Belfast Telegraph

IRA victims slam Barnardo's for 'lost childhood' Sinn Fein tweet

By Allan Preston

IRA victims have slammed a children's charity in the Republic for promoting its 'Lost Childhood' campaign with a tweeted photograph that includes Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and former IRA prisoner Dessie Ellis TD.

Barnardo's Ireland's campaign is about how homelessness can cause many children to lose their childhood, but the presence of the senior republicans prompted an angry backlash online.

Victims last night criticised the charity for associating itself with the senior Sinn Fein members, given how they had lost their own childhoods to the IRA.

Valerie Hetherington was just nine when her RUC officer father Alfie Woods was murdered by the IRA in 1981.

Her mother died a year later, leaving six children without their parents.

"We were robbed of our childhood and it seems to have been forgotten about," she said.

"I think Sinn Fein have a very short memory when they present themselves like this. I also think Barnardo's have portrayed themselves as very one-sided," she added.

Craig Agar was eight when his soldier father Thomas Agar was killed in an IRA bomb blast in 1984.

"If it wasn't such a serious subject I'd be laughing," he said.

"Gerry Adams is the stealer of so many childhoods," he claimed.

"I definitely felt mine was robbed. I had a fear of letter bombs - no eight-year-old should have to worry about that.

"For a time I had a pure hatred of anyone with an Irish accent. I felt very alone and couldn't form relationships or trust anyone.

"It hurts to see Gerry Adams speaking about lost childhoods when I was deprived of mine."

He added: "I think Barnardo's have been caught out. Charities might have to shake hands with people they don't want to but did they really need to bring Gerry Adams in to help their cause?"

West Belfast woman Mairia Cahill, who accused an IRA member of raping her when she was a teenager, said: "I lost my childhood within a split second when that man laid a finger on me. That's the same for every other young victim of IRA sexual abuse.

"But the image that resonates with people is that of Jean McConville's 10 children who lost their childhoods when she was 'disappeared' by the IRA."

She continued: "I really think Barnardo's have put out a really badly worded tweet. They should also have thought about the picture and the particular association with Gerry Adams and the movement which he did head up."

Sinn Fein and Barnardo's Ireland were contacted but have yet to respond.

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