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Dressing child up as dissident terrorist to take part in an illegal parade is inexcusable and disgraceful

Published 02/06/2016

The Republican Sinn Fein parade through the Kilwilkie Estate in Lurgan
The Republican Sinn Fein parade through the Kilwilkie Estate in Lurgan

The silence from Amnesty International has been deafening, and it’s a pity commentator Jude Collins chose to compare display with Boys’ Brigade, says Nelson McCausland.

Last Saturday members of Republican Sinn Fein organised special events in Belfast and Lurgan. At midday a group of masked men wearing paramilitary uniforms formed up on the footpath outside a dental surgery in west Belfast which had once been the home of James Connolly. A wreath was laid, a lone piper played and speeches were given. Republican Sinn Fein is often linked to the Continuity IRA and so, presumably, the masked and uniformed men were members of that organisation.

From there they moved on to Milltown Cemetery, also in west Belfast, where the masked men marched up to the republican plot. Then, later in the afternoon, members of Republican Sinn Fein and their masked paramilitary associates assembled in the Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan for a parade and the unveiling of an illegal memorial to Irish republican terrorists.

The parade, which was led by the Martyrs of Erin republican flute band from Bellaghy, had not been notified to the PSNI and the Parades Commission, and so was illegal. This was an illegal march to an illegal memorial.

One of the most shocking aspects of the whole affair was that one of the people who was wearing a mask and was dressed in paramilitary uniform was just a boy, apparently 10 years of age. What sort of parent sends his or her child out, dressed as a republican terrorist, to take part in such an event?

Child Soldiers International is a UK-based non-governmental organisation that seeks to end the exploitation of children in warfare and one of its founder members was Amnesty International.

I would, therefore, have expected Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, to be prompt and forthright in demanding action to end such an abuse of children. However, at the time of writing we have heard nothing from him.

So much for those who have been silent on the issue. But what about someone who would have been better remaining silent? I refer to the commentator Jude Collins (below).

A local journalist had tweeted a photograph of the masked marchers and commented “shocking images of children at masked march in Lurgan”. Collins then responded with a photograph of a Boys’ Brigade parade and the words “a bit like this then?” Indeed, not content to leave it there, he posted about it on his personal blog.

This intervention by Collins drew fierce criticism, but is not really surprising as it is not the first time that he has attempted to make this comparison.

Several years ago in his blog (August 24, 2013) he admitted that he had compared the “dressing up of children in IRA uniform/regalia with the Boys’ Brigade”. Collins is a repeat offender.

He is also a regular guest on a number of BBC programmes, particularly on Radio Ulster, but surely it is time for the BBC to reconsider their relationship with a commentator who makes such an odious comparison?

Of course, today’s “dissident” Irish republicans are often simply repeating what has already been done by “mainstream” Irish republicans.

Teenage members of Na Fianna Eireann, the junior wing of the Provisional IRA, were active during the Troubles, and the O’Neill Allsopp republican flute band, based in north Belfast, commemorates one member, Robert Allsopp, who was just 15 when he was killed in what appeared to be an accidental shooting.

Indeed, as recently as 2011 small children were dressed up in paramilitary garb and photographed with weapons, which were claimed to be replicas, at a Sinn Fein-organised event in the Ti Chulainn Centre at Mullaghbawn in south Armagh.

It’s time for those who advocate for the rights of children to stand up and speak out against abuses such as that perpetrated in Belfast and Lurgan and, indeed, Mullaghbawn.

Sometimes silence is golden. But sometimes it is simply wrong.

Online Editors

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