Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Swedish school cancels trip over Union flag protests fears

Matthew Pitts, principal of Wellington College Belfast

A group of Swedish pupils have cancelled a trip to Northern Ireland this spring on the back of the Union flag protests.

The party of around 25 sixth-formers and their teachers from Koping in central Sweden were due to arrive in Belfast in April for a cultural visit.

It is yet another blow to the economy when the cost of lost flights, hotel accommodation, travel, meals, visitor attractions and spending money are totalled.

The group had been planning to visit landmarks such as the Giant’s Causeway on the north coast and Titanic Belfast.

However, it is also a disappointment to pupils at Wellington College in Belfast who had been due to host their Swedish counterparts for a day.

Wellington College principal Matthew Pitts said: “We host a group of students from Sweden on an annual basis and support their visit to Northern Ireland. It is evidence of the negative perception Belfast is gaining.

“It is really disappointing that an event we look forward to, which gives Swedish students the chance to visit Northern Ireland, has been cancelled due to recent events.”

A teacher from the Koping secondary school, Eva Zetterberg-Pettersson, said: “To my great regret our school trip to Belfast must be cancelled. The uncertain political situation in Belfast has led to this decision.

“The school are concerned about bringing students to a destination where they may be exposed to unnecessary risks.”

She added: “I am really sorry about this but I hope that we might bring a group next year.”

Mr Pitts added: “Knowing what it’s like to be in charge of a school, it’s completely understandable.

“However, it is disappointing as they are seeing the very worst, but I imagine parents do not want their child to be at a perceived risk.

“Politicians are in a difficult situation, but perhaps the leadership could be doing a bit more leading.”

It comes just two weeks after a major education conference that was due to be held in the Europa Hotel in Belfast this autumn was also cancelled because of the continuing violence and civil unrest.

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