Ulster Unionist Education spokesperson, Danny Kinahan MLA has emphasised the values of the Union Flag. He also said that educational underachievement was one of the important areas to be addressed following recent events.
Mr Kinahan said:
“I come from a military tradition where the Union Flag symbolises honour, courage and freedom. We need leadership and discipline. Rather than whipping up discontent amongst those who feel their voices are not being heard, I call for everybody with influence within the Unionist family to look for creative ways to give these young men the tools to engage in constructive dialogue and debate.’
“They need to be reassured that they are entitled to hold strong views and to express them in robust terms. They should be encouraged to explore the facts, gather the information which supports their argument and then be given a platform where they are listened to in a respectful manner.’
“The level of educational underachievement amongst some areas of South Antrim, and Northern Ireland as a whole, is well known. Educational inequality is particularly prevalent amongst Protestant working class boys and quite frankly it is long past time that the Department of Education, as well as all those other Government bodies which have a role to play, step up to the mark and come forward with a real set of proposals to tackle it.
At our annual Party Conference earlier this year I made a number of initial proposals. These included awarding schools additional resources for every young person entitled to Free School Meals which they enrolled. We have termed this proposal a ‘Pupil Bonus Scheme’ and already having spoken to a number of schools about it I am confident it could genuinely make a major contribution. The importance of a strong education which opens up opportunities for all of our young people should never be underestimated.’
“At present some communities may be feeling disenfranchised, and I would ask them to come and speak to me and resist from any form of violence or intimidating behaviour. I share frustration of the symbolism of the Flag of our country being taken down from City Hall but the most effective way of having their voice heard is engaging in the democratic process and ensuring that the Political Parties which shamefully worked together on that decision are sent the strongest possible message through the ballot box.”