Over on the Belfast Telegraph, Editor Gail Walker reminisced about her school-days in Banbridge Academy.
She’s a journalist who joined an award-wininng daily as a graduate trainee 25 years ago and became the first female editor of the BelTel last year .
26 years ago + 3 or 4 years for a degree takes us back to the mid-1980s in NI.
Just after the Hunger Strikes
“we took a few moments to remember our Catholic school-friend whose policeman dad was murdered and Stephen’s uncle, an innocent bystander killed in a shootout between police and terrorists, and all of the dead.”
“No matter what was going on around us, for all the morning and evening headlines, I think school was something of a bubble for us. How astonishing that somehow we constructed a sort of normality among all that bedlam”
“Normality” in NI included sectarian bullying in state schools.
Query: What’s sectarian bullying?
It’s behaviour or language that makes a child or young person feel unwelcome or marginalised because of their perceived or actual religious or cultural background within the context of Northern Irish society
Here’s one case sectarian bullying that I personally know happened in the mid-1990s.
An 11-year old boy from a “mixed” (Protestant/Catholic) marriage of professional parents went to a state grammar school in the early 1990s.The boy’s school life was hell because of his “mixed” background. He manifested all the signs of being bullied
So much so that at a certain point he refused to go to school. When his Protestant father, who’d married one of the “other sort”, went to discuss the issue with the headmaster he got precisely nowhere.
The boy stayed at home for a few months and then transferred to a maintained grammar school. He did very well in his A levels and graduated from a Scottish university –
That’s not him in the photo but it is the traditional Ulster Protestant route, you might say.
*this is not the only case of its type.
* it still happens to this day.
* in all/many/some State Grammar Schools.
* to all children who are the fruit of “mixed marriages”.
*it was not just the children who were bullying.
Remember: The sugar-sweet “normality” in state grammar schools that Gail reminisced about hides a dark reality – sectarian bullying of a child who did not come from a 100% Protestant background