Parliament act was not to be used for constitutional issues? I don't


think we know how many would turn up and we don't know how they would


vote. One of the things that has been revealed as I have gone through


the process of getting this bill to get a referendum through the Commons


is that there are big splits in the Labour Party. One of the reasons we


did not see them turning up in large numbers to stop this bill from


happening was that Ed Miliband knew that if he tried to lead his own MPs


through the lobbies to block a bill, the only purpose of which is


to let Britain decides to give people a say on membership of the


union, a lot of his MPs may not have followed him. It is all fantasy


politics anyway. The French president has made clear that he has


no interest in treaty change this side of 2017. He would need a


referendum as well . And he needs that like a hole and had. Merkel is


not keen, as she is in coalition with the social Democrats. Without


the French or the Germans, it will not happen, end of story. The policy


is that we will try to negotiate on getting a better deal. I hear what


you are saying, but I don't recognise it as reality. We have a


strong bargaining position. But whatever the result of that


negotiation, it will be put in an in-out vote to the Britain people.


It is time people were allowed to decide. It has been over a


generation since we last had a say. David Cameron has committed to


delivering that referendum. The Conservative Party will have it in


our next manifesto for the election. Whatever happens to my bill or any


other of the bill that comes forward. If people want a


referendum, the only party that can deliver that in British politics is


the Conservatives. Let me bring the panel in. Nick, where is this going?


It is clear to me and anyone who follows European politics that there


is no appetite for major treaty change in the short run,


particularly for the kind of major changes that Vista Cameron says he


is going to get, and yet the Tories are talking about Europe again when


they should be talking about the economy. And Francois Hollande is


looking at 2017, the year we are meant to have this referendum. There


will be a French presidential election going on, and Nicolas


Sarkozy will be back in play by then. But James has an interesting


point, which is that it is down to Angela Merkel. She would be more


receptive to David Cameron's ideas of reform than people assume. She


has looked over the edge at a Europe without the UK and said, that is not


acceptable, and I am willing to pay a price, not any price, but a price


to keep the UK in the European Union. And the French, because the


UK and France are the only serious military powers in Europe, will


eventually come to that position. So there is more support for David


Cameron than people assume. The French are also not a strong


position in terms of the euro and French economy. The Foreign Office


seem a bit more optimistic about it. Of course they are. Douglas Hurd


once told me, we are winning the arguments on the single currency. Of


course anything from the Foreign Office comes with a health warning,


but if David Cameron had won a majority and was determined to


renegotiate, he is in a strong position with Merkel. There is a


possibility that the French could eventually be talked around. So it


is not entirely bleak on that front for Cameron. When do the Tory party


managers say, look, stop banging on about Europe again? The economy is


going away. We still have an electoral mountain to climb. Let's


just talk about that and not be divided. They should have done that


some time ago. It is already too late. The Tories need a seven point


lead in the polls to get image are tea. The way things are, that would


require a huge change from where we are now . It is very unlikely to


happen. So all this is happening in some bizarre imaginary space with


wonderful rainbows and sunshine. But we can detect the beginnings of a


shift in the last couple of weeks. If you talk to Tory backbenchers,


Douglas Carswell is now saying in public that it is time to stop the


fighting. If they are to get even close to winning the election, they


can't do it if they are all against each other. I don't think it is an


imaginary space. It is likely that David Cameron will have the largest


party in the election. If it is a hung parliament and it is the


Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party, David Cameron


will save to Nick Clegg we gave you an AV referendum, I am having this


referendum. And it will be difficult for Nick to say no. Let me go back


to Mr Wharton. You are going to get a referendum in the manifesto. Other


than Ken Clarke, everybody wants it. So why don't you just banked that


and get behind the leadership Institute causing endless problems


and coming across as a Europe accessed, divided party? I am


absolutely behind the leadership. David Cameron announced the policy I


am trying to bring forward in this bill. It is in line with the speech


he gave this time last year. But getting that commitment into law


will help to kick-start the negotiation process and mean


everyone will know where we stand. But whatever happens, the


Conservatives are committed to delivering a referendum. And to


address the point that we talk about Europe too much, that is not the


case. We have a good message on the economy, on tackling immigration and


reforming welfare. There is more to do, but this is also an important


part of policy. But at a time when the economic news seems to be


turning in your direction, you are talking about the European


referendum. Your backbench colleagues are trying to change the


Immigration Bill every which way. Dominic Rather is putting in an


amendment is and Mr Nigel Mills has been on this programme, putting in


amendments that are clearly illegal. How is that helpful? The fact is


that we are in a coalition, so there are areas of policy where


Conservatives might want to go further and we are not able to do


that. In other areas, we are delivering good reforms. But this is


not a matter of going further. The mill 's amendment was clearly a


contravention of the Treaty of Rome. That is where you get the headlines


from. Some of your colleagues have a death wish? Would they rather have a


Miliband government if the choice is an impure Cameron one instead? I


don't think anyone in their right mind would rather have a Miliband


government. Then why are they behaving that way? We have had some


disagreements into the leak and debate within the party, but it was


talked about on the panel just now. The Conservative Party is behind


David Cameron and focused on winning the next election. Europe is one


part of that. We have policies in a range of areas, but we are getting


back on range of areas, but we are getting


back on the right track. Thank you for being patient with us.


Is this ghost story going to go somewhere? Mr Laws is talking


through surrogates at the moment, but there is a strategy by the Lib


Dems make these differential points now. I think it is fantastic


coalition sports and entertaining, but in terms of out there, it has


almost no traction whatsoever. I don't think any voters know who


Baroness Morgan is and it sounds like one but politicians shouting at


another bunch of politicians about their ability to give each other


jobs. There is a larger point about the way Michael Gove runs his


government. He is notoriously a very polite man surrounded by Rottweiler


is, his advisers. He has made enemies of a lot of people in the


media, and some of that will come back on him in the next 18 months.


We shall see if Mr Laws himself sticks his head above the parapet.


That is it for this week. The Daily Politics is on throughout the week


at midday on BBC Two, except on Wednesdays, when we are on at


11:30am. I will be back next week at the same time. Remember, if it is


Sunday, it's the Sunday Politics.


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