Wednesday 30 January 2013

Integrated education is first stepping stone to ending segregated communities

The Green Party in Northern Ireland has called for a more robust strategy to extend integrated education provision in Northern Ireland.

Green Party Spokesperson Clare Bailey said: “Integrated education is the primary stepping stone to eradicating segregation and sectarianism in Northern Ireland.

“Schools are for educating our children in the National Curriculum, whereas churches are for fostering a religious and spiritual ethos.

“It is not surprising we still have such a divided society in 2013 when we still have young people in Northern Ireland who do not meet or even interact on a regular basis with people from other communities until they reach work or university.

“If we want a new Northern Ireland, then we need a new inclusive and shared education system.

“There are many parents crying out for this provision as evidenced by the current oversubscription of integrated schools.

“If we are serious about a shared future and serious about cohesion and integration, then we need to get serious about eradicating division and segregation.

“By not addressing the issue of integrated education as a top priority, we are continuing the institutionalisation of sectarianism and division.

“Setting targets for integrated education is welcomed, however, it does not go far enough since in the last 32 years only 62 integrated schools have been set up in Northern Ireland so how can parents have true parental choice?

“Every pupil and their parents should have the option of attending an integrated school in their geographical area.

“It is very disappointing that the new ESA Board does not have representatives from the integrated sector.

“What we do have is a board dominated by the two political and religious ideological blocks charged encouraging and facilitating the development of integrated education in Northern Ireland despite it being against their best interests to do so.

“The Green Party wants to see a fully shared and integrated society rather than the promotion of division.

“This is only going to happen when education, housing and culture are not divided by state-institutionalized sectarianism.”

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Green MLA Challenges Agriculture Minister To Make An Ethical Decision And Ban Wild Animals In Circuses In Northern Ireland

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew has criticised Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill for failing to introduce legislation to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in Northern Ireland.

Following a question in the Assembly when the Minister said she has not reached a decision on introducing secondary legislation to stop circuses which use wild animals performing in Northern Ireland, the Green Party Leader said: “I am disappointed and angered that Minister will not address this issue directly and urgently.

“I am also surprised she believes that life for animals in circuses is not detrimental to their health or their welfare is not compromised.

“Our developing understanding of animal welfare now means that we know what they need in order to thrive physically and psychologically.

“Conditions for good welfare include freedom of movement, ability to perform natural behaviours such as foraging, hunting and dust bathing, having control over situations, such as being able to escape from frightening events like crowds or loud noises and the avoidance, where possible, of generally stressful experiences, such as transportation and cramped living space.

“With the best will in the world, these conditions cannot be met in the environment of a travelling circus and therefore the welfare of animals suffers.

“Life for circus animals consists of being housed in trucks (restricted to the maximum size of lorry permitted on roads) and small barren temporary enclosures for 90-99% of the day; enclosures are, on average, a quarter the size of those recommended for zoos.

“Some animals are simply tethered to a peg in the ground, unable to move beyond a few meters or socialise with others.

“Loading and transport are stressful even for animals that are experienced on a weekly basis for the 5-10 months circuses travel around the country.

“The Green Party in Northern Ireland made a manifesto commitment to raise standards of animal welfare in Northern Ireland across all sectors from domestic pets, through to indigenous wildlife.

“We want Northern Ireland to lead the way when it comes to protecting vulnerable animals from unnecessary suffering and we believe that ban wild animals in circuses will be a good step forward.

“There is overwhelming public support for the banning of wild animals in circus and it is the morally and ethically correct thing to do.

Of more than 10,500 analysed responses to the UK Government’s 2010 consultation on this issue, 94% favoured a ban, including representatives of zoo and veterinary professions which is a clear indicator of the overwhelming public revulsion of animals performing in circuses.

“The Minister says she has an ‘open mind’ on this issue but if she steps up and makes a moral and ethical decision she could eradicate the inherent suffering of animals in circuses and end this cruel practice in Northern Ireland.”

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Green Party Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Planning Bill

The Green Party in Northern Ireland has described the proposed Planning Bill to be debated in the Assembly as a ‘knee jerk reaction’ which could actually slow down and complicate the planning process.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said: “I have grave concerns over some of the details contained in this Bill.

“Firstly, it gives economic considerations greater influence over social and environmental concerns and this therefore contradicts commitments to sustainable development.

“Communities not economists should have control over what happens in the areas where they live and this proposed Planning Bill means corporate interests will be put before the best interests of people.

“Secondly, the Bill is being rushed through before the proposed RPA which seeks to shift planning responsibilities to the new ‘super’ councils.

“This is a kneejerk reaction which will ultimately lead to bad regulation.

“This could be counterproductive to the original aims of the Bill which was to expedite planning as there is likely to be an increase in appeals and judicial reviews.

“Planning is already stacked up against the interests of communities and this Bill fails to address the power imbalance that exists.

“We want to see a planning system which is fair, efficient, transparent and accountable underpinned by the principals of sustainable development.

“Sadly, it would seem that economic considerations have been given supremacy over people and the environment.

“This will inevitably lead to legal conflict and further appeals which will slow the planning process down.”