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A SENIOR DUP Assemblyman has pressed for creationism to be taught alongside evolution in classrooms across the North.
Mervyn Storey, who chairs the Stormont education committee, said his "ideal" would be the removal of evolutionary teaching from the curriculum altogether.
"This is not about removing anything from the classroom, although that would probably be the ideal for me, but this is about us having equality of access to other views as to how the world came into existence and that I think is a very, very important issue for many parents in Northern Ireland."
Mr Storey has also challenged education minister Caitríona Ruane to apply her principles of "equality" to the issue.
"She tells us she's all for equality; surely if that is the case, you can't have one set of interpretations being taught at the expense of others," he told the Belfast News Letter.
Sinn Féin dismissed the comments as "a distraction from the real issues at hand" and declined to comment further.
This is the latest in a number of interventions by Mr Storey on the issue. In June last year, the North Antrim Assembly man made a similar call during a sitting of the Assembly Education Committee, when he pressed Ms Ruane to "ensure that scientific explanations, other than Darwinian evolution, are taught in schools as scientific explanations". Despite numerous requests, the DUP has declined to comment on the matter.
A statement from the Department of Education said that its policy is based on recommendations made by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and that there must be a distinction made between "the evidence based approach to scientific theories and knowledge in science lessons, and exploring other beliefs about how the world came into existence". Mr Storey has also weighed in to the ongoing dispute regarding the age of the Giant's Causeway, Co Antrim.
Mr Storey, among others, has called for the proposed visitors' centre to display not just accepted geological data, but also the creationist argument that the distinctive rock formation is only 6,000 years old. "The problem to date has been that we only have a narrow interpretation from an evolutionary point of view as to how these particular stones were formed," he said last year.
His comments follow other controversies involving senior DUP figures and "faith issues" in Northern politics. Last month, Strangford MP Iris Robinson faced widespread criticism for her description of homosexuality as an "abomination". She further asserted that "it is the duty of government to uphold God's law".
© 2008 The Irish Times
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times