One week after President Barack Obama made his controversial remarks about religiously "segregated schools" in Northern Ireland, the comments continue to draw sharp rebukes on both sides of the Atlantic. "His call for an end to separate Protestant and Catholic educational institutions does not generate widespread public approval," wrote former North Carolina congressional candidate Bill Randall in Sunday's Washington Times." Obama's comments would have caused less consternation if he'd been looking in his own American back yard and made a conscious effort to mend the divisions he and his administration have caused," Randall wrote.
Obama, while in Northern Ireland for the G-8 economic summit last week, made the comment during what the White House billed a "Town Hall" meeting with "the youth of Northern Ireland." While praising the contributions Irish immigrants and their descendants have made to American life, Obama also praised the "just and hard-earned peace" of a "thoroughly modern Northern Ireland," after centuries of violence and religious strife among Catholic and Protestant factions. Noting there are "still wounds that haven't healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air," he urged the Irish youth to "continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace," saying that would benefit not only Ireland, but people in other parts of the world who could profit from that example. "We need you to get this right," Obama said, praising the compromises and cooperation he said nurtured peace and progress in today's Northern Ireland.
"Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they're essential to it," he said. "If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can't see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation."
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Photo of President Barack Obama: AP Images