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Outrage as media commentator Jude Collins 'compares' Boys Brigade to dissident republicans

By Laura Abernethy

Published 01/06/2016

There has been condemnation after children were present at a dissident parade in Lurgan last week
There has been condemnation after children were present at a dissident parade in Lurgan last week
There has been condemnation after children were present at a dissident parade in Lurgan last week
Jude Collins
Jude Collins replied to a tweet with an image of children at a masked parade in Lurgan

The Boys Brigade have called on a well-known media commentator to apologise after he made “grossly offensive and highly dangerous” comments comparing the organisation to children taking part in dissident Republican marches.

Jude Collins replied to images of a young girl and boy amongst masked republicans in the parade, which took place on Saturday, with an image of a Boys Brigade march and said “A bit like this, then.”

Read more:

Fury at dissident exploitation of children during illegal Lurgan Easter Rising parade  

In a series of later tweets, he said: “Why is 'brigade' in its title? And why do they march, military style?”

“The BB is a 'brigade', it marches, it wears uniforms and berets...Odd echoes of something there…”

Following criticism from some, he added: “OK - not the same, fair enough. But are there any militaristic features in BB?

“Agreed. But do they march, have ranks, wear berets, have companies, squadrons, brigades??”

In a blog post, he said that the organisation had militaristic origins and added: “I’m sure it’s true that the Boy Scouts and the Boys’ Brigade have developed from this early militarism, but it’s flying in the face of historical fact to go ballistic when someone suggests that at least in its origins, there might be military parallels.”

The Boys Brigade called on Mr Collins to withdraw his remarks and apologise. 

In a statement, they said: “The Northern Ireland district of the Boys Brigade is deeply saddened by remarks made on social media by Jude Collins. Many of his comments about the organisation are factually inaccurate.

“The Boys Brigade is a Christian organisation. It is non-sectarian and it is non-political. It exists to further the Christian faith and to enrich the lives of boys and young men with a wide range of activities. 

“To compare a youth organisation that exists for the good of all to a masked paramilitary group is both grossly offensive and highly dangerous.”

Speaking later on Talkback, Mr Colins said he would not apologise for the remarks as he believes his words have been misinterpreted.

He said: "My comparison was not between the Boys Brigade and dissident paramilitaries. If you think it was that, I am telling you I didn’t say that. I would suggest you misinterpreted my words then.

"It’s a question of the relationship between the paramilitaries and the children. What would be shocking about that would be, as I think Sharon O’Neill originally intimated was, that they may be inducted in some way or brought into the ranks by republican paramilitaries and I admit that would be shocking. From the image I was looking at, I didn’t see any children in any shocking situation.

"My intention was to draw a vague parallel between the relationship between the paramilitaries and the children and the fact that there are militaristic overtones and history to the Boys Brigade."   

North Belfast minister Rev Lesley Carroll, who has worked as a chaplain for her BB throughout her life, spoke on the Nolan show.

She said: “I have been chaplain to the Boys Brigade for all of my ministry and I am shocked that anyone would think that the Boys Brigade is akin to any paramilitary organisation. I don’t know if Jude was being deliberately provocative, or mischievous or he is just misinformed.

“I think he is looking in seeing young men in uniform and misconstruing completely what is going on. The Boys Brigade is about teaching boys discipline and self-discipline, enjoying sport, they have community relations,  do drug education, they do charity work. There is nothing to compare with a paramilitary organisation.

“It’s deeply offensive to people who have given their lives to working with boys over the years.”

North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey hit out at the comments. He said: “Jude Collins is a regular commentator on our local media, usually seeking to defend republicanism in any circumstances. However, attempting to draw parallels between children participating in a parade of masked terrorists a youth organisation such as the Boys’ Brigade is disgusting and outrageous.

“The origins of the uniform of the Boys’ Brigade, the inclusion of ‘Brigade’ in its name or the fact that activities such as drill have been part of the organisation can never justify any comparison with an illegal terrorist organisation.

“Far from recognising the offensive and inaccurate nature of his comments, Jude Collins has sought instead to dig deeper, penning a 750-word blog post attempting to further defending the indefensible.

“Our First Minister recently presented nearly 200 B.B. members with their Queen’s Badge in Ballymena and rightly paid tribute to the work of our youth organisations. Their contribution to our community is a world away from those who engage in violence and terror.

“Attempting to now claim that his remarks were some commentary on the history and origins of organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade only serve to deepen the offence. He should stop digging and now apologise for this slur on the Boys’ Brigade as an organisation, its members and all those who give of their time to offer such positive leadership to our young people.”

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