'Time to consider' joint Catholic-Protestant schools in Northern Ireland, says Archbishop

By staff writers
March 16, 2009

It is time to consider the creation of joint Catholic-Anglican schools in Northern Ireland, the head of Ireland's largest Protestant church has said.

The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, said that integrated schools and colleges could be helpful in combating sectarianism.

He made his comments yesterday (Sunday) on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme in conversation with Cardinal Seán Brady, the Catholic primate, Presbyterian Moderator Donald Patton, and Methodist President Alan Ferguson.

In response, Cardinal Brady said that single-identity Catholic schools were encouraged to form links with nearby schools from other traditions, but defended the continuing importance of faith-based, single-identity schooling in Northern Ireland.

Archbishop Alan Harper said: “I do think that is an issue we have to address with some imagination…parents have the right to have their children educated in the faith tradition which is their faith tradition, but we also have to find a way of enabling children to be brought up with a deeper understanding, appreciation and perhaps admiration for other faith traditions, from which they may gain a great deal."

When asked by presenter William Crawley whether schools in Northern Ireland should follow the example found in England in some joint Catholic-Anglican schools, the Archbishop said: “I think that's something we should examine. That's a personal opinion, it's not the opinion of the Church of Ireland, but I do think it's something we should examine."

The comments came as the Liberal Democrat conference in Scotland heard a call for denominational schools to open up their pupil intake and staffing to all, regardless of religious belief.

It followed a vote last weekend, by the national Liberal Democrats, to commit to making faith schools fully inclusive.

You can find out more about the interview at BBC Radio Ulster Presenter Will Crawley’s blog here

More on Integrated Schooling in Northern Ireland: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8935

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