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Model School Primary School, Northland Rd, County Londonderry

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill visits St. Mary's High School

26th May 2021

Since September 2020, St Mary’s High School has been working on a project with the Women’s Aid Armagh Down Office, to raise awareness around the issues faced by women and girls in today’s society.  These issues were highlighted by the media and women’s welfare groups in March 2020 when they warned that the national lockdown would result in an increase in domestic abuse and violence against women.

As an all girls’ school, we recognise the need to empower our young women, and to ensure that they are aware of the organisations that can help the victim and the perpetrator.  Our Head of Music, Mr Cathal Murphy, began working with a small group of girls from the school choir to record The Cranberries’ song, ‘Dreams’. This song is essentially a song of hope for change in the future. The video was posted on our Facebook page and we asked people who viewed it to sign the petition to call for a Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy; and to make a donation to Women’s Aid.

St Mary’s High School has a very active school choir and throughout the year they normally perform for charities in the local community.  During the pandemic and with restrictions imposed by Covid-19; we had to think of a different way of continuing the excellent outreach charity work that we normally undertake.  We also wanted to raise awareness of the charity Women’s Aid amongst our student body. 

When the video was released earlier this month there was great excitement among the pupils who performed in the video and in the wider school community.  We are delighted that the video has been viewed over 10,000 times and donations are coming in from different parts of the world to support Women’s Aid. 

Head of Music, Cathal Murphy, has said, “We are delighted with the outcome.  It highlights to pupils the importance of using their talents in a positive way to highlight injustice and to action change in society.”

Principal, Rosemary McLaughlin said, “The Board of Governors and staff of St Mary’s High School are very proud of the girls who have used their talents in a positive way to highlight injustice in our society.  The efforts they have made will really make a difference to Women’s Aid. 

We are an all girls’ school; and we recognise the need to empower our young women.  We want to ensure that the girls know there are organisations out there that can help the victim and the perpetrator.  As a school, we discussed the impact that the national lockdown had on women when the message was to stay at home.  During lockdown, the increase in domestic abuse and violence against women was well documented by the media.   Women’s Aid will now be able to use the much needed resources from this project to support families in the locality.”

As a result of the positive feedback received on the video the School decided to extend an invitation to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to visit the School to meet with some of our students and staff on this very topical issue.

The Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, accepted the invitation and visited our school on Tuesday 25th May.  We were delighted that the Deputy First Minister has made the time in her busy schedule to come and visit our school.

The CEO of Women’s Aid, Eileen Murphy, joined us in this very memorable day.

The Deputy First Minister's visit was highlighted by the Down News and the Belfast Telegraph .