Minister's goal

13th December 2002 at 00:00
The row about sectarianism began with the Rangers and Celtic animosity that characterises the Northern Ireland religious divide and the belief that such hatred should have no place here. Jack McConnell, the First Minister, raised the ante by agreeing to introduce specific laws to ban it and, predictably, the Old Firm antagonism has spilled over into the future of segregated education.

Mr McConnell's off-the-cuff remarks about support for shared campuses under the school rebuilding programme should not, however, be taken as the beginning of the end of denominational education, which is fundamental to Catholic principles. The Church hierarchy has a long history of suspicion that accompanies the feeling of a persecuted minority.

The reality is this. Two years ago, Mr McConnell gave an assurance about the future of Catholic education and diversity after praising its values and achievements to the hilt. He will not retreat, nor should he. The First Minister's initial statement on sectarianism was about the Old Firm and football. Any debate should be confined to that.

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