Northern Ireland council vote urges schools to ban Armed Forces recruitment drives
Derry City and Strabane District Council has given the green light to a motion urging schools within its bondaries to ban the Armed Forces from holding recruitment drives on their premises.
A furious row erupted after a motion was put forward by independent councillor Gary Donnelly, who said the army turned young people from disadvantaged areas into "robotic mindless killers".
The motion put forward at last night's meeting in the Guildhall read: "Given the history of British imperialism in Ireland, this council calls on local educational facilities for children and young people to refuse British Armed Forces access to children/pupils as part of their attempt to glamourise/recruit for their imperialist ventures."
Twenty-four councillors, including Sinn Fein and the independents, voted in favour of the motion. The nine unionist councillors voted against and the SDLP abstained from the vote.
After the motion was carried, Mr Donnelly said he brought the issue to the council after the army ran recruitment stalls at a number of schools in Belfast recently.
"The British army has a policy of recruiting child soldiers," he said. "I brought this motion to council to send a very clear message to them that we don't want them preying on children here.
"I am very happy that the motion was carried but I'm very disappointed with the attitude of the SDLP who refused to support it because I think it's common sense that no child should be recruited into a military organisation and I can't understand why the SDLP had a problem with that. It is a very clear call from civic leaders, from councillors from this city that what they are doing is wrong. We are joining a growing band of people, particularly in Wales where there is growing support for the banning of the recruiting of child soldiers.
"The age should be 18, when they are an adult, when they can make informed decisions but not to recruit children at the age of 16, strip them down mentally and turn them into trained killers. Something that they may regret later in live as they become adults."
DUP councillor Drew Thompson said that the decision was ridiculous and insulting and that unionist schools would not adhere to the council advice.
"It is an insult to unionist families," he said. "There are vast numbers of families whose grandparents and parents were all members of the armed forces. Some of the young people might want to follow in the footsteps of their relatives and peers.
"I think what happened here is wrong. But council can only put forward that motion - it's up to the schools to take that decision.
"This motion means very, very little as far as I would be concerned. I know that a number of the parents in unionist schools will say Derry City Council can pass whatever they want, it's our school and we want those things to happen in our school.
"Schools in the unionist community probably will not adhere to the decision taken today by the council. I think it's ridiculous that we are now discriminating against, again, a section of the community. We talk about human rights and people having the opportunity of being able to do what they want to do and then we have republican members of this council saying we can't have that."