Segregated education in North can no longer be justified, says President

Teaching children separately based on religion is ‘abandoning them to parcels of hate’

President Michael D Higgins has stated that the teaching of children in Northern Ireland separately can no longer be justified.

Mr Higgins told The Late Late Show that segregating children in the North according to their religious denominations is “abandoning them to parcels of hate and memory that others are manipulating”.

“Who in 2021 can justify the teaching of children separately on the basis of belief? Is it important if you talk about an ethical present and an ambitious future that you deal with it,” he said.

Reacting to the recent scenes of violence in the North which involved children as young as 12, Mr Higgins said deprivation in their lives should have been addressed.


“Why has it taken so long to put in resources of renewal where you have streets where shops are abandoned?” he said.

Mr Higgins said there is enough land to build between 250,000 and 500,000 houses “if we wished” and the housing problem will never be solved unless more homes are built.

“It is up to those in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann to do it. There is no serious economy by simply fiddling with the demand side of the economy. We have to shape up to be egalitarians,” he said.

"What governments have to realise across Europe is that public housing adds to the economy. You will have greater social cohesion and greater productivity at work.

“There is huge support now for an entirely new connection between economy, ecology and social justice.”

Mr Higgins will be 80 on Sunday and gave an interview to the Late Late Show. He said his experiences during lockdown are not comparable to people living in cramped living conditions.

“In Covid some people had it harder. Those people with less resources had it hardest,” he said.

The president became emotional when speaking about his father John who died in 1964.

He remembered the humiliation of accompanying his father while he tried to get a job in his 50s. “He didn’t get it though he said he wasn’t 50. I loved my father, but what he was going through made him an angry and difficult man.”

His father had been on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and his future life and career suffered as a result.

He lost his job as a travelling salesman and could only get a job as a grocer assistant after the war at a third of the wages. He also struggled to get a pension from the State for his activities during the War of Independence.

John Higgins got a stroke and ended up in a county home. Mr Higgins wrote the poem The Betrayal in 1991 about his father and his struggles in the State he had fought to create

Mr Higgins was brought up from the age of 10 by his uncle Peter who had been on the pro-Treaty side.

“My father and my uncle never reconciled the views of each other after the Civil War,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times