It was very heartening to read Ian Acheson’s article in Wednesday’s News Letter (‘Enniskillen is thriving now, and has earned its peace,’ Nov 8).
Very, very many people were moved by those words of the late Gordon Wilson in the Enniskillen of 8 November 1987.
And very many people also share Ian Acheson’s conviction “that our obligation to the future must contain more than rage and grief”.
So it was striking to read his comment that “it’s much harder to hate people when you truly know them” in the very issue of the “News Letter” that carried the “Integrated Education” supplement.
And that supplement quotes the actual judgements of former pupils of integrated schools:-
• Colin Gervin past pupil of Integrated College Dungannon (“Integrated Education ... provides an environment to meet people of different faith, ethnic and racial backgrounds”);
• Treasa Harkin past pupil of Oakgrove Integrated Primary and Oakgrove Integrated College, Derry~Londonderry (“Integration is not about stripping people of their heritage or beliefs, it’s about embracing our cultures, talents and respecting them”);
• Clare Bailey past pupil of Lagan College Belfast (“I think Lagan was the greatest influence on me in terms of making friends with people from across Northern Ireland”);
• A P7 pupil of All Children’s Primary, Newcastle (“I love this school because ... everyone is included - it doesn’t matter what race, religion or what you look like. You are included no matter what”); and
• Stephen Donnelly of Omagh Integrated Primary and Drumragh Integrated College (“Integrated education taught me that there will always be diversity and we can choose whether to fear it or embrace it. I will always choose the latter particularly given the opportunities I’ve had growing up with people from many different backgrounds and cultures”).
Since the September 1981 day that Clare Bailey MLA was one of those first 28 students at Lagan College, there are now 65 integrated schools with almost 23,000 pupils – 7% of all NI pupils.
All praise to those parents and friends who continue to grow and expand this wonderful work, facing up to that “obligation to the future” with which Ian Acheson challenges us all.
Colm Cavanagh, Derry~Londonderry