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Northern Ireland

As in Lebanon, Wylie argues that in Northern Ireland, ‘political conflict over the very existence of the state makes citizenship education necessary but extremely difficult to implement’.82 Indeed, Arlow recalls that after the Belfast Agreement, ‘society was challenged to define’ democracy and to formulate ‘shared values capable of underpinning a sustainable peace.83 In 2005, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland pointed out that ‘retaining the “status quo” was not an option’ and a new Government Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland (A Shared Future) mapped the way to an ambiguously defined ‘normal, civic society’.84 The document reaffirmed the right to oppose societal integration and to assert communal identities, but also envisaged ‘a shared society in which people are encouraged to make choices in their lives that are not bound by historical divisions’.85

From this context emerged the first curricula for personal development and mutual understanding and for local and global citizenship. Participants in its formulation recognised that ‘it would be naive to think that changing curriculum is going to change an entire culture and generation’, but felt that they were contributing to the promotion of peace and social cohesion.86 After all, in an education system fragmented along communal lines, curricular reforms were one of the few instruments for ‘mak[ing] some difference’.87

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