Criticism grows over school's SF role model

A school which named Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, a convicted IRA bomber, as its 'past pupil of the day' has faced further criticism after failing to remove the online message.
The school's tweet about Martina AndersonThe school's tweet about Martina Anderson
The school's tweet about Martina Anderson

St Cecilia’s College, a Catholic-maintained girls’ secondary, posted an image to Twitter of Ms Anderson alongside the words “aspire”, “endeavour” and “achieve”.

The decision attracted intense criticism from unionists, who say a convicted terrorist is unfit to be a role model for children.

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Despite condemnation from figures including the DUP MLA Gary Middleton, the school had not decided to remove the Twitter posting yesterday evening. The school has also declined to respond to the criticism.

The political commentator Owen Polley, who previously worked for the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland, told the News Letter that the episode shines a light on the way Northern Ireland has still to come to terms with its troubled past.

“The fact that it (the tweet) is still there is perhaps unsurprising but it is disappointing,” he said.

“She (Martina Anderson) is not a suitable role model at any level for young girls.

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“I know that people are saying that she is an MEP and pointing to her position now, but the career path she took was directly bound up with violence, and explosions that were intended to murder people.”

He continued: “There is a wider point that if people have shown any humility, self-examination or repentance then you can start to consider them in a very different way, but that doesn’t seem to be the approach at the moment that the republican movement is taking.

“It’s similar in a way to the McElduff issue from the previous week. The seriousness of that very callous and stupid thing that he did also spoke to a wider issue; the lack of self-examination from Sinn Féin and from former members of the IRA.

“They continue to claim the right to celebrate some violent and grisly deeds.”

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Mr Polley added: “The past hasn’t been resolved and in a way it’s even more dangerous, the further we get away from violence because there almost seems to be an idea creeping back that that political violence was justified or necessary.

“That’s found a receptive audience in people who don’t necessarily remember what happened and that’s a dangerous climate. Where people haven’t learned the lessons of the past, there is always a danger it could happen again.”

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin, meanwhile, praised Martina Anderson and welcomed the school’s decision to name her ‘past pupil of the day’.

“Martina is a first-class public representative who achieved so much for so many,” the spokesperson said.

“As an MLA, former minister and MEP she has worked hard in the interest of all citizens.”