‘Are you a Fenian, Miss?’: inside the sectarian classroom

'Are you a Fenian, Miss?': inside the sectarian classroomOpinion: the structure of education in Northern Ireland reflects the deep sectarian divisions in the community

It’s winter in Northern Ireland and the colours on the kerbstones have lost their bright summer hues. The once pristine lamppost flags hang in tatters now, and no one cares to parade down even the most contested wind and rain-battered streets. Outside of the July and August “Marching Season”, it is the separation within education that most obviously defines the demarcation lines of community division.

To the informed observer, the kaleidoscopic spectrum of school uniforms in bus depots at 3.30pm are a code that identifies the community identity of each child. Autumnal greens, yellows, oranges and browns dominate the attire of those who attend Catholic schools, whose blazer badges are resplendent with Celtic crosses and crossed papal keys, underscored with sage words in Irish.