Coleraine schools protests, March 5th 2003

Coleraine Times March 12th 2003

Report by Claire Smyth

Students: Stop the War

Local students turned out in force last Wednesday to stage an anti-war rally in Coleraine. The event coincided with student walkouts all over Northern Ireland and Europe as part of an International Day of Action Against the War.

Dominican College student Chris Henry co-ordinated the town centre rally and was delighted with the turnout. “It was fantastic to see so many young people out to protest against this ridiculous and unjust war,” said Chris, a spokesperson for Youth Against the War.

“The people of Coleraine and indeed right across the country need to realise that they can make a difference with a continuous and organised effort. Last Wednesday’s rally sparked a lot if interest in the town. This is something rarely seen in Coleraine and because there is such a massive anti-war feeling in the borough the event attracted many people who wished to air their views.

“However, it doesn’t end here. I am trying to encourage students to walk out once again on the day that war begins, referred to as Day X. We must make our leaders listen to us, before hundreds of thousands more are needlessly killed as a result of leaders like George Bush and Saddam Hussein.”

Emphasising that more protests will be organised in Coleraine, Chris outlined his personal grievances about the war. “The conflict in Iraq is a conflict for oil, not the human rights or dignity of the Iraqi masses. Democracy is an impossibility under the terms of America and Britain, who will put their international relations with other rogue regimes such as Turley and Syria before liberating the people of the region,” he explained.

“The only way of truly fighting terrorism is to fight the poverty that breeds it. It should also be recognised now that America will not stop with Iraq. The next target will be most likely be neighbouring Iran, in order to create an indisputable hold upon the Middle East and its resources.”

[This report was accompanied by 5 photographs: One of the platform (Chris Henry – Youth Against the War, Kieran Barr, Fire Brigades Union, Kieran Mulholland, Stop the War Coalition.); two of local students holding YaW placards; another one of Chris and finally one of several members of the audience.]

Coleraine Chronicle, March 13th 2003

“War – What is it good for?”
School students take a public stand against the war in Iraq at Coleraine rally

Just over 100 students took a public stand against the war in Iraq at the recent student ant-war rally at Coleraine’s Town Hall. A rather disappointing turnout for what organisers had hoped would attract hundreds.

Large contingents of students from Dominican College and Loreto attended the after school rally in the town centre while representation from other schools in the area was minimal. The rally was organised by Upper Sixth Dominican College and Coleraine spokesperson for Youth Against the War, Chris Henry as an alternative to the school walkouts taking place nationally during school hours on Wednesday March 5. Chris had hoped schools would see the rally as a formal and mature way of expressing their opinion and that they would encourage pupils to attend.

Student
One young student who did not wish to be named said: “me and my friend tried to walk out of school but we came back in again because no one else was walking out and we were scared. We had been told we would be punished of we walked out.”

Despite the small turnout these young people generated a strong feeling of community spirit as they waved makeshift banners saying “No Blood for Oil”, “No War against Iraq” while listening to speeches from Kieran Mulholland, Stop the War Coalition, Kieran Barr, Fire Brigade’s Union and Chris Henry, Youth Against the War.

Listened
Students and passers-by listened keenly as Kieran Barr, FBU, accused one man in particular of not listening: “Tony Blair doesn’t listen to public opinion. 80% of the British public is against this war and what has he done? He has decided to ignore this opinion and move closer to war.”

He continued; “Billions of pounds are being thrown at this war. Money that could be spent in our hospitals and on the other issues that will improve standards of life at home.”

Despite hopes of a larger crowd an upbeat, optimistic Chris Henry addressed the protesters: “I am so encouraged to see so many here today taking a stand against the war in Iraq. I would like to thank all of you for coming along today and don’t hesitate to contact Youth Against War if you want to get more involved.”

Talk
After the speeches students stayed to talk to the speakers and to the press about their motives for adopting an anti-war stance. An emotive atmosphere was created by the background music which included poignant music tracks like ‘Blowing in the Wind’, ‘Give peace a chance’, and ‘What’s goin on’.

Students were happy to express their opinions. One Dunluce pupil said: “All I want is for war not to happen. It’s not fair on the people in Iraq. I have friends close to there that I met on holiday and we are pen pals now.”

Passionate
Fifth Year Loreto student, Ciaran Bodenham was equally as passionate: “Our supposed democratic countries have become a dictatorship. When Blair was voted in it was as the voice of the people, people are clearly saying they do not want war and yet he is going to war. War just to get oil is not right. War is not right in any sense. Saddam needs to be removed from government but war is not the answer.

The very honest opinion of Louise McHenry, a Lower Sixth Loreto student was a challenge to teachers in schools: “I like the ideology of the whole rally but I wonder if people really know why they are here today. Many may think it’s just the right thing to do. There should be more groups visiting schools and educating students about the facts surrounding the war and explaining both sides of the argument. I just think kids need to be educated on the bigger picture before they can be for or against.”

Rallies
Plans are underway to repeat these rallies all over the province with a major walkout scheduled fro Day X, the day the war begins. Anyone who wishes to find out more about this walkout or about Youth Against the War should contact Chris on 07944425570 or logon to www.youthagainstwar.cjb.net

[Site editors note: This article was accompanied by photographs of students from North Coast Integrated College, the Dominican College, along with the platform, of Chris Henry, Youth Against the War, Kieran Mulholland of the Stop the War Coalition and Kieran Barr from the FBU.]