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Sinn Féin distances itself from councillor urging people to attend protest over masks in schools logo 08/12/2021 Gabija Gataveckaite
Parents divided on mandatory face mask rule for school children

Sinn Féin has said the views of one of its councillors, who encouraged parents to attend a protest against the extension of mask wearing for children in primary school, are not party policy.

Wexford councillor and primary school teacher Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin urged people to attend a protest against the extension of mask wearing for primary school children last week.

Writing in a Facebook post, which was deleted following queries from the Irish Independent to the Sinn Féin press office, the councillor said masks had been “bluntly imposed” on schools overnight.

He added in the post that this had been done with “zero consultation or the standard HIQA Risk Assessment, and as a result of government failure to introduce other mitigation measures as proposed”.

He said the protest “against the extension of mask wearing to primary schools” was being organised by a “group of concerned parents”.

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Mr Ó Súilleabháin added that he would not be able to attend the protest, which was taking place outside a supermarket in Gorey, Co Wexford, but it had his “full support”. The Gorey Guardian reported that gardaí were called to the protest, which saw a group of about 50 people taking to Gorey Main Street and Gorey Shopping Centre over the space of a few hours.

“The views of this councillor are not reflective of the party’s position,” said a Sinn Féin spokesperson.

The spokesperson instead sent on links to press releases from education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, who said that “unclear” guidance on mask wearing put schools in an “impossible position” and that children should not be excluded if they did not wear a mask.

Mr Ó Súilleabháin did not return calls from the Irish Independent.

He told the Gorey Guardian he was not “anti-mask” and was fully vaccinated, and that “an awful lot of people” were concerned about the measure.

“I’m very uneasy with having to implement this measure personally,” he said.

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