The principal of St. Paul’s High School in County Armagh – one of Ireland’s largest Catholic secondary schools – has defended his decision to have a group of students represent the school at a gay pride parade in Newry last weekend.
The students were accompanied by their principal Jarlath Burns who is known to be a passionate defender of Catholic education.
The school had sent a message on Facebook inviting Year 13 and 14 students to represent their school at the march saying: ‘We are proud to be a school that embraces diversity and promotes inclusivity, further demonstrating commitment to our Catholic ethos… The rainbow flag will be flown at the school to mark our support for equality for all.’
Photos of the students at the parade were also posted on the school’s Facebook and Twitter page.
Students with education minister John O’ Dowd
Burns said his decision to march with his students was not at odds with his school’s Catholic ethos.
‘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,’ the Irish Independent quoted Burns as saying to the Irish Catholic.
‘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.’
‘We just wanted to walk to show solidarity with what is a marginalized group in our society, to show them compassion, dignity and respect,’ he said.