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The BBC's David Eades
"Martin McGuinness is confident he can ride it out"
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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 16:38 GMT
McGuinness defiant over school protests

Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness arrives at Templemore School

Northern Ireland's Education Minister Martin McGuinness has made it clear he will not be deflected from his work by "rejectionist unionists" on a visit to a mixed religion school.

Mr McGuinness was speaking on his way to meet teachers and pupils at Templemore Secondary School in Londonderry.

It is the first time he has visited a school attended by both Protestant and Catholic pupils since taking up his post.

'Messages of support'

Pupils Pupils protest against Mr McGuinness outside another school

For the past week hundreds of pupils have walked out of lessons across the province in order to protest at the Sinn Fein member's appointment.

But the Mid-Ulster MP said: "This is a school which draws pupils from all sections of our community, many of them come from disadvantaged circumstances where the whole business of disadvantage is a huge issue."

Mr McGuinness repeated that he would work for all of Northern Ireland's children, rather than those from a nationalist background, and said he would not refuse to visit predominantly Protestant schools.

" I have a responsibility to all our children"
Martin McGuinness

"We all know what is happening with these protests, we know who are behind them and we shouldn't over react at all," he said.

"I have been overwhelmed by messages of support from all sections of our community.

"The big focus has to be our children. I don't look for political labels - I see children and I understand absolutely and I have a responsibility to all our children."

Nigel Dodds, of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, rejected Sinn Fein suggestions that the protests against Mr McGuinness were being deliberately orchestrated for political reasons.

"Whilst there may be a dispute about the way in which the protests are being carried out, the views being expressed do strike a chord with everybody in the community," he said.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Premiers discuss bugging row
09 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Church condemns school protests
09 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Ministers discuss child poverty
05 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
McGuinness: Politicians failed schools

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