Minister Dermot Ahern condemns attacks on Orange Halls while on visit to Downpatrick
The Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern T.D issued a strong condemnation of recent attacks on Orange Halls and on GAA clubs during a recent visit to Co Down to meet with heritage and business groups.
The Minister said that “it was incumbent on all politicians to condemn unreservedly all such cowardly attacks, which had no place in the Ireland of today. The series of attacks on Orange Halls that we have seen, in Armagh and Fermanagh and the similar attacks on GAA clubs in Tyrone over the New Year are shameful and senseless. These are purely and simply criminal acts and it is important that they have been wholly condemned as such across the community. These attacks are cowardly attempts to intimidate and sow division. The people of this island have made clear their rejection of this failed agenda and of those who seek to profit from it by fostering mistrust and confrontation”.
The Minister was in Downpatrick to visit the St. Patrick’s Centre and to meet with students from schools in Co. Louth and Co. Down, who were participating in a project on identity in modern Ireland, and what it means to be Irish, North and South of the border.
The Minister praised the schools project as a “very worthwhile initiative”. The Minister recalled his own schooldays at St. Mary’s College (Marist) in Dundalk, Co. Louth where “up until 1969, there had been a strong tradition of cross border cooperation in the Louth/ Down areas, especially in a sporting context. Unfortunately the Troubles intervened and put an end to that cooperation. However I am delighted to see that co-operation and contact between schools is again taking place and I strongly encourage and support this. It is precisely because of this that the Irish Government, through the Reconciliation Fund, awarded €29,000 towards the St. Patrick Centre’s Cross Community Education Programme in 2007”.
He expressed his warm thanks to Eddie McGrady MP and the Centre for inviting him to take part in the day’s events.
Note for Editors:
The St. Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, houses the only permanent exhibition dedicated to the study of Ireland’s patron saint, offering a focal point for pilgrims, tourists, school children and the local community to learn more about the example of St. Patrick. The centre hosts local community-based classes and events, along with conferences and volunteer organisations and classes of various types.
In 2007, the Reconciliation Fund awarded €29,000 towards the St. Patrick Centre’s Cross Community Education Programme. The project includes an educational programme using St. Patrick as a model for community relations work with schools, teachers and community groups on a cross-border basis. The programme brings thousands of children from all faiths and traditions in Ireland together to learn about Patrick and their common Christian heritage. It aims to address the issues of identity, stereotypes, prejudice, understanding conflict and to give ownership of discussion workshops to the participants involved.
The Minister was invited to launch the first of these programmes, which consists of an exploration of identity in modern Ireland. Through the medium of film, it uses the story of St. Patrick to help determine what his message means to young people today, and what it means to be Irish north and south of the border. 30 students from seven schools in Downpatrick and Dundalk are participating in this project. They will create their own documentary plotting the course of their work and will programme, organise and deliver a one day film festival at the Saint Patrick Centre with the help of industry professionals during the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations here in March.
The following schools are participating in the project:
From Dundalk, Co. Louth
Dundalk Grammar School
St. Mary's College (Marist)
From Downpatrick, Co. Down
St. Patrick's Grammar School
De La Salle Secondary School
St Mary's High School
21st January 2008