Hard on the heels of the disgraceful bigotry demonstrated by all six unionist councillors in Limavady comes another example of the bigotry that makes unionism and its sectarian underbelly so detestable.
In Ballymoney the Model Primary School has become an 'integrated' school. This means that, from September 2009, it will officially take account of the religions, or none, of all of iits pupils. In a normal society this would be considered a positive step. But Northern Ireland is not a normal society.
Ballymoney Model Primary School was a Protestant school, and the official recognition of other religions (i.e. the Catholic Church) is viewed by some of the parents with such distaste that they are withdrawing their children from the school.
The Ballymoney and Moyle Times has published some of the appalling prejudice that parents are happy to put their names to. What further thoughts lie unpublished we can only guess.
From Jim Wright, Stranocum. (despondent parent):
"SIR, Once again the Protestant people have been forced into an integrated school.
... Why not target the Catholic primary in the town? As said before we don’t want to be seen as sectarian. The Catholic parents and their elected political representatives would have fought it tooth and nail along with the parish priest and rightly so.
Ten out of ten to them, as they are prepared to stand up an fight issues like this. Unfortunately our local clergy and MOST of OUR elected representatives are weak and soft and don’t want to rock the boat.
... We will have lost a core area for our children to find out our culture and history.
Whilst not enough of OUR history is taught in schools, this move will totally eradicate any chance of future pupils from OUR background going to this school from ever being taught about it in school. I believe some parents have made the BRAVE step of taking their children out of the school. I applaud them for this and would encourage more parents to do the same. ..."
And, even worse, from Stephen Tweed, Millbrooke Park, Ballymoney:
"SIR, The recent decision by the education minister to grant Ballymoney Model P.S. integrated status has left my wife and I no other option but to remove our child from the school.
This is a decision that we have found hard to make, but a necessary one. Our family has been a great servant to the school with our children, my wife and her brothers and sisters all being former pupils.
I must stress that I nor my family are anti-integration as we chose the Model for our children’s education knowing it was already an integrated school.
... When asked if the Union flag would be removed under NICIE the reply was it would go to a Governors’ vote (and we know what that result would be). With the introduction of gaelic football, hurling, camogie, Irish language and the preparation for sacrament, surely this is more segregation than integration. Where is the equality? I feel it is now up to the locally-elected representatives to help the remaining parents and children still at the school and take this matter to the Assembly and have the minister’s decision overturned."
These small-minded people are basically opposed to integrated education because they want the school to teach THEIR version of history only, to fly the British flag, and to ignore all aspects of Irish history, culture and sport. They were content to send their kids to the school, even if there were Catholic pupils in it, as long as it taught a one-sided (theirs) version of history, but when the school took the decision to respect both major cultures, they display their true, and ugly, sides.
This is the sort of small-scale bigotry that is rampant in unionism. It poisons the minds of those it afflicts, it sours community relationships all over the north, and it is reflected in the nastiness of too many unionist politicians. Eventual demographic defeat will not remove it, but it will remove much of its ability to do harm. It will not happen a moment too soon.