Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Was school wrong to name Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson Pupil of the Day?

Anger as Northern Ireland school names ex-IRA bomber 'Past Pupil of the Day'

By Rebecca Black and Donna Deeney

A school has sparked outrage after it said a former pupil who became an IRA bomber was an aspirational role model.

St Cecilia's College in Londonderry tweeted a photograph of Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, describing her as "past pupil of the day" and quoting the school's motto: Aspire, Endeavour, Achieve.

The tweet was the latest in a series on the school's Twitter feed about former pupils who have succeeded in their chosen fields.

The account has previously highlighted Helen Quigley, CEO of Derry regeneration group Inner City Trust; and Roisin Flynn, finance and admin manager of the Old Library Trust Healthy Living Centre.

Alumni include Derry Girls actor Jamie-Lee O'Donnell.

However, the tweet honouring Ms Anderson sparked outrage, with many Twitter users asking why a convicted IRA bomber should be highlighted as an aspirational figure.

Lord Kilclooney, who survived an attempt on his life by the Official IRA in 1972, was among those tweeting their disgust.

And James Miller, whose grandfather David Miller was among the nine people murdered in the IRA's Claudy bomb, claimed Ms Anderson "is no role model for any young person in society".

"It is beyond me how she could be a role model of any kind if you look at her background of someone who bombed the establishment because she didn't get her own way and left everyone to suffer," he said. "She didn't achieve anything through her educational merits, it was through a process of violence.

"I don't understand where this school is coming from, to glorify a terrorist is just wrong, this is not the kind of example I would want (for) my children.

"If she was a businesswoman or a peacemaker then you could see where the school is coming from. But what has she done? Her claim to fame is something that young children should not be being exposed to at all. It actually saddens me that a school could hold her up as an example to young children."

Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said she found it "incredible" that a school "would hold someone convicted of weapons possession and bombings as an aspirational figure".

"It sends a shocking message to the young pupils at the school today and a frightening message to wider society," she said.

"It effectively says that this school regards someone who chose the path of violence as a role model. There is no regard or consideration for the innocent victims created by Martina Anderson or her accomplices. There are doubtless many former pupils of St Cecilia's who have carved out genuinely impressive careers and are an example to everyone, but Martina Anderson is not one of them.

"Aged 18 she was arrested in Londonderry and convicted of possession of a firearm and causing an explosion. In 1986 she was convicted of plotting to cause explosions in England."

The school did not respond to the Belfast Telegraph's request for a comment.

Ms Anderson attended St Cecilia's between 1973 and 1980 but appeared to have quickly moved into IRA activities as a teenager.

At the age of 18 she was arrested leaving a furniture store in Derry and charged with possession of a firearm and causing an explosion. She served two months in Armagh Women's Prison before being released on bail.

Ms Anderson was arrested again on June 24, 1985 in Glasgow, with four other IRA members including Brighton bomber Patrick Magee.

In 1986, all five were convicted of conspiring to cause explosions in England, although Magee was the only person convicted in relation to the Brighton hotel bombing.

Ms Anderson served time at HMP Brixton, Durham and Maghaberry before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

She went on to become the Director of Unionist Engagement before being elected as an MLA for Foyle in 2007, and was one of her party's first representatives on the Policing Board.

She is currently one of Northern Ireland's three MEPs after topping the poll in 2014 with 159,813 first-preference votes.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "We welcome the fact that the school has recognised former pupil Martina Anderson. Martina is a first-class public representative who achieved so much for so many."

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