School imposes family Confirmation limit

Rosary beads in hands
Image caption About 140 primary 7 pupils at St Patrick's Primary School are set to be Confirmed on Sunday

A Londonderry school has defended its move to limit the number of family members allowed to attend a children's Confirmation ceremony.

About 140 primary 7 pupils at St Patrick's Catholic Primary School will be confirmed at nearby St Patrick's Church on Sunday.

Headmaster Eamon Devlin has requested that only two family members represent each child during the service.

That request has been dubbed a "Granny ban" by local media.

Mr Devlin said the limit had been imposed due to health-and-safety concerns, and asked families to respect the school's request.

He told BBC Radio Foyle: "When we organise an event for the children outside of school, we are legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment to ensure the safety of everyone.

"When we carried out a risk assessment at St Patrick's Church, we realised the capacity was 580 and we have 140 children making the sacrament of confirmation on Sunday - and we also have 140 sponsors and 40 children in our school choir.

"When we have everyone in the chapel, the two representatives for each child included, we are still going to be 20 seats short," he said.

The school has made no stipulations on which family members can attend the confirmation, he added.

"We have requested that every child should be represented by two family members, we did not say who the family members should be, it could be two parents, two grandparents, it could be a daddy and a grandparent.

Mr Devlin said an additional twenty seats would be brought in to accommodate the extra numbers and said moving the ceremony was not an option.

"We are very proud of the parish we belong to and to take it to another parish would be very sad," he said.

He said a decision to restrict numbers "was a good one, a sensible one".

"We are legally obliged to make sure the children will be safe at an event outside of the school," he added.

The headmaster said the school was hosting a special event following the service in which all family members "can join in the celebrations".

"We will welcome everyone with open arms," he said.