Catherine Seeley thanks Boys' Model pupils for support
- 8 February 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
The teacher who quit her job at a north Belfast school after being targeted by online sectarian abuse has spoken publicly for the first time.
Catherine Seeley was subjected to the abuse after she was co-opted as a Sinn Féin councillor in Craigavon, County Armagh.
She thanked pupils at the Boys' Model School in the loyalist Ballysillan area for their "full support".
Ms Seeley was speaking at Sinn Fein's annual conference in Wexford.
She said: "In the past few weeks, in my role as a teacher, I have been subjected to a campaign of sectarian intimidation.
'Message of gratitude'
"I have already expressed my warm thanks to all who have offered me support, including family, friends, colleagues, educationalists and politicians from various parties.
"I want to take this opportunity to publicly send a message of gratitude to those pupils of the Boys' Model School in north Belfast who have courageously offered me their full support.
"They are a testimony to the values that should permeate not just education but every aspect of society. They inspire hope and confidence in me for the future."
She added that her recent experience had shown "that students can be much wiser, more mature, more responsible and more respectful than some who claim to speak on their behalf".
Ms Seeley's decision to leave her post was announced on Friday in a joint statement by the school's board of governors and the Belfast Education and Library Board.
She is to move to another education board area.
The Protestant Coalition group had objected to her employment at the school.
It said her role at the school should be looked at because of her political views.
During his speech, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness contrasted the response of Miss Seeley's pupils to that of some unionist politicians.
"If this situation was reversed and a young Protestant teacher who was also a member of the DUP was being forced from her job in a Catholic school, I would be at the door accompanying her to her work," he said.
Mr McGuinness also called on those he described as "sensible people within unionism" to use their influence to secure a deal on flags, parades and the past.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams told delegates during his address on Saturday evening that the issue of contentious Orange parades still needed to be resolved.
"While there may be obstacles, be sure of one thing - change will not be stopped," he said.
"I am happy to meet with the Orange Order at any time to discuss these matters.
"I want to see the Orange treating its Catholic neighbours with respect.
"I want to see it upholding law and order.
"The Orange Order of Ireland is one of our national traditions.
"And Sinn Féin wants all our traditions freed up from sectarianism from any quarter, to live together in peace and respect and with tolerance from everyone for everyone."