O’Neill Praises St Mary’s Domestic Violence Video

O’Neill praises pupils of St Mary's High School in Downpatrick for sending powerful message on domestic violence.

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O’Neill praises pupils of St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick for sending powerful message on domestic violence.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised pupils from St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence through a musical video.

The school has been working with Women’s Aid on a special project to shine a light on the many issues faced by women and girls in today’s society.Their efforts include the release of a song and video, which is not only raising awareness, but is raising funds to support those affected by domestic abuse.

Speaking after a visit to the school, Michelle O’Neill said: “I was delighted to meet with the girls from St Mary’s in Downpatrick today to hear about their efforts to help tackle the abuse faced by so many women and girls across the community. They are a talented group of young people and their work to raise awareness of these crucial issues is very moving and incredibly powerful.

“The abuse, inequality and misogyny faced by women and girls of all ages is a brutal reality of our society. And, sadly, very many experience violence in their everyday lives. It is a problem that requires everyone’s urgent attention and action.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill chats to pupils who took part in the musical video to raise awareness about domestic violence. (Photo: Presseye).

“As an Executive, we have committed to working together on a strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. But everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to help change attitudes and behaviours. The inspirational pupils at St Mary’s have done just that and I applaud them for the impactful and sensitive way they have dealt with this issue.

“I also commend the school for bringing this subject to the fore and supporting the students to tell the story.”

Year 14 pupils at St Mary’s pictured with Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill who has praised the school for producing a video raising awareness about domestic abuse. (Photo: Presseye).

Given the ongoing Covid-19 measures in place across the schools community, the song was produced by recording individual voices and layering them to create the final version.

The Deputy First Minister said: “Our schools and young people have had such a tough time throughout the pandemic. But they have innovated and adapted to do great things.  It is wonderful to see how St Mary’s have used a creative approach to deliver this important message.”

Check out the St Mary’s High School video on their Facebook page here!

St Mary’s 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.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, left, pictured on her visit to St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick. Included are Women’s Aid Down and Armagh CEO Eileen Murphy, and school principal Rosemary McLaughlin. (Photo: Jim Masson/Down News).

Mrs McLaughlin added: “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.”

St Mary’s High School Principal Welcomes Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

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, the Principal Mrs Rosemary McLaughlin explained the school recognised 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. 

St Mary’s High School Principal Mrs Rosemary McLaughlin pictured with Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. (Photo Jim Masson/Down News).

The 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 the St Mary’s High School Facebook page and they 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.

Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that does not have a strategy in place to protect women from domestic violence and abuse.

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, the school had to think of a different way of continuing the excellent outreach charity work that they normally undertake.  They also wanted to raise awareness of the charity Women’s Aid amongst their student body. 

When the video was released earlier this month there was great excitement among the pupils who performed in the video and across the wider school community. 

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, 4th left, pictured school pupils and with Chris Hazzard, South Down MP, Councillors Oonagh Hanlon and Cathy Mason, with Principal Rosemary McLaughlin and Head of Music, Cathal Murphy. (Photo Jim Masson/Down News).

Head of Music, Cathal Murphy, has said: “We are delighted with the outcome. 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. 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: “I am immensely proud of the girls and their efforts to support this local charity.  In years to come our students will remember that they were part of a community that reached out and made a difference in the lives of others”.

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 a visit was scheduled for Tuesday 25th. 

Mrs McLaughlin added: “We are delighted that the Deputy First Minister has made the time in her busy schedule to come and visit the school.

“The CEO of Women’s Aid, Eileen Murphy, also accepted an invitation to come along and meet the students today.”