22.12.08

Minister's praise for hunger striker Sands prompts complaint to police

GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor
Irish Times
22 Dec 2008

A COMPLAINT HAS been made to the PSNI after the Minister for Education in the North praised IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands during a meeting with Belfast schoolchildren.

Sinn Féin's Catríona Ruane spoke approvingly last week of Bobby Sands at a prize-giving ceremony at St Colm's High School in Twinbrook, on the outskirts of west Belfast.

A complaint, made to the PSNI on Saturday, alleged the Minister was in breach of a law on glorifying terrorism.

A police spokesman said he could not comment on individual cases but confirmed that such a complaint had been received at Antrim police station.

"The assessment of the report is at an early stage and it has not been established if any offence has been committed," the spokesman added.

Ms Ruane told the children they should be thankful that Sands, who died on hunger strike in 1981, created the conditions so that they could have a better future.

She also spoke about how she was saddened that the film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about the War of Independence and the Civil War, had generated criticism.

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Basil McCrea said First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness should reprimand Ms Ruane.

"It is a matter of profound shame that an Education Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive stood in front of schoolchildren and lauded a terrorist hunger striker. It is also incredibly disturbing that the Education Minister revealed frightening authoritarian tendencies by attacking those who dared to criticise a film that gave a historically inaccurate account of the Civil War," said Mr McCrea.

"This demonstrates precisely why education policy is in a complete shambles," he added.

The North's Department of Education would not comment on the matter and directed questions to Sinn Féin.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said it would have been totally inappropriate were Ms Ruane not to talk about Bobby Sands considering that he used to live in Twinbrook.

Referring to the complaint to the PSNI the spokesman said: "This is total nonsense. Bobby Sands is an iconic figure who is respected around the world.

" I am sure the police have more important things to consider when people are being robbed, when children are being stabbed on the streets, and people are being attacked in their homes," the Sinn Féin spokesman said.

21.12.08

Ruane reported over Sands praise

BBC
21 Dec 2008

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has been reported to the police for praising IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Ms Ruane said she was not prepared to "preside over education apartheid"

Ms Ruane was speaking at a prize-giving ceremony at St Colm's High School in Twinbrook last week.

The complainant claimed Ms Ruane's remarks breached the law on glorifying terrorism.

Police said a complaint had been made but it had not been established that an offence had been committed.

19.12.08

Hunger striker praised by Ruane

News Letter
19 December 2008

EDUCATION Minister Caitriona Ruane has lavished praise on Bobby Sands – to an audience of schoolchildren.

Pupils at St Colm's High School, Twinbrook, were told they should be thankful that the hunger striker paved the way for a better future for them.

Caitriona Ruane

But Ulster Unionist education spokesman Basil McCrea said it was "a matter of profound shame" that Ms Ruane had "lauded a terrorist" to impressionable minds.

He called on the First and Deputy First Ministers to intervene and reprimand the minister for using her position – attending the school to hand out prizes – for ideological ends.

"This demonstrates precisely why education policy is in a complete shambles," he said.

"We have in place a minister who is fanatically driven by a narrow, hard left, republican agenda. She is incapable of telling parents and teachers of P6 children what transfer test they will face next year, but yet can find the time to praise a notoriously divisive figure from the darkest years of Northern Ireland's Troubles."

During her school visit, Ms Ruane also said she was saddened that a film about the Irish Civil War (The Wind That Shakes The Barley) had been criticised.

Mr McCrea said: "It is also incredibly disturbing that the Education Minister revealed frightening authoritarian tendencies by attacking those who dared to criticise a film that gave a historically inaccurate account of the Civil War."

The Department of Education claimed this was not a matter for them to comment on.

Sinn Fein, however, hit back.

A spokesman claimed: "It would have been totally inappropriate for Caitriona not to make reference to Bobby Sands."

He said the IRA man was not just respected in Twinbrook – where he used to live – but around the globe.

Mr McCrea's comments were, he added, "indicative of the sort of politics he likes to involve himself in".

The UUP man's political career would, he concluded, be long over and forgotten, while Sands' life and influence would long be remembered.

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