04 March 2006

Alliance angry at school decision

BBC

The Alliance leader has criticised the government for not living up to its commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to support integrated education.

Alliance supporters meet this weekend for their annual conference.

David Ford told Radio Ulster's Inside Politics that denying funding for four new integrated schools was "bizarre".

"When it's part of the shared future policy it's just completely bizarre for the department to say there are spaces in existing schools," he said.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Angela Smith turned down plans for schools in Clogher Valley, Moira/Hillsborough, Saintfield and funding for an existing independent primary school in Ballycastle.

She said the new schools have been proposed for areas which already have surplus capacity.

Some Alliance Party members have said they will seek to have the decision overturned, and intend to propose an emergency resolution at the party conference.

Party vice-chair Michael Long said the government was leaving parents "stranded" and forcing their children "into segregated schools against their will".

"They talk about parental choice, but yet are refusing to properly fund a sector which is heavily over-subscribed," he said.

The party will also debate the political situation at the Dunadry Hotel on Saturday.

Members are expected to back the analysis that failing to resolve the deadlock will ensure "that division, dependency and apartheid policies continue to impact upon all in Northern Ireland".

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