Co Antrim school withdraws from GAA project over parents’ concerns

Russell Watton PUP Councillor
Russell Watton PUP Councillor

A Co Antrim school where parents had expressed concern about pupils being “under pressure” to take part in Gaelic games has withdrawn from what the NI Education Authority described as a “cross-community initiative”.

Ballymoney High School has withdrawn from the project, an Education Authority spokesperson confirmed yesterday.

The News Letter had reported the concerns of PUP councillor Russell Watton, who said he had been contacted by a number of parents about the school’s handling of the ‘Cuchullains Initiative’.

The project, which has been running for around 10 years, involves pupils from a number of local schools forming a Gaelic football team and competing in a one-off competition against schools from other towns.

Mr Watton had claimed that the “opt-out” system operated by the school was putting “pressure” on schoolboys to single themselves out if they were uncomfortable taking part.

The News Letter spoke to a concerned father who expressed a similar view on Tuesday.

Responding to news that the school was withdrawing, Mr Watton said yesterday: “Thankfully common sense has prevailed. Some of these young pupils are involved in local bands and the loyal orders.

“To them the GAA is seen as no friend to their culture and traditions. It is primarily for parents and pupils to decide.”