Belfast Telegraph

Media pundit Jude Collins who likened Boys' Brigade to terrorist groups stands by remarks

Fury over controversy grows amid calls for BBC to axe political commentator following 'disgusting and offensive' comparison

By Noel McAdam

Fury has erupted after the Boys' Brigade was likened to paramilitary groups in comments branded "highly dangerous".

The organisation demanded an apology over the remarks on social media which it also slammed as "grossly offensive".

The NI district said it was "deeply saddened" by the "factually inaccurate" remarks of political commentator Jude Collins who refused to withdraw his posting.

The commentator broadly linked the youth group - which involves around 16,000 boys in almost 300 companies - to military-style organisations and said he had been subjected to a "wave of abuse".

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On Twitter on Tuesday he connected the Christian organisation to pictures of children who were involved in a dissident republican event in Lurgan last weekend.

His attack provoked a growing storm as BB bosses said: "(This) is a Christian organisation. It is non-sectarian and non-political.

"It exists to further the Christian faith and to enrich the lives of boys and young men with a wide range of activities.

"To compare a youth organisation that exists for the good of all to a masked paramilitary grouping is both grossly offensive and highly dangerous. Mr Collins should withdraw his remarks and apologise for them."

The BBC rejected unionist demands that it should no longer use Mr Collins in its programmes. The UUP said it was writing to BBC NI director Peter Johnston demanding "to know if the licence payer is sponsoring his diatribe... the BBC needs to offer clarity on their support or otherwise for this unelected spokesperson."

In his Belfast Telegraph column today, the DUP's Nelson McCausland said it was time for the BBC to reconsider their relationship with a commentator "who makes such an odious comparison".

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A BBC statement said: "Jude Collins' views are not a matter for the BBC except where they relate to, or are included within, our output. This isn't the case in this instance."

Mr Collins was also slammed by DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, a member of the BB for 15 years, who said: "To continue to defend these remarks is outrageous. It is a crass comparison which is deeply hurtful."

His comments came on the BBC NI Talkback programme where presenter William Crawley - also a former BB member - told Mr Collins: "You are in a big hole. Stop digging. It's a nonsense. It is deranged."

Nonetheless, it is not the first time the veteran columnist has made the comparison. In his blog in August 2013, he admitted he had compared the "dressing up of children in IRA uniform/regalia with the Boys' Brigade".

Nor is it the first time Collins' comments have caused controversy. Troubles victim Ann Travers, who sister Mary was gunned down by the IRA when it attacked their magistrate father Tom, said Collins had compared the shooting to a bereavement by a "reckless driver".

Mrs Travers said she had been horrified at the "scenario" painted by Mr Collins about her sister's murder.

On the BB controversy, Mr Collins said he regretted if people had misinterpreted his remarks. However, he does not intend to apologise. He said: "I didn't say anything which brought the BB into disrepute.

"It does seem to me that there are overtones of militarism in the Boys' Brigade.

"The nomenclature of the Boys' Brigade is obviously modelled on the military: it's a brigade, there are companies and divisions, they have different ranks, they march, they emphasise discipline and obedience."

On his blog he went on: "The Boy Scouts, an organisation often mentioned in the same breath as the Boys' Brigade, has also carried militaristic overtones."

Belfast Telegraph


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