Belfast Telegraph

Unionists slam council vote on Armed Forces recruitment drives in schools put forward by former dissident republican

Unionists have slammed a motion put forward by a former dissident republican seeking to ‘ban’ the British Army from recruiting in schools.

Gary Donnelly, who is now a councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council, put forward a motion calling on educational facilities in the area to refuse British Armed Forces access to pupils.

The motion passed with 24 councillors, including Sinn Fein and the independents, voting in favour.

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DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the vote is the latest example of an “extremely divisive agenda" being promoted in the council.

“Firstly it should be noted that the council has absolutely no power to enforce this or tell local schools what to do,” the Foyle MLA said. 

“It is clear however that some councillors wish to intimidate schools from doing nothing more than providing young people with the information about pursuing a career in the Armed Forces should they wish to do so.

“It was proposed by Gary Donnelly and the irony of his comments on violence will not be lost on many given his refusal to condemn attacks on police officers.

"All those who supported the motion are aligning themselves with an extreme agenda which is being promoted within the council. Over recent months the Mayor of this city has worn the Mayoral chain whilst supporting a dissident terrorist and has snubbed Royalty whilst visiting.

“There is no evidence of respect or equality on display through motions or actions such as these. Not content with increasing tensions within the Council there are now attempts to damage wider community relations through motions such as this.”

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Doug Beattie

UUP MLA Doug Beattie, who is a former soldier, said: “Yet again the Sinn Fein respect, equality and integrity agenda is in tatters.

"It is perfectly clear that their call for ‘equality’ is as warped as their commitment to ‘human rights’. Both are only to be delivered on their terms, viewed through a prism of a rabid and pathological bias against anything or anyone who links themselves to the British state or British military.

“For Sinn Fein to back a motion - no matter how ludicrous - to prevent anyone considering a career in the British military receiving career advice while at school sets a clear sectarian agenda.

He added: “Does Sinn Fein want equality? Do they promote respect? Are they truly advocates of integrity? The actions of their councillors in backing this motion sends a clear message to what they ironically call their ‘unionist brothers and sisters.’

"That is – ‘you are not welcome now and you are not welcome in the future and you will never be welcome in any United Ireland in which we have any influence.”

Sinn Fein has been approached for comment.

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