TV review: Blackburn has nothing on Northern Ireland when it comes to division

Former Beauty Queens (L-R) Orlaith McAllister, Amira Graham, Karen Montague, Ashleigh Coyle, Gemma Garrett and Rebecca Maguire. - (C) BBC NI - Photographer: Stellify Media for BBC NI

White Fright: Divided Britain, BBC1, Monday at 8.30pm

Blackburn, in the north of England, has a problem with echoes in Northern Ireland.

The dream of integration has died and the white and Asian populations are drifting further apart into their own exclusive worlds.

Panorama, which made a similar programme in 2007, has come back a decade later and found things further entrenched.

Prof Ted Cantle, who wrote the report on the race riots of the early noughties, confirms things are getting worse.

“Segregation in Blackburn is increasing, in residential terms, in school terms, probably in social terms as well,” he concludes.

Louise Casey, who authored a report on integration presented to the government just over a year ago, says it was ignored because she raised the tricky issue of the amount and pace of immigration.

Statistics show that over the last decade the population of the UK has increased by 10.1 million, with half of that coming from immigration.

One of the more significant issues is that children are now being educated separately, particularly in towns like Blackburn.

There have always been Christian schools, but Islamic schools have grown significantly in the last 10 years. This has come at the same time as increasing numbers of Asian women and female children have started covering their faces.

The government has made a weak attempt to address separated education by ruling in 2010 that new faith schools can only have half their intake from one religion, but existing schools are exempt from the new policy so the effect has been minimal.

However ineffective the measure, there is at least a recognition that separating children on religious lines is a bad idea which should be addressed through government policy.

In Northern Ireland, where Protestant and Catholic segregation is an even greater problem, there is no push in that direction from government.

We were reprimanded by Barack Obama who warned of the fear of the other, engendered at least in part by the school divisions.

The United Nations has advised us to produce a fully integrated education system and even former first minister Peter Robinson warned about the “benign apartheid” in our school system.

Speaking in Belfast in 2013, the then President Obama said: "If towns remain divided, it Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can't see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to hardened, that encourages division, it discourages cooperation.”

This was a fair, balanced and important Panorama about Blackburn. The pity is that division is so normalised in Northern Ireland that there is no government effort to address it.


Beauty Queen and Single, BBC 1, Monday at 10.40pm

When the BBC is struggling to convince us that we should pay a tax for public service broadcasting, this programme probably wasn't the best idea.

Beauty Queen and Single, a “dating show in which women undergo a makeunder before going on a date to see how the couple get on without looks getting in the way” may even be a set-up by right-wing Conservatives trying to bring down the BBC from within.

The series sees six local beauties present themselves, without make-up, for pared back dating.

For instance, Orlaith McAllister (former Big Brother contestant) “isn't looking for Mr Right - she wants Mr Perfect - but is he out there?”

While, “all Amira wants is to find Prince Charming - is that took much to ask?”

Dating shows are as common on television as cookery, gardening and celebrity chat, but this show would find a much better home among the other offerings on ITVBe, 5-STAR or 4Seven.

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