School contacts police after flag faux pas

The photo of the flags outside St Patrick's PS in Donaghmore, which appeared on Willie Frazer's Facebook page. INTT2112-056X
The photo of the flags outside St Patrick's PS in Donaghmore, which appeared on Willie Frazer's Facebook page. INTT2112-056X

THE principal of a local primary school - which was flung into the eye of a media storm over flags last week - says she has consulted police over an incident involving comments made on a social networking site.

St Patrick’s PS in Donaghmore hit the headlines after victims campaigner Willie Frazer posted a photo of flags flying outside the property on his Facebook page, alongside a bizarre claim that the highly regarded school was an IRA training camp.

Mr Frazer apologised after the incident, however, when it transpired that he had apparently mistook the Italian flag for the Irish tricolour.

His Facebook posts attracted comments which called for the school to be stripped of its funding, and for the flag to be cut down by chainsaws.

Mr Frazer wrote: “I wounder (sic) do they also train the children in how to use weapons, for it seems they can do what they wont (sic).”

In another post, using block capitals, he said: “THE JUNIOR HEADQUARTERS OF SF/IRA YOUTH, OR IT MAY AS WELL BE.”

The flags in question - which also included those of Poland and Turkey - were being flown to mark a visit by teachers from those countries to Co Tyrone.

Indeed, on the school’s website, information and photographs regarding the Comenius Ireland visit are clearly displayed.

The photos show the visiting teachers speaking with children and travelling to a number of local beauty spots, including the Giant’s Causeway.

When contacted by the Tyrone Times, Mrs Dera Cahalane, Principal of St Patrick’s PS in Donaghmore, said: “I am shocked to learn about the content on this Facebook page. The comments made are inaccurate.

“The three flags on display were the Italian, Polish and Turkish National flags. These were flying as part of the welcome to our Comenius Partner Schools who were visiting at the time.

“It appears some individual has mistaken the Italian flag for the Irish flag. The school is currently taking legal advice and are bringing the matter to the PSNI.”

Mrs Cahalane added that St Patrick’s PS works in close partnership with the neighbouring Donaghmore PS and said it was “unfortunate and unfair” that the flags had been looked upon in this way.

Police have confirmed they received a report regarding the comments.

“Police spoke with those involved in an attempt to resolve what appears to have been a misunderstanding regarding the flying of flags at the school”, a spokesman said.

“Police have confirmed that the flag in question was not an Irish tricolour and was being flown along with two other flags of European counties and were being displayed as part of an international event.”

Willie Frazer, whose father was killed by the IRA, set up the group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives in 1998.

Government funding to the body was recently cut while investigations into its activities are carried out.

EU bodies have also sought the return of grants.