Kelly: Make integrated education a driver for reconciliation
“We cannot be serious about ending division if we perpetuate it by educating children apart. I want to see local schools, based within local communities and supported by that community, promoting and developing integrated education so that it becomes the most attractive choice for parents and children. We will not try to coerce people, but we will support rapid growth in that sector.
“There is a huge opportunity to set integrated education on a new trajectory in the rationalisation of the schools estate. And ‘Shared Schools’ is a misleading concept. They are merely segregated schools who, sensibly, share resources. We must go beyond ‘shared’ to ‘integrated’.
“Division is the roadblock to all progress. Our opponents bossing the failed Executive have done nothing to foster reconciliation mainly because they actually benefit from division and deep down do not believe in a shared future. Sectarian headcounts are more their style.
“That is why we have a First Minister who insults Muslims; a health minister who overrides scientific advice to insult gay people; another health minister who says that working class smokers with tattoos are serial law-breakers; and a double-jobbing former minster who gratuitously insults Irish speakers.
“The other outfit is even worse. They have the brass necks to join public protests against health cuts waved through by their own party. And then we have the reprehensible, disgusting closing of the ranks against innocent victims of republican rape and child abuse; an ugly sight to behold in any democratic chamber.
“The SDLP rejects tribal sectarian electoral pacts simply because they are wrong. How can you say you want reconciliation when you turn every election into a sectarian headcount? Alasdair McDonnell is to be congratulated in stating unambiguously that the SDLP will not entertain any pacts.
“This year, more than ever, the public has seen the incompetence and moral bankruptcy of the two parties at the centre of our government and they are ready to embrace an alternative if they see one. So let’s offer that alternative now.”