The UUP’s Basil McCrea has reignited the debate over academic selection by producing an internal Sinn Féin briefing paper allegedly shows that the party is hoping to undermine academic selection by introducing a new policy via ‘guidelines’ rather than producing a policy that would have Executive and Assembly backing. The Minister, Caitriona Ruane, clearly realises that she cannot remove academic selection via new legislation as she will be unable to get either Executive, Committee or Assembly approval to do so.
Bypassing the Assembly in such a way is bound to set a precedent. While one does not doubt Caitriona Ruane’s passionate commitment to her brief, her party must surely realise that to press forward in this fashion will create a crisis in the Assembly. Sinn Féin have in the past been quite apt in creating situations where unionists are seen to be ‘in the wrong’. However, this approach would not merely galvanise the supporters of academic selection but also those who would see this as driving a ‘coach and horses’ through the Assembly’s procedures for cross-community consensus.
Bluntly unionist politicians could take retaliatory action and the moral high ground. Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey has already threatened as much.