A group of schools in Northern Ireland has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for its work on educating Catholic and Protestant children together.
The Integrated Education Fund and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) have been jointly nominated for the prize.
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There are now 65 integrated schools in Northern Ireland, with more than 24,000 pupils.
The movement started in Belfast; the first integrated school, Lagan College, opened with just 28 children in 1981 – at a time when a hunger strike in the Maze prison had brought worldwide attention to the Troubles.
Nobel Peace Prize nomination
NICIE chief executive officer Roisin Marshall said: “The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and the Integrated Education Fund are humbled by the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the most coveted international prizes.
“This nomination is a recognition of the vision, determination and energy of all the founder governors, parents, pupils, staff donors and funders who have been developing integrated education over the last 38 years."
The existence of integrated education in the Northern Ireland educational landscape had challenged all schools to be more thoughtful about the inclusion of people from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures, she added.
She said: “Northern Ireland’s divided society has benefited greatly from the contribution of integrated education whose mission is to educate children from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds together in the one school. We have proven that this can be done and continue to empower parents to strive for an integrated education for their children by voting for their school to become integrated. It is fantastic to be finally recognised on an international level for this ground-breaking work in a divided society.”
The schools involved in integration have been congratulated by Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson – who sent a video message to a recent reception held by the Integrated Education Fund in London.
He said: “I especially want to congratulate the principals, the teachers of these schools and especially the parents, the mums, the dads and children who are making this integrated education something really special and necessary and respecting each other’s traditions and learning together.”
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is due to be announced on Friday.
Previous winners include education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, as well as Northern Ireland politicians John Hume and David Trimble for their efforts to bring peace to the country.