Dissidents 'using social websites to recruit children'
Police are investigating claims that dissident republicans are attempting to recruit children as young as 13 through social networking sites.
The Secretary of State Shaun Woodward revealed to MPs that he was aware of the situation during a Northern Ireland question and answer session at Westminster.
A number of different sites claiming to be linked to dissident groups have attracted hundreds of young people as members which urge Irish youths to “join the struggle”.
A site on Bebo claiming to be in support of the Real IRA asks young people to join and “show support for dissident republicans!”.
Another site from Na Fianna Eireann, who claim to be linked to the Continuity IRA, states they aim to provide “education of young boys and girls to assist all branches of the republican movement”.
While another from Killowen Young Republicans in Co Londonderry claim they are “not sectarian” but describe themselves as: “Young Republicans in the South Derry area who will protect the Republican communities from the PSNI, hoods and most of all loyalists.”
The government revealed the problem with the websites after Conservative MP John Whittingdale asked:“Is the Secretary of State aware of reports that dissident groups are using social networking sites, websites and blogs to recruit young people, some of whom may be as young as 13?”
The MP went on to ask Mr Woodward what action is being taken to tackle the situation.
The Minister replied: “I have been made aware of this, and the police are indeed investigating it.
“The site itself has vowed to |remove materials that it considers illegal, defamatory or fraudulent or that infringe or violate any |individual’s rights.
“There are clearly some legitimate concerns, and obviously the police will act if there is any evidence of activity of a criminal |nature going on.”