Belfast Telegraph

Concern after children pictured taking part in Belfast Republican parade in paramilitary regalia

By Claire Williamson

Images showing children dressed in paramilitary regalia taking part in a republican parade have been criticised by the Children's Commissioner.

On Sunday, children in berets and sunglasses joined Republicans marching in West Belfast to remember an IRA terrorist killed 25 years ago.

The parade for Patricia Black (18) ,who was killed by her own bomb on November 15 1991, took place through Lenadoon.

A number of children can be seen taking part marching with flags and their faces partially covered with sunglasses.

Northern Ireland's Children's Commissioner raised concerns over the images showing young people taking part - and said it needs to form part of a wider discussion.

Koulla Yiasouma said her primary concern is the best interests of children.

She said: "I have to make sure that relevant authorities are keeping children safe and let's not forget that it's parents who decided that their children take part in what was deemed to be a legal parade.

"I would be concerned about images of children in any sorts of involvement with any sort of paramilitary regalia or images.

"I will be contacting all the relevant authorities including the parades commission to make sure the best interests of these children have been protected and there are no child protection issues."

She added: "This is a legal parade what I would like to know is what measures are in place to make sure that the authorities know if children are going to take part.

"Do I think it's OK, probably not, but thats not within my remit telling parents how to involve their children in legal parades."

Meanwhile Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly refused to tell the BBC Stephen Nolan Show whether he supported the children taking part and their attire.

He said: "Do you have a problem when it comes to cadets wearing British Army uniform? Or in memorials for British Army that they also wear berets and all the rest of it?

"If you want to be consistent, be consistent but don't come to me every time you want to make a complaint about Republicans.

"If you are going to be consistent look right across the board - because young people do this throughout Ireland, throughout Britain."

He added: "If you are asking me a biased question about a particular section of children, it is fair for me to ask you to look at it right across the board."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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