Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: a Review

Tina Merron, the Chief Executive of the IEF, has welcomed Ulster University’s proposals for a new, concerted effort to tackle sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

The university, supported by the Sir George Quigley Fund, launched ‘Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: a Review’ at a conference at the UU Belfast campus on Tuesday. Tina praised the conference for addressing the issue and welcomed comedian Patrick Kielty’s comments at the event that educating all children together is crucial to a shared future.

Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: a ReviewThe review contains more than 50 proposals for how bodies including government, business, education, youth services, arts and sport could work collectively over a sustained period of time to foster greater collaboration and understanding across communities. As well as suggesting that a government department should be established specifically to tackle sectarianism, the researchers propose establishing a new civic body to help shape community efforts toward reconciliation.

Patrick Kielty, who spoke at the conference said: “I think we really have to address education, segregated education, and I think that as a society we kind of have to start calling out that casual sectarianism.

“Whenever we had peace here we thought if we move on to a Glaswegian level of sectarianism that is fine, so we only hate each other every week when we go to football. That is not good enough. The tribalism of that is not good enough.”

Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: a ReviewReacting to the report, Tina Merron said:
“ We share the vision, held by the overwhelming majority of citizens, of a united community and a shared future. We see a reformed education system as an essential ingredient of this future – an education system which brings children, staff and governors from Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as those of other faiths or none and of other cultures, together in schools. An education system which recognises and respects diversity and ensures that all young people feel confident and welcome in their school environment.

Integrated education is growing, although that growth still does not reflect the demand from parents for this type of system. At the signing of the Good Friday Agreement there were 12,000 pupils in 43 integrated schools; today there are more than 23,000 attending 65 integrated schools. But there is no government plan for integrated education and its growth is down to determined campaigners and pioneering parents.

I’m glad that the UU report highlights the important role education can play in combatting sectarianism, but it missed the opportunity to support the UNCRC recommendation that Northern Ireland actively promote a fully integrated education system.”

You can find the full report here:

The role of education is discussed on pp 25