Principal praised over pupils’ participation in Pride parade

September 8, 2014

The Headmaster of a local high school has been praised for his “forward-thinking” approach following his decision to bring a number of his students to march in the recent ‘Pride in Newry’ parade.

Principal of St. Paul’s High School in Bessbrook, Jarlath Burns, says the school’s participation in the gay pride event was to show dignity and respect to what he termed “a marginalized group in our society”.

Accepting that the move may be viewed by some as controversial, Mr Burns says his school celebrates diversity and his decision to participate was to challenge society’s status quo and “not be bound by tradition”.

Speaking to ‘The Irish Catholic’ newspaper, he said: “We just wanted to walk to show solidarity with what is a marginalised group in our society, to show them compassion, dignity and respect.

“We were not making a bold political statement by marching, we are not a campaigning school,” he added.

Emphasising his school’s commitment to the Catholic ethos, he said: “Schools should not be places where students are ridiculed or made feel isolated. We are proud to be a Catholic school and it because of that we decided to walk as a group and give Christian witness. It may have been controversial but we have to challenge ourselves and the status quo. We can’t be bound by tradition. It’s in that context that we decided to march and I’m very proud of what we did.”

The move stirred a high level of public interest, both locally and across the country, and has attracted hundreds of comments on social media, most of which lavish praise on the “modern day “ and “inspirational” principal and call for other schools to follow suit.