Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has called into question the veracity of statements made by President Higgins on the roles played by schools in the north of Ireland.
“The Integrated Education sector provides excellent education to students throughout the north of Ireland. We in Aontú fully support strengthening Integrated Education sector,” Deputy Tóibín said.
However the Catholic, Controlled and Gaelscoil sectors also provide excellent education provision. There has been an argument made by many in the last number of years that the Catholic and Controlled Education sectors are in someway responsible for the division in the North of Ireland. Some people have used words such as “Apartheid”, “Segregation” and even “Parcels of Hate” when taking about our schools. These statements on our education system are ill judged, unfair and untrue. These words could not be further from the truth. Parents choose their school in the north on exactly the basis and they do in the south. The division in the north has been created by decades of state discrimination not what your local teacher teaches your children.
Our Catholic schools have promoted tolerance, respect and inclusivity for decades. Indeed Catholic schools have achieved great results in terms of fighting disadvantage. The numbers the children going to universities from Catholic Schools in disadvantaged areas is greatly improving. Catholic schools have done a really good job of integrating Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian and Muslim children into their class rooms and communities.
Catholic schools have always had a special place in the heart of the nationalists community, providing one of the few safe places for nationalists to learn about Irish history, language culture, faith and of course our Gaelic sports. Shockingly local school is now under threat. Sinn Féin and the SDLP are backing an Alliance Education Bill that will mean that an Integrated School will be prioritised for funding in future ahead of Catholic and Controlled schools. It will mean that your local Catholic schools maybe be deprioritised for funding as a result. This will negatively effect tens of thousands of children.
Parity of esteem and equality in the north was a hard won. This Bill reverses that progress. Aontú is an Irish Republican political party. We believe in the Ireland of Wolfe Tone where Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter can be who they are and reach their full potential without fear or favour from the state. All children should be treated equally in terms of investment and all parents should be able to choose the ethos of the school to which they send their child”.