Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Saoradh condemns PSNI visit to Newry school

A Newry high school has found itself at the centre of a row after a parent criticised a recent PSNI visit with pupils.

Officers from the Newry Neighbourhood Policing Team visited St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School last week to talk to students about “choices and consequences,” as part of a programme of engagement which has been developed to promote the safety of young people and their communities.

Pictures of the visit were posted on the school’s Facebook page as well as on PSNI social media accounts. 

However, the visit prompted anger among members of republican group, Saoradh, who claimed the visit “breached the neutral learning environment” and that parents were angry that no prior notification was given nor was any consent sought.

In a statement released by Saoradh’s Newry branch, the group quoted one parent, who is also a party activist, as saying: “For over 30 years myself and my family have suffered immensely at the hands of the British Crown Forces, including the RUC, and in more recent years the PSNI. My children have also endured abuse at their hands. To not even be notified or consulted that they would be visiting the school carrying firearms in the vicinity of my child is outrageous.”

The group also questioned the health and safety aspect of PSNI visits to schools in the area.

“Have these schools carried out a risk assessment under health and safety legislation regarding the risk of possible attack on the Crown Forces while in the schools and are the schools insured to have firearms on the premises?”

Saoradh says a meeting has been arranged between the group’s representative and parent of a child who attends the school and Declan Murray, St.Joseph’s principal. 

When contacted by The Examiner, Mr Murray declined to comment on the issue or whether the meeting would take place.

DUP MLA for Newry and Armagh William Irwin accused Saoradh of being “backward looking” in their condemnation and said he believed PSNI school visits were a positive thing. 

Commenting on the issue, PSNI Superintendent Paul Reid said: “We have an excellent relationship with schools in the Newry area and work closely with them and the local community to tackle concerns and provide information about a number of issues including drugs, staying safe online and road safety.  A local school invited us in to talk to some of their pupils about these issues and we were pleased to respond by sending members of our neighbourhood policing team to chat with them.”