Sinn Fein protest over RAF cadets’ grammar school visit

Barry McElduff
Barry McElduff

A Sinn Fein MLA has criticised a visit by the RAF cadets to a school in Co Tyrone, claiming the “British have no place recruiting in our schools”.

Barry McElduff, who is the party’s education spokesman, claimed he has been “inundated” with complaints about a visit to Loreto Grammar School which he says was facilitated by the PSNI.

UUP MP Tom Elliott

UUP MP Tom Elliott

“I have been inundated by phone calls from parents and past pupils who are concerned and angry following a tweet by Loreto Grammar thanking the PSNI chief inspector for informing year 14 pupils of ‘opportunities with the RAF cadets’.

“Our schools should be places of learning where young people and others can expand their horizons and opportunities.

“They should not be used to recruit young people for imperialist conflicts and to be trained in warfare.

“What is even more concerning is that it was a senior member of the local PSNI team who raised the RAF cadets with pupils.

“If the PSNI wish to inform pupils of personal safety and issues concerning crime prevention I could support the visit.

“However there is no place for the promotion of organisations such as the RAF cadets who teach children how to use lethal weapons.

“In Tyrone, and across the north, we know all too well the brutality of the British armed forces and the pain and misery their actions have caused to so many families.

“I will be raising this matter with the PSNI and asking them to explain their actions.”

Mr McElduff’s comments have been slammed by Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott, who said the Sinn Fein man wanted to “progress his age old rhetoric of ‘Keep Brits Out!’”

Mr Elliott said: “The Royal Air Force (RAF) can provide a great career path for young people from throughout the community. The RAF Cadets are a great opportunity to instil confidence and respect to our young people. I have met a number of these young cadets who are based at Omagh and they are a credit to their parents, instructors and themselves.

“It is sad that elected reps would want to deny young people the opportunity to help develop their positive nature and self esteem through the RAF Cadets. I am more than happy to support our young people through the Cadet Squadron – Others should be as well!”

Mr McElduff’s outburst comes a day after his Sinn Fein colleague Gerry Kelly refused to condemn the participation in an IRA memorial parade of children wearing paramilitary-style uniforms and dark sunglasses.