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Ruane may bypass the executive on 11-plus


03/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Caitriona Ruane has indicated she may at-tempt to bypass the executive and assembly to see her plans for a post-11-plus system introduced.

The education minister said she still planned to bring forward legislation but if that was not possible she would have to consider other options.

Such a move would put her on a collision course with unionists.

In an interview in The Irish News today the minister appears frustrated by a lack of response to her plans from executive colleagues and the assembly's education committee.

However, she says she remains determined to press ahead and phase out all forms of academic selection by 2013.

With parties still split along sectarian lines - unionists in favour of some form of selection by ability but nationalists against - the assembly appears unlikely to give cross-community support to such legislation.

It has been suggested the minister might avoid this by bringing forward a 'negative resolution', in which her proposals would become law unless the assembly actively moves to annul them.

There have also been claims that she could attempt to introduce changes in the form of guidance to schools.

When asked on previous occasions to outline the options if her proposals failed to achieve agreement in the executive and assembly, Ms Ruane has insisted that consensus is possible.

However, she has told The Irish News that full consensus is unlikely.

Asked whether she would use negative resolutions or guidance to put her plans in place, she says: "I have always said I want to legislate and put it through the executive and the assembly and that's my preferred option. I hope that's the way it happens but if it doesn't then I'd have to consider all my options."

She adds: "In the interests of managing change I have brought forward these proposals. Once I brought them people were crying out for clarity. I have now brought them forward and they refuse to even discuss them.

"Despite having written to the committee and asking for their consensus proposals, I am still awaiting any response from them. To date I've had none.

"Obviously I want to find an agreed way forward. I want to build as much consensus as is possible on this issue. It's probably not possible to have full consensus and I reached a point when I had to move forward with the maximum consensus that I had.

"The proposals I brought forward were compromise proposals. I've said I want discussions with the executive.

"I've requested a further meeting to discuss my proposals. I'll certainly listen very carefully to what anybody has to say.

"We need consensus on the fact that the status quo is not an option."



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