Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland headteacher says 'Darkest Day' noticeboard after abortion reform was 'horrendous error of judgement'

The Darkest Day noticeboard at Dalriada School Ballymoney
The Darkest Day noticeboard at Dalriada School Ballymoney
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

A headmaster at a Co Antrim school said it was an "horrendous error of judgment" for a teacher to allow a "Darkest Day" display to be put up on a school noticeboard.

The display was put up on a Christian Union noticeboard at Dalriada School in Ballymoney on Tuesday, just hours after the decriminalisation of abortion and introduction of same-sex marriage laws in Northern Ireland.

A parent of a child at the school told the BBC's Nolan Show pupils were "horrified" by the display and that it was ripped down after pupils wrote pro-choice and LGBT messages on the black paper.

An open letter, said to be written by current and past pupils, was sent to the Chair of Board of Governors Brian Dillon expressing "outrage" at the move by the Christian Union.

"Those responsible showed a clear and abhorrent disregard for the wider school community," the letter said, "giving no thought to the wellbeing of their fellow pupils and staff."

"This action should be condemned by the school’s leadership, just as it has already been on social media by hundreds of current and former pupils."

Anti-abortion campaigners have used the Darkest Day hashtag and blacked out their online profile pictures to protest the law changes.

The letter added: "In addition, it is particularly appalling to us that this display insinuated that the decision to decriminalise gay marriage and abortion represents Northern Ireland’s ‘darkest day’ - ignoring the decades of political violence from which Northern Ireland has only recently emerged (and which arguably continues to this day), and which directly impacted many members of Dalriada’s wider community."

Tom Skelton, headteacher at Dalriada School, in a statement to the Nolan Show, said it was an "horrendous error of judgment" and the school is conducting an investigation.

Mr Skelton added that the teacher who authorised the display has accepted it was an error and that the school is offering pastoral support to LGBT pupils.

Peter Lynas, from the Evangelical Alliance said he felt the letter was "misleading" and that it conflated abortion with LGBT rights.

"I think someone has lost the run of themselves," he said.

"As you said, 'pupils are outraged', it is former pupils, the London Irish Abortion Rights Network has said we put this together, one of the pupils is now a London former pupil, so they have written a very long letter.

"They are pro-abortion activists. They have said that on their social media profile, they are very clear about that.

"We do need to confirm the facts. I have seen a picture on social media, the picture is of a blacked out noticeboard with a hashtag at the bottom, and that hashtag is darkest day.

"Everyone on social media knows that hashtag relates to abortion."

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