Widespread disgust has greeted a sectarian sign which was placed by loyalists outside a school for young children in Clough, County Down.
The large sign said ‘Keep Irish out of our kids classroom’ and it appeared in the grounds of Cumran Primary School overnight on Sunday.
It followed a visit from staff from a nearby Catholic secondary school, St Malachy’s, aimed at encouraging pupils to attend its open day.
Located in a mixed area of County Down, the village of Clough is frequently targeted by loyalists attempting to use paramilitary flags and other symbols as a means of anti-Catholic intimidation.
Local authorities have generally ignored such intimidation, even claiming that a 100ft flagpole that towers over the village and topped with a union flag does not require planning permission or construction certification.
Local Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard blamed “small minded bigots” and linked the incident to the use of the Irish language in the school.
“I’ve been speaking to local people and they are genuinely disgusted and angry at this,” he said. “Relations between schools and community relations in this area are positive and this sinister sign does not reflect local feeling.”
Mr Hazzard said there had been repeated vandalism of Irish language road signs in the area.
“Combined with these attacks, this latest incident would point to a concerted campaign targeting the Irish language.”
He described the poster as “a clear attempt to intimidate school children”.
“It’s totally disgraceful that a sign attacking children learning the Irish language has been placed outside a local school in Clough.
“There is no place in our society for racist threats and this sign is a clear attempt to intimidate school children. It’s particularly sinister and worrying that this sign has named a local school.”
Saoradh linked the incident to the campaign of terror against young Catholic schoolchildren making their way to the Holy Cross school in north Belfast in 2001.
“It is deeply concerning that children have yet again become the target of loyalist thugs,” they said.
“No child should ever face intimidation, certainly not because of their nationality, nor the school they attend. We condemn the thugs behind the banner, and we will continue to monitor the situation, and will take action to ensure the safety of the school’s children if needed.”