A comparison that can’t be denied

If making an argument it’s important to remember it, writes Michael Kelly

In last week’s column I rejected strongly the ill-informed commentary of those who claim that Catholic schools in the North are divisive. I’ve received a great deal of feedback to the column, much of it from parents of children in Catholic schools and principals and teachers who work in Catholic schools.

Dolores Kelly, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) deputy leader came in for some criticism in the column after she made an ignorant comparison between faith-based schools and racially segregated schools.

As a result of this, I was invited by BBC Radio Ulster to debate with Mrs Kelly on the popular religious and ethics programme Sunday Sequence. She immediately denied making any comparison between faith-based schools and racial segregation and appeared insulted at the idea that anyone would suggest that she would ever make such a comparison.

The original remarks had appeared in The Irish News. Of course, the debate proceeded with Mrs Kelly’s denial on the record.

Step in the quick-thinking producer of the programme who was able to contact The Irish News political correspondent John Manley to shed some light on what Mrs Kelly had actually said.

The article in The Irish News paraphrased the SDLP deputy leader saying “Mrs Kelly said an education system which separated children on the basis of skin colour would be not be tolerated and therefore segregation on religious grounds should be similarly unacceptable”.

Mr Manley’s transcript of what Mrs Kelly said reads: “So it’s not that parents and children have to be forced into a particular sector but I think if we were to translate Catholic and Protestant for black and white there is no way that the vast majority of the people in the North would stand over such a system.”

So Mrs Kelly did indeed make the comparison she had denied making. Must’ve slipped her mind.