30/06/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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Another road in the way forward for post primary education here, this


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1921 seconds


time in the Craigavon area. Join me in Northern Ireland. School may be


out, but may be a way forward for post primary education? There has


been no end of terror and cheer for politicians who feel this may be the


end of schools in the Craigavon area. Joining me is Mervyn Storey


and Chris Hazzard. And in the Republic, tensions rise as TDs


prepare to vote on abortion legislation. Discussing that are


Dearbhil McDonald from the Irish Independent and public relations


consultant Nick Garbutt. Is a proposal to merge several post


primary schools in County Armagh an attempt to end selection by the back


door? The Dickson Plan has been used in Craigavon for the last 40 years.


Children are selected to go to a grammar or high school at 14 instead


of 11. The decision to merge the two grammar schools - Portadown College


and Lurgan College - with their neighbouring high schools has


sharply divided the community. Joining me is Mervyn Storey and Sinn


Fein's Chris Hazzard. Thank you for joining us. Mervyn Storey, this is a


decision taken by the southern education board, southern -- subject


to further consultation. The minister says he will listen to all


representations before he makes the final call. What is the problem? The


problem is the Minister has nailed his colours to the mast this week.


In terms of the Dickson Plan, he sees it as part of the problem


rather than the solution. There is a serious question mark over the


integrity of the process, the discussions it would seem that took


place in the Department for Education prior to the board taking


its decision in relation to this matter, so the independence of this


process is questionable. There is a clear majority of parents, 87% of


parents in the Dickson Plan area, who want it to remain. Clearly the


Minister and the board have not listened to that expression of the


opinion. The Minister has been very clear about this, he said he wants


the best possible education for every child in the area. He does not


deny that some children do well in the current system but he wants


every child to have that opportunity. And so do we, we want


the same for all children. If there has to be elements of


change to the system, no system of change -- no system is perfect,


however, what is very clear is that we have a situation now where we are


basically being told that, despite what the public opinion is, despite


the other issues of real concerns, it seems as though the control


sector is being bullied into following the line of the maintained


sector, when the maintained sector is unhappy with following the


direction the bishops have given in academic selection. The controlled


sector should not be treated in that way because of others. What about


the notion of parental choice? Mervyn Storey says 87% of parents


want the system to stay the way it This is the south-eastern border,


and we must remember that five of the seven schools Mervyn Storey is


referring to have supported the move is. -- the moves. The Catholic


sector have proposed an nonvoluntary, all-inclusive grammar


school, so this does not have to be the end of grammar schools. There is


a question on the controlled sector, why do you not open up to every


child in this area? It is the southern board area, Doucet


south-eastern. There is now -- you said south-eastern. There is now


consultation. The question is, will the Minister will listen to Michael


and if he can be persuaded by Mervyn Storey and others that he has got


this wrong, Mickey be persuaded to not go down this road? -- might he


be persuaded? I have said that he will listen to


all arguments from the table, but he cannot argue with statistics.


you can argue with statistics, Mervyn Storey will produce other


statistics. 43% of children are underachieving in the Dickson Plan.


That is far worse than the average rate across the North. Where is the


evidence that changing the system will address that problem? Clearly


we do not have that evidence, because the Ofsted report last week


from England clearly demonstrated that children are not performing


well in a comprehensive system. The use of this figure, 43%, is an


absolute misnomer. What we are doing is putting all of the schools in the


Dickson Plan. They are maintained, integrated and controlled, -- the


maintained, the integrated and the controlled, they are put altogether


and it is a very different picture. The bishops have failed in terms of


persuading the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland that


there is merit in moving away from high academic achieving schools.


They have not completely failed. if you talk to parents in the


Craigavon area, they are not convinced the plan for the


maintained sector is the way in which they should proceed, because


now we have parents in the Catholic sector looking for places in


nondenominational grammar schools. I think that is an issue that Catholic


bishops need to take seriously. What do you want to see happening


now to Michael you have tried to go over the head of the education


minister. You have asked the First Minister to allow the decision


ultimately to be taken by the Assembly? Queer as the democracy in


that? -- where is the democracy in that? The Minister himself has


unfortunately muddied the waters in the comments he made this week where


he was critical of the Dickson Plan. He is the person who tells us this


plan will have to come to him, and he will in a dispassionate and


independent way make a decision. He has already decided and that is why


I believe the executive has to call this decision into question. What


happens if we go down that road, where the power is taken out of


Europe Party colleagues' hands to make the decision? The education


minister is responsible for the education attainment of all the


children in the north. We have a situation where 43%, nearly half of


the children at GCSE level, are not achieving five GCSEs. That indicates


to us change is needed and is needed right now. Mervyn Storey, before we


move on, I need to ask you for your response to comments from Donal


McKeown, the auxiliary Bishop of Conor Ryan down. He said your Party


leader's -- corner -- Down and Connor. He said your Party leader's


comments were nakedly sectarian. This is not the first time my Party


leader has been misquoted and misrepresented. Donal McKeown came


out and said that in a very negative attitude. Ten days later he had to


change his tune because he was on the wrong side of the argument. The


debate about education was commenced by my Party leader and is now


continuing, and I think the bishop needs to listen to his own


community, see what is happening within his own community and


recognise that the apartheid in terms of educational provision


cannot continue and we need a resolution. I think that that is


where the bishops, rather than protecting their own side, need to


come into the 21st-century. Thank you both very much indeed for now.


