Will schools report follow in the wake of Eames Bradley?
- 22 April 2013
- From the section Northern Ireland
Might some aspects of the Eames Bradley report on the past have been implemented by now if it hadn't been for the team's most controversial suggestion?
That's a thought which flashed through my mind for two reasons.
First, I attended the launch of a Progressive Unionist document on reconciliation at which Councillor John Kyle talked about the Eames Bradley report having been "binned".
Second, I had just read through a Shared Education report commissioned by John O'Dowd.
The Achilles Heel of the Eames Bradley report turned out to be its headline grabbing idea that the family of every Troubles victim should get £12,000, irrespective of whether their loved one was a paramilitary, a member of the security forces or a civilian. NI Troubles legacy to cost £300m
This suggestion provoked angry and impassioned responses. Over time, not just the £12,000 payments, but all the other Eames Bradley ideas for a "Legacy Commission" and an Annual Day Of Reflection were quietly moth-balled.
The Connolly report on Shared Education has not proved quite so contentious. 'Schools must boost equality by law'
Sinn Fein Education Minister John O'Dowd hailed it as an important step on the way to 2015, the date by which the Northern Ireland Executive has committed to provide all children with an opportunity to take part in shared education.
However, the report's recommendation that academic selection should be outlawed was always guaranteed to polarise the Stormont parties. In addition its refusal to regard integrated schools as a "preferred option" has annoyed Alliance politicians.
Unionists accuse the team who produced the report of taking a selective approach to "parental choice" - respecting it when it comes to providing a range of schools with different religious or cultural identities, but not when parents back grammar schools.
The report's authors claim this is a false analogy, arguing that many working class children don't have a realistic choice of benefitting from a grammar school education.
The Connolly team say their recommendations on academic selection shouldn't put the parties off implementing their other suggestions, which would create more incentives for schools to work together.
Which brings me back to Eames Bradley. Will the controversial aspects of the Connolly report mean its less contentious proposals end up getting shelved, as happened to the report on the past?
Or, given that education is a very different matter, and sharing between schools fits into the Executive's long delayed "Cohesion, Sharing and Integration" blueprint, will the bulk of this report be implemented? I'm inclined to favour the latter. However. given the Stormont parties' propensity for locking horns, I'm not writing off the potential for deadlock.