School distances itself from governor who backed the burning of tricolours

Antrim Grammar School has distanced itself from comments about burning the tricolour by governor Jim Sands
Connla Young

A school has moved to distance itself from a member of its board of governors who said “you couldn’t have enough tricolours" on loyalist bonfires.

Fellow governors at Antrim Grammar School took the unusual step after the Ulster Unionist Party also suspended former election candidate Jim Sands.

Mr Sands described the tricolour as “the flag of a foreign, hostile country” and also defended the burning of election posters on pyres.

Antrim Grammar School is attended by more than 700 children from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds and has 'International School' status.

It displays ‘welcome’ signs in 31 languages in its foyer, with Irish understood to be one of them.

In a statement to The Irish News yesterday, the school's governors said Mr Sands' comments "do not reflect the views of the Board of Governors".

“We are a non-denominational and co-educational school that prides itself on its status as an International School with a diverse school community.

“Governors would wish to distance themselves from any comments that condone disrespect for the flag of any country.”

Mr Sands is currently two years into a four-year term as a governor at the school after being appointed by the Education Authority.

A member of the UUP since the 1970s, he unsuccessfully stood for election to Antrim council in 2005, receiving just 38 votes.

He said he became aware of his suspension after receiving an email from a senior party official on Tuesday, but was not told why the action was being taken.

“I have asked them how you go about appealing it,” he said.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with what I said.”

Mr Sands said he believes bonfires should be replaced by beacons because when King William of Orange “came in the 1600s it was beacons that were lit on hills”.

He added that he didn’t “fully agree with election posters being burnt” but it was “better burning someone’s election posters rather than their constituency office, it’s the lesser of two evils”.

The hardline unionist had defended the burning of the tricolour in a letter to newspapers.

“For my liking you couldn’t have enough tricolours on the bonfire,” he said.

A spokesman for the UUP last night said: “The process is ongoing.”

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