Educational apartheid: Ulster First Minister's view of faith schools
By BBC NEWS - BBC NEWS WEBSITE
Added: Mon, 18 Oct 2010 10:02:40 UTC
Note: Richard Dawkins will be speaking about this story on Radio Ulster at noon today, British Summer Time (GMT -1). Listen again here.
The Deputy First Minister has warned the First Minister against "taking on" the Catholic Church over the provision of education.
Martin McGuinness was responding to a speech on Friday by Peter Robinson in which he described the NI education system as "a benign form of apartheid".
Mr Robinson said that while he had no objection to church schools, he objected to the state funding them.
Mr McGuinness said Mr Robinson was making a mistake.
"If Peter thinks taking on the Catholic Church, the Catholic bishops and indeed the Protestant churches for that matter and other interest groups is a sensible route to go, I think that is a big mistake," he said.
"I think what we have to do is try and achieve and continue to build a consensus within our society about the need to develop shared services.
"If you go for a head-on collision with the so-called vested interests, that is a collision course which will lead us into a total and absolute mess."
Earlier, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had challenged the First Minister over his comments about the future of education.
Donal Flanagan, chief executive of CCMS, questioned the timing of Mr Robinson's intervention.
"He is certainly not speaking as an educationalist because everybody knows that ethos adds value to education," he added.
"If Peter Robinson wants an open, honest and inclusive debate on the future of education in Northern Ireland then why would he choose a platform at the installation of a DUP mayor in Castlereagh to launch this so I have to question his motive."
On Saturday, Bishop Donal McKeown said the right of parents to choose a faith-based education must be recognised.
He said it was the "hallmark of a stable and pluralist society".
"This key principle, which recognises the right of parents, is guaranteed by the European Convention for Human Rights," the chair of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education said.
"It is worth pointing out that parents who choose faith-based schools for their children, pay taxes toward the provision of that education.
"The Catholic Church has also contributed substantial funding and resources for the provision of Catholic schools over generations, and this has ultimately saved the taxpayer money."
On Friday, Mr Robinson also said he wanted to set up a commission to look at the total integration of the different sectors.
He compared the system to South Africa during apartheid where black and white children were educated separately.
In an apparent reference to Catholic schools, he said he had no objection to church schools but he did object to the state paying for them.
"It may take ten years or longer to address this problem, which dates back many decades, but the real crime would be to accept the status quo for the sake of a quiet life," he said.
Nick Cohen - The Spectator Comments
To be a racist in Britain, you do not need to cover yourself in tattoos and join a neo-Nazi party. You can wear well-made shirts, open at the neck, appreciate fine wines and vote Left at election time.
Brendan O'Neill - The Telegraph Comments
The rebranding of circumcision as 'child abuse' echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe
AFP - - Comments
Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled
Katherine Stewart, R. Elisabeth... Comments
Religious Extremism In Public Schools: R. Elisabeth Cornwell & Sean Faircloth interviews author Katherine Stewart
NBC News - MNSBC Comments
A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial
Katherine Stewart - The Guardian 36 Comments
How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren
MORE BY BBC NEWS
BBC News - BBC News website 30 Comments
Letters from 1966 between the then Archbishop of Canterbury and a bishop show the Church agreed that a convicted paedophile should be ordained
BBC News - BBC news website 89 Comments
Mr Bhatti, the cabinet's only Christian minister, had received death threats for urging reform to blasphemy laws.
BBC News - BBC News website 98 Comments
In his World Communications Address on 24 January, [the pope] said it was not a sin to use social networking sites
BBC News - BBC News website 28 Comments
The Vatican's centuries-old secrecy over the way it handles its money will no longer be an excuse to avoid its obligations under international and Italian criminal law to combat money-laundering operations by third parties, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.
BBC News - BBC News website 95 Comments
The Pope gives the example of the use of condoms by prostitutes as "a first step towards moralisation", even though condoms are "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection".