Giving Loyalist Women a Voice

Giving Loyalist Women a Voice

OpEd: Decision to Appoint Paul Kavanagh to EA

OpEd: Decision to Appoint Paul Kavanagh to EA
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By Emma Shaw

Albert Einstein said “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”.

If you grew up in Northern Ireland, especially in working class areas, the chances are you experienced a highly segregated schooling system. We have the Education Authority who have the mandate for State schools, which are predominantly Protestant, and then the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) that have the mandate for Catholic schools. On top of that we also continue to facilitate high stakes testing on our children at age 11 through either the AQE or the GL exams that determine whether the child will go to a “grammar” or “secondary” school. This is the experience that I had, my siblings had and my children. There is a better way. If we genuinely want our society in Northern Ireland to move forward and work for everyone, we need reform. I don’t say that lightly, I am acutely aware that educational reform does not always facilitate the change it was meant to. You only need to cast your mind back to when, then Education Minister Caitriona Ruane officially abolished the 11+ in 2008 (predecessor of the current AQE and GL exams) with her No Child Left Behind Policy (for an more in depth discussion on the topic read 11-plus returns in Northern Ireland | Politics | The Guardian ).

Control of school admission criteria lie with (for the most part) the Schools leadership teams and Board of Governors. As the years progressed AQE/GL admission scores have fluctuated having a direct impact on non-grammar or non-selective schools by eating into their potential pool of pupils. In recent years in East Belfast, a community of around 94,569 (Belfast East Constituency Profile, NIA, 2017) have had the closures of Orangefield, Lisnasharragh, and the merger of Knockbreda with Newtownbreda becoming Breda Academy, while “grammar” schools have sought to increase their intake by not only lowering their admissions criteria but by asking for increases to the Education Authority. This is an attempt by “grammar” schools to poach the highest performing students, even though standardised testing is an unpredictable measure of an individual’s ability, but that is an argument for another day.

Our children are the next generation of Northern Ireland, they deserve better than what we had. Our education system needs to work for every child entrusted to it, regardless of religion or academic ability. Lagan College is an excellent example of how to cater for all pupils, don’t get me wrong, I have strong opinions on their admission criteria. Local children (i.e. within walking distance) are rarely accepted unless they have a brother or sister in the school, it is over subscribed every year as far back as I can remember with pupils coming in from Greyabbey, Millisle etc while local children cannot secure placement. Enrolment aside, Lagan is an integrated school not only by religion but also by academic ability, and it is this model that I am an advocate for, a local school that can accommodate the needs of all its pupils regardless of academic ability. Education is such a strong predicator for later life, academic research has consistently shown the links between education and health, in particular, low educational attainment with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

The recent news of convicted bomber Paul Kavanagh being appointed to the Board of the Education Authority is a kick in the teeth not only to victims of IRA violence during the NI troubles but also those who advocate for a way forward in Northern Ireland. Only in Northern Ireland could we have a man, convicted of bombing, sit on a Board for children’s education. Figures like him should not be permitted to hold any role in government, and yes, I say that regarding both sides of the community. How can we move on when individuals like Paul Kavanagh sit in public office, I believe that the only way we can all move forward is the exclusion of any convicted persons from public roles. It is disrespectful and hurtful to one side of the community who were routinely subjected to bombings during the troubles and still hold it in their memories as collective community trauma. Some may argue that as per the Good Friday Agreement, that Paul Kavanagh can take on such a role, but that does not mean it is the right thing to do. If recent tensions have highlighted anything in Northern Ireland it is that most people do not want to see a return to the violence of the past, they want stability, a strong economy, excellent education for our children and better resources for our NHS. These are issues for everyone to get behind, regardless of religion, identity, or socioeconomic status.

3 thoughts on “OpEd: Decision to Appoint Paul Kavanagh to EA”

  • Unfortunately our political system is rotten to the core. Today we remember the murder of a 10 year old girl, her father and the serious injuries caused to her 7 year old brother in Maghera 1978.

    To appoint this individual to a role in which impartiality is paramount is totally against the mindset of a normal society.

    He remains to this day unrepentant and continues to glorify those who committed the murder of children to forward his agenda with neither respect for life or remorse for the victims.

    His appointment fits in with the current dictatorship imposed from within the defunct political system and must be resisted in recognition of that.

  • This appointment is disgraceful. This man has never showed any remorse for the crimes he committed which in itself is shameful.
    But to appoint him to The Board of Education Authority is horrific. How can any right thinking person believe this is a good decision, it’s not and it should be reversed immediately.

    N. Ireland will never move forward while individuals like this are appointed to a public office. It’s completely wrong for any person
    convicted of terrorism or murder to hold a public office. There is something seriously wrong with our political system and it needs
    to change. Unfortunately, I believe there is a hidden agenda behind appointments like this and it needs to be highlighted. We cannot and must not allow this to continue for the sake of our children.

  • I agree with Emma’s sentiment. An unrepentant convicted killer should not be around children. For the EA to name him to a board overseeing children’s education beggar’s belief and I suppose fulfill a fairness quota is short-sighted in the least and devoid of rational thought . Being somewhat unfamiliar with Mr. Kavanaugh I looked up his history and in 2013 as the TUV looked to remove him and others from Stormnot jobs he complained of his treatment as being a victim and asked how his treatment helped the victims? A poor defense for a bank robber and much worse for a convicted terrorist.

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