The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor will seek information from a west Belfast school before commenting about Martin McGuinness’ presenting awards in the name of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands to some of its pupils.
The education board concerned, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), told the News Letter yesterday that the awards were a matter for the school itself.
Mr McGuinness recently visited St Colm’s High School in Twinbrook to present the Bobby Sands Gaeltacht scholarships to two pupils, a bursary created by Sinn Fein and the local business sector.
This week DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey said he had written to the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor in relation to the awards.
“Regardless of any connection Bobby Sands may have to the Twinbrook area, there is no doubt that his role as an IRA terrorist is what has defined him in the minds of everyone,” the MLA said.
He added: “It is difficult to understand how bursaries provided by Sinn Fein and named after a convicted IRA terrorist helps depoliticise the Irish language. The merits of having someone like Bobby Sands presented to young people as some kind of role-model is also deeply concerning.”
In a statement the Diocese of Down and Connor responded: “Such bursaries being part of the usual school life, neither the diocese nor Bishop Treanor were consulted in advance.”
Bishop Treanor will “seek clarification and information from the board of governors before giving any further comment,” it added.
St Colm’s has twice been asked for comment though none has yet been offered, the school being closed on the second occasion.
A CCMS spokeswoman said: “Operational activities in any school are matters for the board of governors.”
Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said Bobby Sands was an Irish language activist who lived in Twinbrook “and is regarded as a hero by the community”.