Proving that despite the end of open hostilities Northern Ireland remains a divided land; a Ballygawley secondary school has received complaints from parents with nationalist backgrounds after a British Army recruitment team visited the school during a careers event. The decision to include British Army representatives has been branded “insensitive” given that many families in the area had lost family members in combat with British forces. Dungannon Independent Republican councillor, Barry Monteith, said that he shared parent’s “justifiable anger”.
One particularly vocal parent opposed to the decision was a cousin of Tony Gormley who was one of eight Irish Republican Army (IRA) men shot dead by members of the SAS in the Loughgall Ambush on May 8th 1987.
Ballygawley Principal Aidan Taggart told local reporters;
The College would never intend to cause offence or hurt to any member of our community. We welcome into our school, children of a range of cultures and faiths and we are educational partners with both maintained and controlled schools. With that in mind, we aim to provide as much factual information about a wide range of careers as we can to our student body whilst ensuring that such information is age appropriate so that students can make objective, informed choices about careers at the appropriate time.
It is in this context that a career event about Apprenticeships organised by STEMNET took place within the school. STEMNET provide ambassadors from a wide range of Industries and government organisations throughout Northern Ireland. We now appreciate the choice of Ambassador sent by STEMNET may have caused offence to some of our community and it would never have been our intention to do so.