Let's hear from Dearbhil McDonald and Nick Garbutt, today's


commentators. First of all, divisions over postprimary education


in this part of the world simply will not go away. They will not come


it will be difficult to resolve. To look at it coldly and


objectively, we have a real crisis in our education system, because we


have too many young people in -- leaving school who are not fit for


the workplace. At the same time we have too many schools, because you


are dividing by academic selection but also along religious lines. It


is expensive to educate its at the moment, and unless there is


something of rationalisation, we are not ever going to get any better. It


is a huge issue for politicians to grapple with, and that is probably


why we have not made a great deal of progress in the past few years.


Dearbhil McDonald, what is your interpretation? You went through


education in this part of the world, but you now live outside the area,


what do you think? I benefited from the selection in Northern Ireland,


the 11 plus, which is a grotesque example in my view in the Republic,


it was streamlined later, and also on a faith basis, I attended a


Catholic maintained grammar school and did very well from it. But there


is an apartheid in education in the north. If you think in terms of a


shared future, this is something that has to be grappled across


Ulster. We are having a different debate in the Republican terms of


primary schools, 90% of which are Catholic maintained. A lot of people


are Catholic by default in Republic of Ireland, virtual -- by virtue of


the need to get their children into the education facility of their


choice. There are some schools in Dublin where there are no white


children, for example. On both sides of the border we are struggling with


this need. It is an apartheid that needs to be addressed. The education


system is one of the main prisons we have to get through to a shared


future. It is contributed, we believe it there now. There was a


time in the Republic when the church and the state had a close


relationship but times have certainly changed as DD is prepared


to vote this week on the controversial Abortion Bill.


The government is ignoring the Catholic Church's objections. -- as


TDss prepare to vote. There was a time when the church and the state


had a cosy relationship, but the revelations of child sex abuse by


priests and the cover-ups by bishops more worried about the church's


reputation than the plight of victims changed all that.


I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as Taoiseach who


happens to be Catholic, but not a catholic Taoiseach.


Abortion as an issue arouses strong passions and the Taoiseach made


those remarks in ranch -- answer to a question on the subject. The


government's proposal is divisive, to allow terminations when three


medics all agreed a mother is suicidal because of her pregnancy.


Anti-abortion campaigners say the Bill will for the first time allow


for the intentional killing of the unborn in the Republic. For them it


is not just a religious but human rights issue, as the mother and


foetus have equal rights to life. I feel everyone has a right to life,


especially those in the womb of a mother. No matter how much oil has


been conceived it has a right to life. As Catholics, as catholic


priests and a catholic nation, we have a human rights to highlight the


importance of life from the womb to the tomb.


Eamon Martin, the incoming Catholic Primate, said that those TDss and


senators who voted for the Abortion Bill will excommunicate themselves.


Senator Ronan Mullen, who has strong pro-life views, says excommunication


is a red herring. Politicians like to say down here that they are


somehow standing up to the Catholic Church. That is kind of juvenile at


this stage. This is an issue about a child's life and the mother's best


interests. The value shared by the genteel manner born novelist here.


In her newspaper column she praised the Taoiseach for not bending the


knee to the church on abortion and for ignoring excommunication.


There is talk about it being a red herring, but it was a red herring


tangled by Seaview -- senior clerics and it has beaten the Calcutta and


politicians back into line before, but not any more. -- recalcitrant


politicians. The Doyle is due to have the first of the votes on the


Bill in the coming days, with the legislation expected to pass


comfortably, another sign of the changing structure and state


relationship. -- church and state relationship.


Joining me now is Father Tim Bartlett.


Don't you have to accept at this stage that the Catholic Church is


not bigger than the democratic process? I think this issue of


abortion cannot be reduced to an issue of church and state. That is a


hackneyed, 70s, 80s debate in the Republic. A priest of my generation


comes to this debate as a citizen, who with other citizens, in fact


40,000 citizens who gathered for a pro-life rally, two weeks ago. It


was not organised by the church. Those who were there included


bishops who came voluntarily, but they were surrounded by people of


every age who had no connection to the church because they share a


commitment to the gym in principle that it is never right to directly


and intentionally kill an innocent person. -- to the human principle.


Forget the church-state side of that, it is not about flat any more.


It is not just Catholics, despite your carefully chosen clips. It may


be it is not just Catholics, and it may be that you don't like to


characterise it as church against state, but whether you like that or


not it is how many people see it. Martina Devlin said this effectively


comes down to democracy against theocracy.


