In a poor attempt to convince parents of their effectiveness the DUP have misinterpreted the significance of a statement by Father Ignatius McQuillan recently published in the Irish News http://www.irishnews.com/articles/540/561/2009/7/20/622952_388069193305Exambanw.html
and the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8159283.stm.
In a mandatory coalition executive dependent upon mutual cooperation to avoid collapse the DUP must be seen to be outdoing their Sinn Fein partners. As history has revealed the DUP’s effectiveness in tackling anyone with their own developed strategy is virtually non-existent. Sinn Fein’s destruction of grammar schools has been aided and abetted by token opposition and slick slogans.
While the conflicted anti-academic selection position of the Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland has been sold to the media on social justice and moral grounds that is clearly not the disclosed position for Catholic schools in England where two very high profile campaigns to save Roman Catholic grammar schools have been initiated by headteachers and parents working together.
There is no evidence of “growing opposition” to non-selective schooling. Such opposition has been constant since the first attempt to remove the 11-plus. If academic selection is to be ended it must be applied to non-Catholic schools at the same time as Catholic schools lest Catholic parents move their children to non-Catholic grammar schools. Unfortunately there won’t be enough room for all the applicants. Social selection will replace academic selection. Perhaps Mr Storey should consult his East Antrim MP friend Sammy Wilson about the parental pressure group STOP. This pressure group petitioned the Catholic bishops to restore the regulated “interim” CCEA test abandoned by Caitriona Ruane in February. The campaign resulted in a complete failure to change the minister’s and the bishops’ position yet not a meaningful cheep from the loud and vociferous MP.
Mr Wilson will know of Mr Storey’s involvement as a member of the Board of Governors at Ballymoney Model Primary School. Despite his senior position in the DUP and access to communication tools Mr Storey was unable to prevent a teacher led plot to convert the school to integrated status.
If Mervyn Storey, Sammy Wilson and the DUP had been fully involved in opposing Sinn Fein’s strategy to remove grammar schools they would have been aware that Ignatius McQuillan, like the late Monsenior Denis Faul, has always opposed the anti-11-plus, anti-grammar position of the hierarchy. Unfortunately the Catholic Church is not a democratic organisation and the power rests with the Irish Catholic bishops. The DUP were made aware of the loss of social mobility when grammar schools were removed in large portions of England but choose to keep silent on the issue. The DUP were made aware of the negative impact of the revised curriculum project inflicted on Shankill Road primary schools but stayed silent. Diane Dodds MEP was the DUP’s representative for the Shankill. The DUP were made aware of the potential disaster that ESA would bring under the former CCEA boss, Gavin Boyd, but predictably did nothing to prevent his rise to power.
Perhaps Mervyn Storey will now disclose the results of his meetings with Cardinal Brady and contrast the Cardinal’s position with that of the stated DUP position on the 11-plus and academic selection to grammar schools. Perhaps they are not too far apart?