We're like Alabama in the 1950s

Daily Mail (London), October 10, 2007 | Go to article overview

We're like Alabama in the 1950s


Byline: JOE HIGGINS

INSEPTEMBERemergency action by the DepartmentofEducation saw two new primary schools opened in west and north Dublin toprovide for children who could not find places in the local schools run by theCatholic Church.

The pupils in both schools are almost exclusively of African origin.

What a damning indictment of the political, religious and economicestablishments in this State that in the Ireland of 2007 we have a primaryschool system that has little children ghettoised on racial and ethnic lines assurely as if it were Alabama, U.S.A, 50 years ago - and this in a year when theGovernment appointed a Minister for Integration!

The intent of those responsible for school policy may not be that of theracists in the 1950s Deep South, but the separation of children along the linesof colour is just as real. This stems from a primary education system that issectarian based and the unforgivable failure of Government to prepare for arapid population increase.

The excuse that this could not have been foreseen is patently false. Did themassive increase in house building over the last seven years go unnoticed byGovernment? Hardly, considering the fabulous treasure trove of taxation thatwas raked in as a result. And what of the Government's active policy ofattracting migrant workers to the Irish economy? A child would understand thatthese two factors alone would mean a big increase in young parents andtherefore young children needing education. Moreover, community activists andclued-in public representatives have been screaming for years about impendingcrises in the provision of school places.

THE Government also allowed the timely provision of enough schools in areas ofrapidly expanding population to be further complicated by the hold over thedesignated sites by developers who often held out for outrageous prices for theland.

This State allows children to be excluded from a Catholic Church-dominatededucation structure because their parents aren't Catholics. It is to the greatcredit of some school boards, principals and teachers that they refuse toimplement such a policy. However, in recent weeks it has been implemented insome areas of great pressure on school places. The consequences of this arestark. Dress it up as you will but the implementation of a Catholic firstpolicy in primary schools inevitably means a segregation of children alongethnic and racial lines. …

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