Child ‘terrorists’ photos row
IRA-mimicking kids are snapped in EU-funded centre
Children have appeared dressed up as republican paramilitaries and brandishing replica guns in a south Armagh community centre which has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in EU funds.
The children, some of primary school age, were photographed at the Ti Chulainn cultural centre in Mullaghbawn.
They were wearing balaclavas, combat jackets and trousers, dark glasses and berets, and brandishing replica weapons including AK47s and Armalites.
A complaint has been made to the Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley. The PSNI will also be asked to investigate.
Despite several telephone calls and written questions submitted by the Belfast Telegraph, no-one from the Ti Chulainn centre would comment on the matter.
The photographs were posted on a social networking website by a Lurgan Sinn Fein member. It is understood they were taken at the centre six months ago. Appalled members of the public who saw the pictures contacted IRA victims’ group Fair and the TUV.
The Children’s Commissioner confirmed that Fair director Willie Frazer yesterday lodged a complaint with her office.
Mr Frazer said: “I was told the office’s legal department will investigate. I was also advised to report the matter to the PSNI.” Mr Frazer said that while the photographs insulted victims of IRA violence, they raised wider issues: “People bereaved or injured by terrorism are insulted by these photographs.
The Ti Chulainn centre has benefited from local and international public funding. The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) has confirmed a previous award of £42,000 and a current award of £264,500 to the centre for “specific tourist-related activity”.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds yesterday held an urgent meeting with the SEUPB. She said: “As a result of our meeting, SEUPB is now developing a code of conduct for all organisations to sign up to in order to secure funding. Not only is there a child protection issue, but there’s also an issue of incitement to terrorism. I wouldn’t be surprised if this matter ends up with police.”
The TUV’s Barrie Halliday said: “We’re constantly being told to forget the past as Northern Ireland has moved into a new era. These disgusting photographs show that to be lies.”
Local UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said: “Those who organised this event and those who hosted it need to seriously question themselves.”