Actor Adrian Dunbar is among 60 business, arts, media and political figures highlighting integrated education’s role in a more peaceful and economically positive future here.
Top media executive David Montgomery and his wife Sophie, alongside actor Adrian Dunbar, hosted a Summer Drinks reception for the Integrated Education Fund in Kensington, London to highlight the relevance of integrated education in Northern Ireland.
Attended by over 60 guests including high profile business people, personalities, politicians and former Integrated AlumNI, the event also celebrated the IEF’s 25th anniversary.
Local actor Stephen Hagan and his wife, comedienne Wendy Wason, as well as Stiff Little Finger’s Ali McMordie, broadcaster Maxine Mawhinney, BAFTA’s Deputy Chair, Anne Morrison and Campaign Chair Baroness Blood were among those in attendance united by a motivation to ‘put something back into the society they grew up in’ said Adrian Dunbar who is presently starring in BBC drama Broken.
“I always wondered how come we spend millions and millions of pounds separating children at the age of five to then spend millions trying to tell them that they were the same at the age of 16,” began Adrian.
“There are thousands of organisations that are funded to try to bring children together when actually all that money could be going into an integrated education system.”
Adrian hit back at politicians who are ‘resistant’ to integrated education adding; “If we want to heal society in Northern Ireland then integrated education would be the norm, sadly it’s not. There’s huge resistance to it from various parties and the people who are advocating a two-strand education system have a vested interest in the state of NI being split.”
Event host David Montgomery also addressed those in attendance and reflected on his childhood in Bangor: “We had several Catholic children in our street in Bangor and indeed we played happily with them until the age of five. At that point two sets of children went our separate ways – turning out of our front doors in different directions to separate schools and destined to lose touch with each other as it turned out for ever.
“All the friends I have among Northern Ireland expats – Catholics and Protestants – say the same thing. We look back and feel deprived because we were robbed of the fellowship of the other half of our community. Of course things have changed – but not enough.”
David echoed actor Adrian’s sentiments by forecasting the benefits of a fully integrated education system here. He continued: “The political process has stagnated if there is no recognition of the most effective collective act of reconciliation – integrated education.
“The public get it. 77 per cent of people believe de-segregated schooling will contribute both to cross-community relationships and economic growth.
“The business community gets it. 77 per cent feel that a de-segregated education system could contribute to a strengthening of cross community relationships in the workplace and impact positively on economic growth.
“Making available integrated education will create the greatest legacy for peace embedding in the next generation the means for Northern Ireland to reach its true potential.”
Baroness Blood, Campaign Chair at the IEF said the London event was a show of support from many expats. She said: “They are interested in contributing to a shared future and better place and they feel strongly that if they had the opportunity to go to school with people from different backgrounds that would’ve have a positive impact on them and Northern Ireland.”
You can see more photographs from this event in our Picture Gallery.
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