No, it doesn't. A pluralist, diverse democracy allows space for all


voices. What is really happening is increasingly politicians and so on


are not only marginalising voices that don't suit their agenda,


including the church, which is not pluralist, diverse democracy, but


the Taoiseach and particular and others are -- in particular, are


forcing the issue and forcing people to vote in a particular way. That is


dictatorship, not diverse, pluralist democracy. Give us a free vote and


let us see what democracy, free from the political whip, actually


produces. If what you are saying is correct, why did the incoming


Catholic Primate Eamon Martin say that those TDss who voted in favour


will excommunicate themselves two that is a fact. If they are memories


of the Catholic Church and freely assented to be so, this is an issue


of fundamental importance. -- if they are members of the Catholic


Church. The issue of excommunication is not the right issue in terms of


what might happen if somebody votes for this.


Everyone should be aware that voting for this Bill is, without any


question or doubt, cooperating in a mortal evil. It has serious


consequences for every individual. What about the Catholic elected


representative in the Republic who does not share your view? They have


to explain to everyone why they believe that is not the case.


However, there is no objective or rational way that this Bill can be


squared with the pro-life position. How can you square pro-life view


with the intentional killing of end -- innocent children? This Bill is


medically unjustified and unnecessary. It is legally


unjustified and unnecessary and in our view it is constitutionally


challengeable on a lot of fronts, including the right of individual


politicians to exercise their constitutional rights in relation to


conscience and religious belief to not have any penalty applied to


them. You say that this is a -- not an issue on church and state and it


is cliched and hackneyed to say that, yet you chant -- turn it into


church against state. The Taoiseach said I am a Taoiseach who is


catholic but not a catholic Taoiseach. The irony is that a


Catholic politician should be able to say I am a catholic, I am a


citizen, and my catholic faith informs my human reason about this


value. They should actually have this base to be Catholic, not have


to push that to the side. That is the real dynamic going on in our


society, we want to marginalise all sorts of faith and create a new,


secular orthodoxy. There is no neutral view of society. Everyone


come including catholic politicians, should be able to see what they


believe openly. Thank you, let me bring in Dearbhil McDonald, who


takes a keen interest in this particular subject. But is Father


Tim Bartlett have a point when he says it is not in a point when he


says it is not innocently a surplus extends about church and state?


He is, in this sense. When the original pro-life amendment


came into being the church had a lot of influence at that stage. Over a


30 year period since 1992, the X case, which we are no legislating


for, the influence has waned. They are still a powerful voice, but the


reason it is not a simple democracy-theocracy debate is that


public opinion in rock -- Ireland has changed. We are legislating for


the X case, as far back as 1992. There was a recent opinion poll


commissioned by the Irish Times showing more than eight out of ten


supported lawful termination of pregnancy in circumstances of rape


and incest. Much of the debate in the Republic has been, why are we


not including fatal faecal abnormalities? There have been some


interesting developments since 1980. And since 1992. The Supreme


Court recently had a ruling that addressed the staters of the unborn.


In the context of a frozen embryo, there was a challenge to that. The


protection for the unborn is after -- for the unborn is after


implantation. Within a few years we will have a fatal abnormality case


before our courts and it is arguable on the Supreme Court's bases that


will be allowed under the Constitution. If the church calls


for a referendum I don't know whether... The main issue here is


with suicide, and twice the electorate in the Republic of


Ireland has rejected excluding on grounds of suicide. It is no longer


simply church and state but not for the reasons suggested. What you are


saying is in fact there could be a much wider debate about abortion


being allowed in more circumstances than would be allowed under the


proposed legislation? Absolutely. The same opinion poll showed a huge


drop in support, only four out of ten supported in that case. I have


to say that other people other than the church have expressed concerns


about the issue of suicide. Closing sentence if you would, Father Tim


Bartlett, on that point by Dearbhil McDonald, that it could be about


more than it is? It is interesting that opinion polls show that we are


this debate has focused, on the inclusion of suicide as a grounds


for abortion, that the medical evidence jest this is not the case


for abortion and will lead to mental health difficulties for all women,


where it has focused on that the opinion polls have come down.


debate is only starting and let us have it as equal citizens with an


equal right to be heard. Thank you very much for coming in to join us.


This is a look at the political week gone past in 60 seconds with Gareth


Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly came under fire from Unionists at his behaviour


at a north Belfast parade. Anyone that views the video evidence will


consider him to have been reckless and ill-advised. The Deputy First


Minister backed his fellow MLA and said he was happy to speak to the


Orange order about contentious parades. What people need to do is


set down in a room together and worked out a solution. At


Westminster, Alistair MacDonald was in trouble with the DUP.


The DUP, Mr Speaker, are bigots and sectarians and want to drive a wedge


through our society. And Jimmy Spratt apologised after referring to


opponents of the peace and reconciliation centre at the Maze as


nutters. You know what you said. You do not know what I said. I heard


what you said. Gareth Gordon with the weak and sick


stay seconds, and when the Hansard transcript was published it was


shown that Jimmy Spratt had used the phrase nutters. Nick Garbutt, the


performance of our politicians over the past seven days? It hasn't been


great, has it? We were all in our best behaviour during the G8 summit


and it is all deteriorating. Bad time, as well, with the marching


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