Craigavon Councillors united to condemn online abuse, including threats, to newly co-opted Sinn Fein Cllr Catherine Seeley.
Cllr Seeley, who taught at the Boys Model in Belfast, left her job after threatening graffiti was daubed close to the school telling her to quit her post.
A post on the Protestant Coalition’s Facebook page stated that one of its members had contacted them and claimed they spoke to an assistant head regarding the teacher. The school confirmed Ms Seeley was a teacher. One Facebook user said she was “dumbfounded and sickened” to learn of the school teacher’s political affiliation and that she would pull her son out of the school until the teacher’s contract was terminated.
SDLP cllr Joe Nelson told Monday night’s council meeting: “Unfortunately in this country if you are making a stand for your political beliefs this is what you have to put up with.”
Ulster Unionist Cllr Ronnie Harkness condemned the threats. He said in all his years in education he had never asked the religion or political persuasion of a teacher. “I have no doubt Catherine is an excellent teacher.”
Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle commended those in the Boys Model where Cllr Seeley taught and who supported her. “Those boys have had their education disrupted by thugs and bullies.”
DUP Cllr Carla Lockhart said the DUP also condemned ‘any threats of violence against anyone’. However, she said her colleagues in Belfast had expressed concern that someone who has been involved in commemoration services which ‘glorify terrorism’
She said it was up to the Belfast Education and Library Board to manage the situation. And she recalled various death threats against local representatives and brought up the attempted murder of party colleague Sammy Brush.
“Sometimes there can be hypocrisy,” said Cllr Lockhart recalling how Sinn Fein had called for the release of Gerry McGeough who had been convicted of Mr Brush’s attempted murder. “It is important that there is a level playing field.”
Cllr Seeley thanked everyone for their support adding that for every vile piece of abuse there were five or ten people who supported her.
She particularly thanked the Model Boys for their support and described them as ‘brave and courageous’. “I think that shows that if these are the boys of the future then the future for the north is very bright.”
Sinn Fein Cllr Mark O’Dowd called for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Craigavon to use their influence on colleagues in north Belfast to calm the situation down.