Belfast Telegraph

No Schools' Cup parade for pupils as police say safety is main priority

By Jim McDowell

There may be a big St Paddy's Day parade in Belfast city centre today.

But pupils supporting Inst and Methody at the Ulster Schools' Cup Final at the Kingspan Stadium won't be staging their traditional processions from both school gates to the famous rugby HQ.

For such colourful pupil parades across the city have been banished to history - if not exactly banned - on the advice of the police, Ulster's rugby overlords... and with the spectre of the Parades Commission hanging over them.

The Commission came into play when one senior education source confirmed yesterday: "We were approached by the PSNI some time ago and told that if pupils of any school which reaches the final intended to parade to the game, the Commission would have to be informed, and any recommendations they made would have to be complied with and met." It is understood the Commission itself did not directly contact any schools.

But yesterday the PSNI confirmed it had officially been in touch with both of today's finalists.

The PSNI said: "Police have advised schools to pre-arrange travel arrangements for their pupils attending the Schools' Cup Final in order to keep them safe."

The PSNI statement also wished both teams luck in today's big match.

A spokesman at Ulster Rugby's Kingspan HQ confirmed that schools have been advised that their pupils are bussed to the match.

He said there had been instances of "anti-social behaviour" involving various schools in the past.

He said there were also concerns about the safety of pupils going to and from the big game today.

"The participating schools have been informed that if tickets for the final are purchased through the school, it is the school's responsibility to ensure the safety of their pupils. So our advice, in conjunction with the PSNI, is that pupils are transported to and from the match, with appropriate staff in attendance", he confirmed.

Last night there were conflicting views among rugby diehards about the demise of the pupil parades.

One 'prepping' - as he put it - for the final over a pint in a city centre pub said: "It seems a bit of a killjoy ban."

But three others with him - 'old boys' of both Methody and Inst - agreed that if it is "in the interests of the health and safety of the pupils, it's the right move".

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