A Belfast teacher who was forced to quit following sectarian intimidation has thanked pupils for their support.
Catherine Seeley, 25, was subjected to a litany of threats and online abuse because she is a Sinn Fein councillor. Threatening graffiti was daubed close to her Protestant school telling her to leave her post.
She taught at Belfast Boys’ Model in the north of the city but the education authorities said she had decided not to return.
She said: “I want to take this opportunity to publicly send a message of gratitude to those pupils of the Boys’ Model School in North Belfast who have courageously offered me their full support.
“They are a testimony to the values that should permeate not just education but every aspect of society. They inspire hope and confidence in me for the future.”
She was addressing Sinn Fein’s ard fheis party conference in Wexford in the Irish Republic.
According to the school she is seeking redeployment to another area.
She represents part of Lurgan on Craigavon Borough Council in Co Armagh.
Pupils at the school rallied behind her and the principal and members of the board have also reinforced their support.
Her employment in the loyalist Ballysillan area was objected to by individuals from outside the school.
Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson said earlier this week no one should work under threat.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The forcing of Catherine from her job as a school teacher in North Belfast has been motivated entirely by sectarian hatred and prejudice and driven by an unrepresentative and nasty anti-peace process group of extreme loyalists.
“Their actions are contemptible.”
He said if this situation was reversed and a young Protestant teacher, who also a member of the DUP, was being forced from her job in a Catholic school, he would be at the door accompanying her to her work.
“We would challenge directly those behind the threats and doing everything in my power to see them faced down.
“People will judge for themselves the response of unionist politicians to the attacks on Catherine Seeley.
“This was a time when people should rightly have expected a robust response from leaders within unionism. This has yet to come.”
He said he was heartened by the glowing and brave tributes from pupils in Boys’ Model.
“They have shown courage and leadership,” he added.