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1,200 sign petition opposing PSNI and Navy careers visit to Belfast Catholic school St Malachy's


St Malachy’s College in Belfast

St Malachy’s College in Belfast

St Malachy’s College in Belfast

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition asking one of Northern Ireland's leading Catholic grammar schools not to host the PSNI and the Royal Navy at a careers event tonight.

Hardline republicans will gather outside St Malachy's College on Belfast's Antrim Road to hand out leaflets opposing the "presence of British armed forces in our schools" this evening.

Several parents have objected to the invitation, which they allege is an insult to "those families whose loved ones have been killed through state murder and collusion".

Dee Fennell of the dissident republican party Saoradh said: "This isn't a protest and we won't be asking people not to go into the event, but we will be standing outside distributing leaflets highlighting the republican position.

"Fifteen-year-old Seamus Duffy was killed by a plastic bullet not far from St Malachy's school gates in 1989. British forces should have no role in our schools."

More than 1,200 people have signed the change.org petition. It claims St Malachy's failed to confer "with students, parents, or the local community" about the event.

Petition organiser Anthony McIlhennon states: "We urge the College to immediately withdraw the invitation issued to the PSNI and British naval forces."

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The Belfast Telegraph contacted the school for a response yesterday, but it did not comment.

Many people signing the petition left angry comments. "Some of these children's parents and grandparents would have suffered at the hands of these lot. They should not have a place in a school even in 2018 it should be a neutral zone," one man said.

A woman said the matter should have been discussed with pupils and parents beforehand.

"My nephew goes to this school and under no circumstances do we want him involved in anything to do with the PSNI," one woman said.

Another woman said that "wherever in the world, the police and army should be out of schools".

Other signatories branded the invitation to the PSNI and Royal Navy as "insensitive" and "not tasteful".

One man said he had "no problem" with the PSNI being invited, but added: "I feel that no branch of British military should be present in any school. St Malachy's College should and would be well aware that the majority, if not all, of its students have very little interest in the British Navy and do not want them present in our school.

"Once again I have no issue with the PSNI being present but think that the St Malachy's board of governors and the members of staff responsible for organising the event should reconsider inviting any branch of the British military to this and any future careers convention or otherwise."

Last month, republicans objected when police visited St Joseph's High School in Newry.

But local DUP MLA Willie Irwin insisted it was positive that officers were engaging with young people.

"It's good to see police going into schools and explaining the situation. I'd have thought many parents would welcome that," he said.

"It's very backward looking to condemn that."

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