Youth Against the War

Press Release: 5.3.03

Up to 10,000
school students in
Northern Ireland
take action against the war.

1000 march in Newry

Students in some schools locked in

Newry students threatened with suspension

An estimated 10,000 school students across Northern Ireland today took part in some form of protest action in opposition to the war in Iraq. In most cases the action took the form of lunchtime protests in school grounds or outside the gates of schools. In Newry, Omagh and Coleraine marches and rallies were held. In Derry, where well over 1000 took part in protests, students from some schools marched to the Guildhall Square.

The walkouts and protests were organised by Youth Against the War. Youth Against the War spokesperson, Daniel Waldron, said: "We were overwhelmed by the support in all areas. No-one can now question the opposition of school students to this unjust war for oil. The determination of students to take action was also clearly shown.

"The only unfortunate aspect of the day was the response of some schools who tried to intimidate students and physically prevent them from taking part. Students were threatened with suspension and expulsion.

"Youth Against the War is now compiling information on the threats and the physical methods that were used to try to stop students from taking part. For example, in Dominican College in North Belfast students were threatened with suspension. When they tried to walk out some teachers physically attempted to block them. In the end 300 took part in a protest at the gates but several hundred others were turned back.

"In Orangefield in East Belfast, 200 students who tried to leave were chased around the playing fields by teachers but eventually got out. In Abbey Grammar School in Newry, the senior staff blocked the gates with two cars and physically prevented 200 people from walking out. Six pupils who forced their way out by climbing a fence have been threatened with suspension.

"In St Maryís in West Belfast more than half of those who wanted to come out were locked in the school. They eventually got out by running out the back and taking a mile long detour to reach the front gates.

"There were also cases where school gates were locked and students could not get out. In Grosvenor High School in East Belfast the students were locked in. A Youth Against the War activist in the school led a protest of 200 pupils to the gates, protesting both against the war and the fact that the school was denying them the right to protest.

"Schools have no legal right to lock school gates. It means that in the event of a fire, accident, or serious illness emergency services have no access to the schools. We will be contacting the schools about this and also will defend any student who is suspended as a result. We will also be contacting the teacherís unions asking them to instruct their members to refuse to lock up schools or try to physically imprison students in the schools in the event of future protests.
"We are now setting up Youth Against the War groups in every school. We want school students to prepare for an even bigger protest on Day X, the first full school day after the war begins."

End

Youth Against the War Central Spokesperson

David Semple, Our Lady & St. Patricks, Knock: 07745207693
or contact ††††††††† ††††††††† Gary Mulcahy on 90232962