Northern Ireland abortion: ‘Dalriada Parents concerned by response to pro-life display’

Parents have raised concerns about how a Ballymoney school has responded to a pro-life hashtag being put up on the school’s Christian Union notice board, it is reported.

Saturday, 26th October 2019, 8:00 am
The Christian Union noticeboard in Dalriada School was blacked out, with only the pro-life hashtag #DarkestDay added. Photo: Facebook

Peter Lynas, director of the Evangelical Alliance NI, said concerned parents contacted him after Dalriada School launched a ‘critical incident’ investigation this week.

The CU notice board was blacked out with the pro-life hashtag ‘#DarkestDay’ added in small letters, to mark the decriminalisation of abortion.

However a letter from former pupils claimed the display would give offence to any LGBT pupils, as the same date also marked the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Principal Tom Skelton said the ‘critical incident’ investigation he then launched was normally reserved for a death in the school. “We have had young people who have been offended and hurt by what was put up and I cannot have that happen,” he told the News Letter.

Mr Lynas said: “We do need to make sure we have all the facts in these situations before rushing to judgment.

However, we have been contacted by parents concerned by the school’s response and the impact this might have on the staff and pupils involved, and more widely.”

He affirmed that the ‘Darkest Day’ hashtag is associated with pro-life campaigners and has “no link” to LGBT issues, adding that the school “should and could have been clearer on this”.

He added: “The head teacher’s description of the incident as an ‘horrendous error of judgment’ is deeply unhelpful in de-escalating the situation.”

“The school has a duty of care to pupils and staff and an obligation to protect their freedom of conscience and expression under articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“It is in danger of creating an unwelcoming environment for those with pro-life views.” He hoped “a more nuanced response” would emerge after a meeting of the Board of Governors on Thursday night.

Mr Skelton said it was “correct” that the hashtag was purely pro-life and that the teacher responsible was “at great pains” to point this out.

And he affirmed that the question of freedom of religion and expression was “a good one”. But he added that “something as contentious as that was always going to be an issue”.