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Education minister Peter Weir urged to promote Easter Rising sites

A ceremony to commemorate Padraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh at Kilmainham Gaol. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

SCHOOL pupils deserve to be given opportunities to visit sites central to the 1916 Easter Rising, it has been urged.

Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff, chairman of the assembly education committee, said children should learn about all major events that took place in 1916.

This month, education minister Peter Weir and communities minister Paul Givan jointly launched a project to allow pupils to visit Somme sites in France and Belgium.

The Battlefields Project will be open to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland and Youth Groups will also be given the opportunity to benefit. Two children from Year 10, and a teacher, from each post-primary school will visit battlefields over the next three academic years.

The Department of Education said that the "benefits of these trips will extend to schools and the wider community when young people share their learning experiences and reflect on the enormous significance of these events".

Mr McElduff asked Mr Weir whether he would now consider the introduction of a scheme aimed at encouraging and facilitating both teachers and pupils who wished to travel to Dublin to explore key sites connected to the 1916 Easter Rising.

Responding to a question in the assembly, Mr Weir said: "I currently have no plans to introduce such a scheme".

Mr McElduff said he was "disappointed".

"It is not acceptable that minister Peter Weir should be so partisan and one-dimensional regarding the educational value of what took place in 1916. There is great interest on the part of young people all over Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising," Mr McElduff said.

"There is a legitimate interest in what happened at The Somme, too. But equally, the sites associated with the 1916 Rising are of tremendous educational interest and value to all of us, including our pupils and our teachers.

"When Peter Weir created a scheme to assist teachers and pupils who wish to visit or interpret sites to do with The Battle of the Somme, he should also have done the same with respect to the Easter Rising. This is a clear issue of equality and parity of esteem."

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