Hunger striker praised by Ruane

EDUCATION Minister Caitriona Ruane has lavished praise on Bobby Sands – to an audience of schoolchildren.

Pupils at St Colm's High School, Twinbrook, were told they should be thankful that the hunger striker paved the way for a better future for them.

But Ulster Unionist education spokesman Basil McCrea said it was "a matter of profound shame" that Ms Ruane had "lauded a terrorist" to impressionable minds.

He called on the First and Deputy First Ministers to intervene and reprimand the minister for using her position – attending the school to hand out prizes – for ideological ends.

"This demonstrates precisely why education policy is in a complete shambles," he said.

"We have in place a minister who is fanatically driven by a narrow, hard left, republican agenda. She is incapable of telling parents and teachers of P6 children what transfer test they will face next year, but yet can find the time to praise a notoriously divisive figure from the darkest years of Northern Ireland's Troubles."

During her school visit, Ms Ruane also said she was saddened that a film about the Irish Civil War (The Wind That Shakes The Barley) had been criticised.

Mr McCrea said: "It is also incredibly disturbing that the Education Minister revealed frightening authoritarian tendencies by attacking those who dared to criticise a film that gave a historically inaccurate account of the Civil War."

The Department of Education claimed this was not a matter for them to comment on.

Sinn Fein, however, hit back.

A spokesman claimed: "It would have been totally inappropriate for Caitriona not to make reference to Bobby Sands."

He said the IRA man was not just respected in Twinbrook – where he used to live – but around the globe.

Mr McCrea's comments were, he added, "indicative of the sort of politics he likes to involve himself in".

The UUP man's political career would, he concluded, be long over and forgotten, while Sands' life and influence would long be remembered.