Belfast Telegraph

DUP man slams call for Northern Ireland pupils to attend climate change protests

Peter Weir
Peter Weir
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A former education minister has criticised a call from Amnesty International for schools to let pupils in Northern Ireland have time off to protest against climate change.

Amnesty NI's Patrick Corrigan has written to 1,000 local schools urging them to allow pupils to take part in a mass global strike on Friday, September 20.

In his letter, he said: "We are writing to encourage you to facilitate the participation of your students in this day of action, in whatever way is appropriate for your school."

Over 2,400 events are planned in 1,000 cities around the world, including Belfast.

The DUP's MLA Peter Weir has called the letter "inappropriate" and said it would place schools in an "invidious position".

Green Party leader Clare Bailey MLA, however, has said pupils should be rewarded instead of punished for taking part.

A Belfast primary school principal also said he did not think parents would support the call.

Mr Weir said: "However much everyone has sympathy with combating climate change, I don't think this is an appropriate way to do it.

"Education on climate change should be done within the schools rather than trying to take pupils out of school on what is essentially a protest.

"I think it places schools in an invidious position. Where do they draw the line on a range of potentially good causes, even if they agree with them?"

Ms Bailey said: "These young people will suffer the greatest effects of climate breakdown and should be rewarded for striking not punished for it. They are demanding action on climate action and we're urging schools to support them on taking a stand."

Stranmillis Primary head Jackie Wallace said he opposed giving pupils time off.

"I feel that their place is in school. If parents wish to bring them to the protest they can approach us individually," he said.

"But, as a school, we certainly wouldn't be facilitating all pupils getting the day off. I don't think the parents would want us to either."

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