Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (164, 179)

Micheál Martin

Question:

164. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether there has been enough progress in relation to the implementation of shared education in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23705/13]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

179. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether enough progress has been made on the shared education policy in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30374/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 179 together.

The Good Friday Agreement recognises that an essential aspect of the reconciliation process is the promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society, including initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated education. As co-guarantor of the Agreement, the Government supports those who want their children to benefit from integrated education and supports growth in that sector, from the less than 10% of schools in Northern Ireland which are currently within that scheme. The NI Executive’s recently published Together: Building a United Community’ strategy sets a target of creating ten Shared Educational Campuses, along the model of the Lisanelly shared campus project in Omagh, and to make sharing in education a central part of every child’s educational experience in Northern Ireland. I welcome this and all initiatives which promote sustained and ongoing sharing of classes, subject, sports and extra-curricular activities. I recognise also that it is important to have diversity in any education system and that the first priority must always be to have an educational system that is child-centred and focussed on the child’s development.

Through the Reconciliation Fund, since 2001 the Government has supported the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), an independent charitable body in Northern Ireland which supports the development and growth of integrated education in Northern Ireland. It assists in the expansion of existing schools, the transformation of non-integrated schools to integrated status, and the building of new schools. It seeks to support all schools, integrated or not, that want to offer pupils opportunities to address cultural and religious diversity. The programme also awards grants to schools to promote the development of skills, structures and relationships that enable pupils, staff, governors and parents to respond with understanding and respect to political, cultural and religious differences.