President Obama

Sean Hannity on Fox News this week really had to stretch it to accuse President Obama of being anti-Catholic because of remarks he had made in Northern Ireland about the evil of Catholic and Protestant segregated schools.

Hannity even brought on the odious Ann Coulter, who has never met a stereotype she didn’t like, to bolster his case. Sure enough within moments Coulter was in immigrant bashing mode.

The fact is that the president made his comments in the context of Northern Ireland where schools are segregated by religion 98 percent of the time. He was not talking about American segregated schools, which Hannity clearly implies.

Segregation by religion is a fact in the North, and it has led to generations of children growing up apart from each other, never understanding what motivates kids from the other side. Many never know a person of the other religion all their life.

The Catholic Church, for good reasons at the time, created this arrangement early in the life of the state of Northern Ireland when they saw clearly that Catholic kids would be subject to British state rules and a British Protestant ethos after Ireland was partitioned.

In order to keep the Irish Catholic ethos they retained control of the Catholic schools.

However, in this post peace process era, many experts are questioning whether the arrangement can continue.

They are correct to do so and this is what Obama was talking about in Northern Ireland.

Efforts at nondenominational schools are confined to upper middle class kids but a greater effort has to be made to educate Northern Irish kids together.

That involves Catholic and Protestant educators making massive changes to their outlooks and accepting that future generations should have a better understanding of each other from an early age.

As Obama pointed out, that would be a great step towards resolving conflict later.

I don’t know any educator who believe that keeping kids apart until college is a good way to run an education system.

That is what Obama was referring to, nothing else.

To call it anti-Catholic which Hannity implies and others have too, is just sheer nonsense.

The irish bishop who criticized Obama was also off the mark.

“We all welcome the president's presence," said Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor, according to the Catholic News Service, "but would encourage his speechwriters to support a less hackneyed analysis of our situation and prospects."

“While so many young people are very open to new friendships and opportunities, it needs to be stated that it is adults outside schools who promote mistrust for their own political and personal agendas.”

He said it was clear that the core problem in Northern Ireland was a political one... "It is significant that religion did not appear in the (Good Friday) agreement on what is primarily a political problem."

The notion proposed by the bishop that religion has nothing to do with the Northern Ireland problem is clearly wrong. It begins and ends with different religious backgrounds, to differentiate that as political and not religious is stretching it.