THE chairman of the South Dublin school where anti-abortion literature was handed to children as young as five has resigned.
Eddie Shaw, a public relations executive and former spokesman for Cardinal Desmond Connell, resigned from his position on the board of the Harold School in Glasthule last night.
As reported exclusively in the Herald this week, Mr Shaw had given hundreds of leaflets advertising a pro-life rally in Dublin city centre on June 8 to the school principal, who is understood to have placed them in teachers' pigeonholes for distribution to the children.
Shocked parents were given the leaflets by their children after three teachers had distributed them the day before the pro-life rally.
Some called for Mr Shaw's resignation at a heated meeting organised at the school last week after the controversy.
Angry parents branded the action as "an abuse of power and trust".
One mum told the Herald: "To me these issues are very sensitive and completely in the domain of adults, and to use children to channel this information to influence others is totally inappropriate."
The leaflet handed out to children featured a photo of a woman and baby on one side, with the message National Vigil For Life written beside it.
On the reverse it said: "Right now our Government proposes dangerous and unjust abortion legislation. Abortion for a suicide threat means abortion on request."
In his statement last night, Mr Shaw said he was stepping down with immediate effect to prevent "any further damage" being done to the school.
In a personal statement, he said he wanted to "repeat my unreserved apology to teachers and parents for the deep distress and understandable upset caused by my action.
"The responsibility for this action was mine, and mine alone."
Mr Shaw, who is head of public relations at Carr Communications, confirmed his resignation was over the leaflets "and its consequences".
The school's former principal, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor, told the Herald that she "feels strongly that children should not be used to distribute political or commercial messages".
"I worked with Eddie for 11 or 12 years and he was a very good chairman, and I know he has made a major mistake and he has resigned, but Eddie was very connected with the community and wanted our school to be a really good school," she said.
"It's not a public hanging, he has apologised, and I have spoken to the principal this morning and she has written a letter of apology to the parents," she added.
Principal Anne Moore was not taking calls today when the Herald rang for comment.