DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has angrily reacted to claims by Martin McGuinness that he could learn lessons from the Boys' Model pupils who backed the teacher forced out of her job.
Catherine Seeley, who is leaving the school after an online campaign of intimidation, also publicly praised the pupils' courage.
The Upper Bann Sinn Fein member was given a prominent slot in the national broadcast section of her party's ard fheis and used it to pass on a personal message to her former young charges at the school.
Co-opted onto Craigavon Borough Council six weeks ago – and intending to run for the new merged council including Armagh and Banbridge – she spoke immediately after the Deputy First Minister who gave her an on-stage hug.
The 25-year-old Lurgan woman told delegates: "I want to 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 inspire hope and confidence in me for the future."
Mr McGuinness said: "The local DUP MP who is a man many years their senior could learn a lot from them about leadership."
Mr Dodds said: "I am not going to take any lectures from Martin McGuinness who has never apologised to me for the IRA attack on me when I was in hospital visiting my sick child.
"The DUP are opposed to any violence or intimidation and unlike Mr McGuinness we have always held that view," Mr Dodds added.