If ever a practical example were needed as to the reasons why segregation, whether based on religion, class or race, is not just morally wrong but dangerous, surely Northern Ireland serves as a prime illustration.

Division is so embedded in our social and political history that you could say it’s in our DNA. For so many of us, our experience was that of being segregated from other catholic or protestant children from the innocent and tender ages of four or five.

Of course for many children it began much earlier. And it didn’t just take place in schools; countless children grew up in segregated areas, with little to no chance of coming into contact with someone from the “other side” until they started work or began further education.

Having had first-hand experience of growing up in a religious and politically segregated society in the 80s and 90s, it is deeply concerning to learn that children from poorer families in England are, in 2019, being shut off from playing with their affluent neighbours.

The revelation by the Guardian newspaper that developers of a mixed housing complex in south London had barred ‘poorer’ children from using shared playgrounds prompted widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum and a subsequent U-turn by the developer who built the mixed housing complex.

And yet, despite the turnaround and the public outcry, the story has revealed an undercurrent of prejudice against people from disadvantaged backgrounds with some commentators on a daytime TV talk show going as far as to suggest that the poorer children were “lucky” to have somewhere to live and play. Others suggested it was a fact of life that some people are more privileged than others.

For me, such opinions show a complete ignorance around issues of privilege and prove how individualistic and self-centred society has become.

Back in 2011, the former DUP leader, Peter Robinson, who in hindsight now appears wiser and less formidable to me than he did for a large proportion of his tenure as First Minister, spoke about the detrimental nature of an education system that segregates children based on religion.

In the speech to Castlereagh Borough Council, he noted: "We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately… The reality is that our education system is a benign form of apartheid, which is fundamentally damaging to our society. Who among us would think it acceptable that a state or nation would educate its young people by the criteria of race with white schools or black schools? Yet we are prepared to operate a system, which separates our children almost entirely on the basis of their religion. As a society and administration we are not mere onlookers of this; we are participants and continue to fund schools on this basis. And then we are surprised that we continue to have a divided society."

Robinson’s words still ring true today and not just for Northern Ireland but also as an example to anyone who thinks it is sensible to segregate children, in schools, playgrounds or anywhere else.

Few people from Northern Ireland would fail to acknowledge the damage that segregation has caused and indeed continues to inflict on communities here, despite attempts towards a shared future. It has been a breeding ground for intolerance, ignorance, even violence and murder.

This is not based merely on a personal opinion; it is rooted in the experience of so many, going back several generations, who’ve grown up here. Anyone considering segregating children or supporting the idea should listen to a brief history of Northern Ireland and they would quickly be assured that segregation, regardless of what it is based on, only serves to encourage fear and promote suspicion.

Segregation serves no other purpose than to divide. It is definitely not a measure we should deem appropriate for public spaces such as playgrounds, which should be safe places for innocent children to play together and form new friendships, to learn about one another, irrespective of their social class, religion or race. In a society that holds tolerance and mutual respect among its values, we should be breaking down barriers for children to integrate and learn from each other, not literally putting them up.