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Principal to race soapbox to boost shared education

Kieran McTaggart, principal of St Bernard's PS, who is taking part in a soapbox derby Picture by Mal McCann.

A PRINCIAL who survived a deadly illness will today race a motorless vehicle downhill at high speed as part of a promise to live life to the full.

Wearing a modified mortar board crash helmet and cape emblazoned with his school crest, Kieran McTaggart will compete in a soapbox derby to raise funds for his school and shared education projects.

Mr McTaggart, who is head of St Bernard's PS in south Belfast, was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord abscess in 2009, which paralysed him from the waist down.

During an eight-hour operation, he was declared clinically dead twice.

Initially told there was an 80 per cent chance he would remain paralysed, he made a recovery and returned to work after a year out.

Today, he will race a soapbox vehicle designed and constructed by parent Philip McKee in an attempt to win a van, which would then be put to use in a shared education partnership with neighbouring primary schools.

The derby will take place at this year's Hillsborough International Oyster Festival.

"I'm very lucky. I was off for a full year and I'll be on medication for life, but now I live life to the full. I'm alive," he said.

"We are raising a bit of money. We work with Cregagh and Lisnasharragh primary schools in a shared education project, which has a focus on ICT and internet safety. We are hoping to raise money for ICT.

"It's all a bit of craic."

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