Created partition and called it peace

Nick Cohen takes a critical look at sectarianism.

The old sectarian leaders [Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley] looked like a pair of exhausted warlords, who, after 30 years of a pointless conflict, were content to settle for a division of the spoils. There was no hint of a common political culture, no shared understanding of the principles of secular democracy, just a truce between bosses in which each left the other free to run his fiefdom and the quangos and ministries which went with it. A bus ride through Belfast should convince doubters that the Good Friday Agreement created partition and called it peace. The walls that went up to separate Catholics from Protestants in the Seventies have not been torn down. There are more of them now than ever. Catholics travel for miles to avoid a Protestant leisure centre and Protestants go out of their way to avoid a Catholic newsagent.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Just like Baghdad, and Darfur, and Kashmir, and Kano, and Trincomalee, and Istanbul, and all the other dulcet harmonious fragrant bits of the globe where people devotedly hate each other for being in the wrong Whatever?

Mutual loathing ought to have been combated by breaking up Northern Ireland’s segregated schools…For all the praise given to them, just 5 per cent of Northern Ireland’s pupils attend integrated schools today…[T]he overwhelming majority of Ulster’s children can go from four to 18 without having a serious conversation with a member of a rival creed. They mingle only when they reach the workplace because, oddly, the religious discrimination on which the education system rests is illegal at work.

Yeh that is odd – because whatever it is that makes religious discrimination a bad idea at work – bad enough to make it illegal – is also what makes it a bad idea at school; only more so because children are more credulous than adults.

Down with sectarianism, up with universalism.

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