MEDIA RELEASE, 4 OCTOBER, 1995

FORUM TO DEBATE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN RECONCILIATION

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation will meet for the second time after the summer break on 6 October when it will hold a public hearing on the role of education in achieving reconciliation. During the course of the day, Forum members will hear presentations from a broad range of interest groups and organisations involved in the educational process both North and South, including the Department of Education, teachers' unions, groups involved in Irish language education and integrated education as well as representatives of the controlled and maintained schools' sector in the North. The hearing on education is the latest in a series of major thematic hearings which the Forum has held from time to time. Previous hearings have addressed tourism, agriculture, business and social and economic reconstruction.

Commenting on the theme, the Forum's Chairperson, Judge Catherine McGuinness said "thematic hearings of this nature are vital to the Forum's work of identifying and clarifying issues which could most contribute to creating a new era of trust and reconciliation on this island; indeed, last week's Forum debate on building trust and reconciliation showed how complex and multi-faceted a task this will be for all of the parties involved. In education, more than most sectors, lie the possibilities and opportunities to secure the future of the peace process and to achieve a lasting reconciliation between the different traditions on the island. I hope that the debate will highlight the importance of valuing the diversity and vitality of those traditions and of finding suitable expression within the educational systems, North and South, for such diversity".

In particular, the Chairperson welcomed the intention of a number of groups and individuals involved in education in the North, including the Ulster Teachers' Union, to attend the Forum. "The educational system in the North is at the cutting edge of reconciliation" she said, "I am particularly pleased that the Forum will have the benefit of the views of representatives of the the controlled and maintained schools' sectors, as well as those involved in integrated and Irish language education in the North".

The proceedings for the day will be divided into a number of panels discussions. The first presentation, by a panel from the Department of Education will be followed by a panel comprising the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, the latter to include representatives from the Ulster Teachers' Union. The discussion will be moderated by Christina Murphy from the Irish Times. The first panel in the afternoon will focus on Irish language schools and the Forum will hear from two umbrella groups, Gaeloilúint and Gaelscoileanna, representing Irish language schools North and South, as well as from Meánscoil Feirste from Belfast. The last panel, again moderated by Christina Murphy, will look at the operation of the controlled and maintained schools in the North and hear from representatives of three groups involved in integrated education, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, All Children Together and Educate Together.

Future work programme.

There will be no Plenary meeting of the Forum on 13 October. However, two sub-committees of the Forum will meet on that day to continue the Forum's detailed consideration of two of its substantive areas of work. The committee on obstacles in the South to reconciliation will look at health issues and will hear evidence from the Department of Health, the Board of the Adelaide Hospital and the National Womens' Council; the committee on fundamental rights and freedoms will continue its examination of two important draft studies on individual and communal rights, both of which will be published by the Forum in due course.

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