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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 21:46 GMT
Anti-war pupils suspended
Abbey Grammar School
School said students were offered exam facilities
Five pupils have been suspended from a school in County Down following an anti-war protest three weeks ago.

The Abbey Grammar School in Newry said none of the pupils was suspended only for walking out of school and attending the rally, but that other disciplinary issues were also involved.

Two of the boys were suspended for the maximum 45 days.

One is in his final A-level year and another is in his GCSE exam year.

The school said the two students had been offered the facilities to sit their exams while they were suspended.

A-level student Christopher Gaskin, 18, said the suspension was jeopardising his education.

"My disciplinary record is unblemished," he said.

"Why would I do something like that to risk my entire education?

Christopher Gaskin
Christopher Gaskin:"My disciplinary record is unblemished"
"I went for a moral cause, as did the rest of the boys: to go down and protest, as we were entitled to do, and to show our support for the anti-war movement."

'Written permission'

Last week, protests against the war in Iraq were held in towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

Newry and Mourne Council has voted to write to schools in the area asking them to be more lenient in their actions against students who take part in anti-war marches.

Sinn Fein councillor Packie McDonald said pupils should be encouraged to show an interest in politics and that suspending them was too harsh.

Many schools across Northern Ireland have refused to permit pupils out of school to attend anti-war rallies.

However, some schools have allowed students out after receiving written permission from their parents.

In County Tyrone last week, about 200 pupils from schools in the Omagh area held a protest in the town centre.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions praised the number of young people taking part in protests.

Education correspondent Maggie Taggart
"A spokesman said other disciplinary issues were also involved"

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