Belfast Telegraph

Online bigots force Sinn Fein councillor teacher to quit Protestant school post

By Rebecca Black

A young female teacher who was subjected to an online intimidation campaign after it was revealed she was a Sinn Fein councillor has left her job at a Protestant secondary school in north Belfast.

Catherine Seeley (25) had been teaching at the Belfast Boys' Model for several years.

Last month the Protestant Coalition revealed she had become a Sinn Fein councillor.

The abuse against Ms Seeley grew worse when a blog she had written for Ogra Sinn Fein as a student was publicised online and graffiti was sprayed on a wall close to the school urging her to quit.

Sinn Fein branded her targeting as a "witch-hunt".

A spokesman for the Protestant Coalition said it highlighted Ms Seeley's political activities because it claimed she "glorified the very same people who murdered and slaughtered the very same people of that community she wants to teach".

The Lurgan woman had been active in politics as a history and politics student at Queen's University around six years ago.

But she appeared to have stepped away from politics as she embarked on her teaching career.

For the last three years she had been working initially as a substitute teacher at the Belfast Boys' Model in the loyalist Ballysillan area. Over the last year she had been teaching Learning for Life and Work (LLW).

Ms Seeley took some time off over the last two weeks due to the intimidation campaign.

Yesterday morning in a joint statement the Belfast Education and Library Board and Belfast Boys' Model said Ms Seeley had decided not to return.

"During a series of meetings in recent days, the principal and board of governors of Belfast Boys' Model school has reinforced their support for Ms Seeley to facilitate her resumption of normal teaching duties at Belfast Boys' Model," the statement said.

"This approach has also been endorsed and supported by the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB). While acknowledging the support of the board, school staff and pupils, the teacher has decided not to return to her duties at Belfast Boys' Model."

The BELB revealed that Ms Seeley did not want to return to teach in Belfast.

"As a result of this decision, BELB had initially explored a redeployment option within the board area," a spokesman said.

"In accordance with the teacher's wishes, however, it is now actively seeking a teaching redeployment position within another board area."

It is understood that Ms Seeley is currently on the substitutes register as she seeks another position. She declined to speak to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

But in a brief speech this week at her first full meeting of Craigavon Borough Council, Ms Seeley rose to thanks her colleagues and also paid tribute to some of the students who voiced their support for her.

STORY SO FAR

Catherine Seeley (25) has been too terrified to return to work as a teacher at Belfast Boys' Model School in north Belfast due to online intimidation by loyalists over her links to Sinn Fein.

Now she has decided to leave her position at the school and has also told the Belfast Education and Library Board that she no longer wishes to teach in the city.

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