Paramilitary activity is a not a major factor influencing educational underachievement in loyalist areas, a leading Progressive Unionist has said.
Councillor John Kyle described the spectre of paramilitarism as “a minor, peripheral issue” on education, but conceded that paramilitaries are largely a “malign” influence in communities in general.
Mr Kyle was responding to criticism of the PUP’s ‘Firm Foundations’ report into educational underachievement from new Education Minister Peter Weir.
Speaking to the News Letter on Friday, the DUP minister accused the PUP of ignoring “the elephant in the room” by not addressing paramilitary activity.
He said: “It was one aspect that is not helpful to education achievement among young Protestant males in particular that was surprisingly not mentioned by the PUP in their report.”
Mr Kyle said: “The causes of educational underachievement are complex but are strongly associated with poverty and deprivation.
“The solutions include, as the minister acknowledged, support for parents as co-educators, prompt early years interventions, mobilising and engaging resources in the community, raising aspirations through good role models, and better school governance including recognising the importance of dynamic visionary leadership. These and other recommendations were put forward in my report.”
The east Belfast representative added: “I would suggest that the minister reconsider his support for academic selection and channel his energies into reducing the social and educational inequalities which it accentuates.
“Paramilitarism needs to end, but it won’t disappear simply because we want it to. The continued existence of paramilitary organisations is part of the unfinished business of the Troubles. It must be addressed.
“The processes which lead to the end of paramilitarism, namely decommissioning weapons, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, require political will, resources and commitment, which until now have been noticeably lacking.”