THE new vice-principal of a Northern Ireland secondary school is a former IRA spy.
Rosa McLaughlin, who took up her post at St Mary's College in Derry last month, was convicted in 1998 of IRA membership and collecting information useful to terrorists.
The school and the Council For Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) defended the appointment of 40-year-old Ms McLaughlin saying that all relevant procedures had been followed.
However, parents have expressed anger that they were not told by the school about the new teacher's criminal past.
Ms McLaughlin was a 26-year-old teacher in east Belfast when she was found guilty of spying on Bangor RUC station and collecting information on former RUC assistant chief constable Trevor Forbes.
She had been recruited by the IRA in her fifth year of studies at Queen's University in Belfast. Ms McLaughlin was sentenced to three years in jail, but was freed upon conviction after spending 18 months on remand.
The sentencing judge at the time warned her that her career as a teacher had been destroyed and that he was satisfied she would "never be employed in the United Kingdom as a teacher".
However, Ms McLaughlin went on to excel in her career within the education sector.
She became a senior teacher in Northern Ireland's only post-primary Irish language school, Colaiste Feirste, Belfast, before becoming Inter Schools liaison manager for the Foyle Learning Community.
Ms McLaughlin was appointed vice principal of St Mary's College in January.
When contacted about her previous convictions, Ms McLaughlin said: "You have taken me completely by surprise. I want to speak to my principal."
St Mary's College last night defended Ms McLaughlin's appointment, saying that she was the most qualified for the role of vice-principal.
A spokeswoman for the school added: "As with all our employment procedures, everything was carried out in accordance with both the law and relevant statutory agencies."
The North's department of education declined to comment on whether it believed it was appropriate for someone with a terrorist conviction to be allowed to teach.