Dissidents criticised after they hit out at Newry school Army event
A republican splinter group that has spoken out against the Army holding an event at a Newry school doesn't want Northern Ireland to be a normal society, it has been claimed.
Saoradh has criticised Army involvement in a Year 12 event at Newry High School as "shameful".
Army representatives will be taking part in activities at the school today aimed at team building, command tasks, thinking skills and decision making.
But former soldier and Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie said anyone critical of the Army's involvement with schools is "an enemy of normalisation in our society".
He said: "There are fantastic career opportunities in the Army and it's only right that out school children are aware of the what they can offer."
Speaking out against the event, Saoradh An Iuir spokesperson Stephen Murney said: "Newry High School is a mixed secondary school.
"Forcing pupils, many of whom come from a nationalist background, to take part in an event along with the British forces of occupation is shameful to say the least.
"We have been contacted by numerous people who have raised serious concerns at the fact that members of the British Army are due to attend Newry High School on Monday.
"The fact that pupils are being told that it's compulsory to attend this event is totally unacceptable.
"The British Army's record in Newry is one of bloodshed and terror."
He added: "If this event goes ahead then Newry High School will be complicit in promoting Britain's imperialist agenda.
"They should take into account the murderous exploits of these forces and the suffering the people of Newry had to endure over the decades living under British occupation, an occupation which continues to this day."
But Mr Beattie, who served with the Royal Irish Regiment for 28 years, said any criticism comes from people who don't want society to move forward.
"This is simple, the Armed Forces are part of our society and it's quite right they should be involved with schools," he said.
"Mr Murney and his friends don't want normalisation. He seems intent on perpetuating the notion that British Army is bad, everyone else is good.
"Sadly I'm not surprised at his comments, but as a society we want to be moving forward, not harking back to the past.
"The Armed Forces are trying to reach out to people from all across society and should be applauded for it.
"Newry High School should also be applauded for the opportunities they're providing for their pupils. No right-minded person should be critical of that.
"But I'm not surprised at these comments.
"It's not the first time and it won't be the last.
"We need to be moving forward as a community, not harking back to the past. I'd like to see the police involved more in work with schools on events like this going forward."
No-one from Newry High School was available for comment yesterday.