Protestant community lost its sense of right and wrong

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FROM Justa Prod

I should like to summarise for your readers the facts on the ongoing debate within the Controlled (Protestant) sector of education in Lurgan. Those in positions of leadership in our community have been warned for five years that if they didn’t come up with a strategic plan on the way forward they would risk having a solution imposed. Of course this is what has happened and we are now faced with two choices. Option A offers the option of moving Craigavon Senior High down to the College site and continuing with the system we already have at the Junior High School. Option B offers the option of bussing the pupils from Craigavon Senior High out of their own town to Craigavon.

In the absence of any plan from our ‘leaders’ I have suggested a third option, of moving the three schools onto the one site at Toberhewny. They would all retain their separate identities, co-operate and share facilities. Those in positions of leadership reject this because it doesn’t fit with their agenda. They have nothing to offer, and having been found out, in an act of desperation they have opted for the very worst option- Option B. Not because they believe it’s the best option, in the interest of all the children and the community, but it serves their self-interest.

The attitude of the grammar school lobby is to ‘stick’, stick with what we have because it has served 40% of our children well? They will cater for their needs first, and then they will focus on the others. They see Craigavon Senior High as an irritant and a festering sore, and they need to find an escape mechanism to shift ‘the problem’. It’s only a matter of finding a nice secluded spot in Craigavon, that could be tastefully landscaped with quick growing conifers. This would offer the children privacy and they could be left in peace - out of sight, out of mind. As a further token of their goodwill they could lobby to get them one-way bus passes. Like the man said “everyone’s a winner”-and some say these people don’t care!

Of course there is another alternative, and they may have considered this. St Paul’s will become vacant soon and they could make a good case for moving Craigavon Senior High down there. And don’t tell me this is daft, because if you examine the way these children have been treated by our “leaders”, it’s enlightening. The facilities down there are better-they even have playing fields! As a token of unionist unity why don’t all our politicians get together-they all have broadly the same views on education-archaic-and meet the Minister. He has some influence in this area, so why don’t they call his bluff and get him to use it to secure the lease for St Paul’s- that would really put him on the spot! It would keep our children in Lurgan, and make them feel included, like they belong to the town. There has been a lot of talk recently about integrated education across the sectarian divide, and the Protestant community can’t even integrate their own children.

Those who floated the Dickson Plan forty years ago were radical and had vision, and they had to face down fierce opposition from the grammar school lobby. That same lobby still opposes progressive ideas, and for the sake of our community will have to be faced down again. The Dickson Plan was meant to be a building block to move us into the future, not a stumbling block to keep us marooned in the past. Unfortunately it has been hijacked by people with this mindset.

What has been happening at Craigavon Senior High School for the last 18 years is morally indefensible, and it’s a stain on us all. But if the Protestant community has lost its sense of right and wrong, there will be no act of contrition. If there was our “leaders”, and I don’t just mean the politicians, would apologise to these children for their indifference and neglect, and ask for forgiveness. In other areas of life where children have been victims of neglect we have had public inquires?

In the absence of no clear way forward from the mess they have created , the kindest and most enlightened thing our ‘leaders’ could do, and it would do our community a favour, is take early retirement. Then they could do something really useful and more in keeping with their talents? If that’s a problem, I could make a suggestion. Some people believe they’re away with the fairies, maybe they’ll confirm this by going full time.