Alliance Leader David Ford has said his party will redouble its efforts to ensure the Government meets targets on integrated schools, but clarified that his party’s stance on integration is much broader than education alone.
David Ford stated: “Research continues to illustrate the benefits of integrated education to tackling political extremism and sectarianism from an early age. So it is a total outrage that parents have to jump through hoops to get their children into integrated schools, or that people have so many obstacles put in their way if they wish to build an integrated school. Integrated education is the only major sector of our education system that is oversubscribed, yet still the system promoting division at the expense of unity is supported by Government. The whole system is a corrupt shambles designed to preserve segregation, itself the very source of our problems.
“Outsiders coming to Northern Ireland or dealing with Northern Ireland for the first time can scarcely believe that such an out-moded form of segregation prevails within our society. It is an obvious and unforgivable source of division from the earliest age.
“However, we must not fall into the trap of thinking integrated education in itself will solve all our problems. The fact remains that those leaving school, integrated or not, are still entering a formally segregated society — leisure facilities, health centres and housing all remain segregated at the behest of Government. That in itself is fundamentally unhealthy.
Indeed, it is remarkable that anyone at all manages to overcome these apartheid-like barriers to mix socially.
“It is time integrated education was taken far more seriously. But we must be clear that is just the tip of the iceberg. Until we have people instinctively socializing, studying and living together, we will never develop the zest for fairness and social stability required for political settlement to become realistic.”